Musike Zoe

(Athens, 1930-1931)

Prepared by Mando Pyliarou
Online only (2012)

The eleven issues of the monthly Musike Zoe (Μουσική Ζωή / Musical life, hereafter MZO) were published in Athens from October 1930 to October 1931. The first eight single issues appeared from October 1930 through May 1931, while in June-July and August-September 1931 two double issues (nos. 9-10 and 11-12) appeared. The ten issues constitute volume I. The final issue was published on 1 October 1931 as Vol. 2, No. 1. MZO was created by the music firm Starr Ltd. in order to promote and advertise its products. The well-known Athenian publishing house "Pyrsos" was responsible for the printing. The text appears in two-column format, in a single font, and is printed on paper with dimensions 28 cm x 21 cm. Page numbering is continuous, from 1 to 256 in the first volume, and from number 1 through 24 for the issue of October 1931. Single issues contain twenty-four pages, double issues thirty-two. The cover pages are not numbered. A list of contents for each issue is printed on the front covers, while the inner cover pages and the back cover pages have full-page advertisements exclusively for Starr Ltd. products. In each single and double issue a musical composition, written in standard modern notation, is included. These pieces are bound in the middle of each issue with the obvious intent of offering ease of removal for performance. Although the pages of these musical compositions are printed without numbers, they are accounted for in the total page numbering system. Pictures, photographs, portraits, drawings and sketches, are also found in the journal.

The typical layout of each issue features: a first article dedicated to a subject about Greek music, followed by articles concerned both with traditional Western and Greek music subjects, with a higher number dedicated to the former, while the final page or the last few pages deal with current musical affairs. Among the regular columns of Musike Zoe are "Musike kinesis Athenon" [Athenian musical activity], "Musike kinesis exoterikou" [Foreign musical activity], “Hoi zontes megaloi musikoi" [Great living musicians], "Musike kinesis Viennes" [Viennese musical activity], "Neoi diskoi grammophonou" [New gramophone records] and "He musike kinesis tou Berolinou" [Berlin’s musical activity]. Many articles are devoted to the compositions of important foreign composers in which whole compositions are described or analysed, or are discussed through the words of other composers.

Constantinos Oeconomou, the director of the periodical until 1931 (nos. 1-12), plays an important role in shaping its profile. Very little is known about his life; his name is not found in encyclopaedias or dictionaries. His publications, including the noteworthy study "Aesthetike tes musikes" [Aesthetics of music], reveal that he was a musicologist with a comprehensive and broad musical knowledge. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Vienna, where he was a student of Guido Adler. Stavros Prokopiou, a distinguished composer and music critic, a lawyer and an author of books on music literature and philosophy, assumed editorship of what was to be the journal’s final issue, September 1931 (Vol. 2, no. 1). He retained the concepts of his predecessor regarding the objects and the program of the periodical, but added some material about the other arts. Three leading personalities of modern Greek music contributed to the journal: the composer and leader of the Greek National School Manolis Kalomiris (1883-1962); the distinguished conductor and composer Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960); and the composer and pioneer of the Greek National School Marios Varvogles (1885-1967).

A balanced approach is made by the periodical’s contributors towards Greek traditional music in which writers recognize its richness and its importance, especially for the Greek people. Manolis Kalomiris, in an article on the power of traditional songs that inspire different national schools, encourages Greek composers to base their work on their folk heritage, the Greek folk motif, in order to create contemporary Greek music. Other subjects featured in Musike Zoe are studies of Byzantine music, folk songs and music in ancient Greek tragedies. Of particular interest is the study by Constantinos Oeconomou on Greek folk songs published in series.

Contributors of the periodical often denounce the malfunctions of the Greek musical life: the indifference of the state to support Greek creativity, the failure of the Ministry of Education and the Minister himself regarding musical matters, the carelessness with which music as a subject is treated in schools, and the need for the creation of a music section in the National Library. However, apart from highlighting matters of a negative nature, the periodical also welcomes positive change; law 5058, for instance, was favorable towards music. The periodical also republishes statements by the Minister of Education on national melodrama, and provides opportunity to Nikos Skalkottas to voice his accusations regarding the standard of music criticism in Greece as well as Sophia Spanude’s objections regarding the musical preferences of the Greek people. A column titled "Musike kinesis Athenon" [Athenian musical activity] offers valuable information regarding the operation and the programmes of conservatories and music schools in Athens as well as the schedule and the participants of concerts in the city. Among other things, this column includes an article by Constantinos Oeconomou with proposals on how Greek conservatories can become equal to their European counterparts, an article by Stavros Prokopiou on the expectations for the then newly formed Enose Hellenon Musurgon [Union of Greek Composers], as well as an article on the opinion of the distinguished bass Costes Nikolaou (1870-1940) on the state of music life in the capital and his suggestions for improving it. Although Athens almost monopolises the interest of the periodical, there is also news from conservatories in other Greek cities such as the review of a student concert in Demotiko Odeio Larisas [Municipal Conservatory of Larissa] and information on the exams in Odeio Volou [Volos Conservatory].

Works published in European notation include works for voice and piano. Some appear in the form of transcriptions of extracts from operas, as is the "Tragoudi tes Chrysavges" [Song of Chrysavge] from Marios Varvogles’ opera To apogeuma tes Agapes [The Afternoon of Love], and "To sterno tragoudi tou Yannake" [Yannakis’ Last Song] from Manolis Kalomiris’ opera To Dachtylidi tes Manas [The Mother’s Ring], all under the general title "Hellenike Kallitechnia" [Greek Art]. Other are original works, such as Dionysios Lavrangas’ "Nychta...san ten thlipsi mou" [Night…like my sorrow], no 3 of his Penthimoi Skopoi [Funeral Tunes] for voice and piano, Stavros Prokopiou’s Serenada [Serenade] for voice and piano. Occasionally there are arrangements of folk songs including Nicolaos Lavdas’ arrangement for voice and piano of the song "Liogari then vareis kala" [Tambura you do not sound well]. Among the inserted compositions are the following: extracts from Alekos Kontes’ Suite no. 3 for piano, one movement (Largo) from Georgios Sklavos’ Arcadike Suita [Arcadian Suite] for piano, and three movements [Arioso, Fugato, Marschmässig] from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Capriccio [Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother]; a transcription for mixed choir and piano of the fourth movement of the Symphonia tes Levendias [Levendia Symphony] by Manolis Kalomiris himself, and the second movement of the Sonatina No.2 for violin and piano by Nikos Skalkottas. This particular work by Nikos Skalkottas was never published independently and the preservation of the second movement can be attributed to its publication in the periodical. The contents of Musike Zoe include original publications as well as republications from other Greek and foreign periodicals, and translations. Contributors to the periodical normally sign their articles using their full name. Famous personalities that contributed articles to Musike Zoe include the distinguished researcher of Byzantine music and composer Constantinos Psachos (1866/69-1949), the musician, music critic, journalist and scholar Sophia Spanude (1878-1952), the journalist and author of the outstanding Historia tes Neohellenikes Musices: 1824-1919 [History of Neo-Hellenic Music: 1824-1919] Theodoros Synadinos (1880-1959), the composer and the intellectual Georgios Lambelet (1875-1945).