Entropy – Where Byzantium meets jazz
This is an ambitious album, a first in kind and musical concept, composed of an octet of hymns that have been selected from different cycles of Byzantine religious ceremonies, arranged and interpreted in a complex jazz context, rich in polyrhythmic overlaid harmonies and improvised melisma.
Jazz music and the calophonic Byzantine qualities form an interwoven biome to convey the emotional spirit of the sacred texts. In this musical landscape, Eda Zari and her handpicked artists, dare to embody the liturgical-pastoral “code” of the troparia. In their original form, the hymns have been written in the 1,500-year-old Byzantine musical notation known as parasymantiki, (also found in the Byzantine and post-Byzantine manuscript collection housed at the Central State Archive of Tirana – Albania).
Through piano cadences and solo vocal coloring, each hymn achieves dynamic variations and sound symbolism, discovering a new language rich in solemn accents. The hymns are convincingly presented to a public that will appreciate not just the traditional, be that in the Byzantine religious song or in the jazz form. In any case, Zari does not set out to only remain within the traditional liturgical sphere.
“Recognizing the outstanding contributions of experts and musicologists in preserving the original form of the psaltic art, we have chosen to pursue a different aim. Our musical model has little to do with our individual tastes, as much as it has with the challenge of making a collective pilgrimage”, says Zari.
The collective murmur in these hymns is much more important than the song itself, as is the bordun (the sound sang in unison by many voices at the same time, like a cluster pedal), or the magical iso of the Albanian polyphony. The iso is the affirmation of unanimity, similar to the artistic message in this album. This journey resembles a melodic-rhythmic odyssey, where, after a series of chaotic labyrinths, influxes of creative ideas and thoughts on music and words, triumph arrives in the form of the emotional energy of the moment.
The novelty suggested by Zari and her musicians starts with the title: Entropy! “Entropy” is the measure of transformations caused by certain occurrences according to the principles of thermodynamics and energy; in this case, entropy is located inside a musical universe in motion. The melody detaches itself from its past and gains the momentum to create the present tunes, where language is the spiritual guide that conveys the holy message (a significant portion of this repertoire expands the Divine Word, translated into Albanian by his Eminence Theofan S. Noli). Regardless, every religious music culture, just as the Byzantium one, originates in folk music. Music helps humans to express the challenges, the joys and the laments of life. Along with words, music helps us to exalt our faith toward the holy.
This banquet of tunes and words is brought to us by exceptional musicians. They come to this project from multicultural backgrounds, and every performance is executed in the name of music and artistic honesty.
They all deserve our appreciation.
“Entropy” is Zari's Homage to the Syrian, Armenian, Lebanese artists and all these folks who in troubled times are trying to save their culture and cultural heritage. Wishing and believing yet so strong that even through music, we could stop the war in Syria, and all over the world!
This album is also a dedication to Bishop Theofan Stylian Noli (1882 - 1965). He was a multi-talented personality, but distinguished mostly for his literary and liturgical translations. The translations of the services for the Albanian Orthodox Christians are the cornerstone of the liturgical and theological thought and discourse in Albanian, and his name will be long remembered for that.
My sincerest thanks to Mr. Ibrahim Maalouf, for his unique sound. Again, you have outdone yourself. One can hear the gentle hustle of love! You truly created a fascinating sound, and you are a real vector of peace between East and West! You blessed me with your presence on this recording. I felt the warmth of that musical fire which can not be bought or sold, but only freely given!
Photo © by Ulla C. Binder
RECENSION Dr. Mikaela Minga Entropy