World View: Iannis Xenakis’s Work ‘Kottos’ Echoes Greece’s Nazi vs Communist Struggle

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Iannis Xenakis’s work ‘Kottos’ echoes Greece’s Nazi vs Communist struggle
  • Greek Tragedy and Generational Dynamics
  • Nigeria postpones national elections because of Boko Haram
  • Gulf Arabs condemn Houthi takeover of Yemen

Iannis Xenakis’s work ‘Kottos’ echoes Greece’s Nazi vs Communist struggle

Iannis Xenakis -- 1966 picture
Iannis Xenakis — 1966 picture

Iannis Xenakis’s 1977 work “Kottos” for cello will be performed on Thursday at Harvard University. Like other works by Iannis, it’s not exactly melodic. The composer himself describes it as follows: “In general: the sounds, except for the harmonics, should not be beautiful or nice in the usual sense, but rough, harsh and full of noise.” (Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) is my first cousin – father’s brother’s son.)

Its roughness comes because it echoes the conflict between Communists and Nazis in Greece during World War II. In the 1940s, Iannis was a member of ELAS, the Communist-led Greek resistance, helping to drive the Nazis from Greece. The subsequent British occupation and the conservative Greek monarchy turned against ELAS; Iannis, having survived a British shell that destroyed his eye and shattered his face, fled. The Greek government sentenced him to death in absentia. He settled in Paris, working as an architect and, then, a composer.

In Greek mythology, Kottos was giant with a hundred arms and 50 heads. Kottos fought in the massive war between Zeus and the Titans. Like Iannis, Kottos was imprisoned and exiled. Iannis’ cello composition echoes both of those stories.

If we look at the trends in Greece over the past five years or so, we can see the same trend lines emerging as in World War II. The radical far left party Syriza is governing Greece today, aligning with Russia and mocking the Germans. At the same time, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has been gaining strength in the last two years, despite the fact that several of its leaders are in jail for corruption and murder. Greece’s relationship with its European lenders, especially Germany, is currently in crisis, and with a new bond payment due at the end of February, the crisis may be about the worsen substantially.

As I’ve been writing for years since the Greek fiscal crisis began, there is no solution. By that I don’t mean that we haven’t been clever enough to find a solution. I mean that, as with many of today’s world problems, no solution exists. Greece, Germany and Europe are headed for an inevitable tragedy which they have inflicted on themselves, and even though we can see it coming, we cannot stop it. Extrapolating these trends, we can see that the war between Zeus and the Titans will be fought once more. Boston Globe and Xenakis Project of the Americas

Greek Tragedy and Generational Dynamics

I have found that few non-Greeks really understand what tragedy is about. As a Greek, I know that a sense of tragedy is in my bones. Tragedy as an art form was invented in ancient Greece, and three of four great tragic artists of all time were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides of ancient Greece, with the fourth being Shakespeare.

What tragedy does is to bring order out of seeming random events. Many people misunderstand the deepest meanings of tragedy. If a child is killed in a random traffic accident, then it is a terrible event, but it is not a tragedy in the classical sense, because of that randomness.

The essence of classical tragedy is that the tragic event is not random. The tragic event is inevitable: it MUST occur, and the reason it must occur is because of the nature, the personality, the character of the protagonists. A true tragedy cannot be prevented, even by those who foresee it, because the forces bringing about the tragedy are too powerful for anyone to stop.

Like the child killed in a random traffic accident, the protagonists of a true tragedy have a great future before them, and in the Greek view, perhaps even a heroic future. But the heroic future turns into disaster because the players in the true tragedy move step by step towards that disaster; and all of us on the outside can see it coming, because these particular players are uniquely capable of inflicting this disaster on one another.

The war between Zeus and the Titans could not be prevented. The war between the Nazis and the Communists in Greece in WWII could be foreseen, but could not be prevented. Today, the growing conflict between Greece and Germany once again is completely foreseeable, but cannot be prevented, because no solution exists. In each case, it is the nature, the character of the participants that leads them inexorably to inflict a horrible tragic disaster on each other.

It would not be wrong to describe the Generational Dynamics web site as displaying the greatest tragic play in human history. The countries of the world — the US, China, Greece, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia, etc. — are all moving towards a tragic disaster that only they are uniquely capable of inflicting on one another. The script for this play is being written in the daily World View articles. Nothing can be done to prevent this tragic disaster, but through Generational Dynamics we have a way of standing on the outside, and watching it arrive, step by step by step.

Nigeria postpones national elections because of Boko Haram

Nigeria’s electoral commission has postponed the February 14 presidential elections by six weeks, in view of threats of further terrorist attacks by Boko Haram. The US State Dept. says that Boko Haram has become extremely wealthy and has large storehouses of weapons, and it is hard to see how the security situation will improve in six weeks. It is feared that Nigeria is on a path that will inevitably cause it to join other countries, including Somalia, Libya, Central African Republic, and Yemen, that are disintegrating before our eyes. Nigeria Tribune and BBC

Gulf Arabs condemn Houthi takeover of Yemen

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Gulf Arab nations has condemned the Houthi takeover of Yemen as “a grave and unacceptable escalation [that] endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen.” The GCC said its own security was linked to that of Yemen and vowed to take “all the necessary measures to defend their interests.” Arab News

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iannis Xenakis, Kottos, Greece, Germany, ELAS, Zeus, Titans, Nigeria, Boko Haram, Yemen, Houthis, Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC
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