How Does Greek Coffee Sound?

When William was invited to be artist in residence at Tonspur at Vienna’s MQ in November 2009, we sat together in my apartment over Greek coffee and laid our deep designs concerning the premiere of his new solo piece Verstrijken. At our first working meetings, the scope of the task emerged. William usually keeps a journal that minutely records his daily activities. His Vienna journal of November 2009 would form the programmatic basis for the new piece. We would develop together musically the interpretation of the score in verbal and graphic notation.

Since the nineteen days of his stay in Vienna were to culminate in an evening-length musical composition, the temporal axis of the composition was defined so that a real hour of the day could be compressed into eight musical seconds. Thus I received a couple of new lines from the score of his journal every three days. In improvisatory processes, we fixed the musical material more precisely day after day.

What I most value about William’s way of working and artistic thinking is his openness and complexity. His work is site-specific, linked to particular individuals, up to date. Armed with an air of humor it steps away from the Catholic/Protestant, European cultural backdrop and defines itself not through the relationship to some tradition. The work does not claim to be something, but it dares to be itself. At any event, our comfortable, pleasant hours of work, accompanied by the aroma of a small cup of Greek coffee, found their way into William’s Vienna journal and then were “served” back to me in his score! Although Greek coffee might not be on the menu of Dutch coffee shops, enjoying it also ensures a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. It is best drank slowly, sitting down. In this way, William as composer and I as performer were confronted with a problem that had never before existed in the history of music: how does Greek coffee sound, and how can its timeless aroma develop in only eight musical seconds? Our solution to this colossal musical problem will not be revealed here. But let me just say: the many ways of preparing Greek coffee (which is actually Arabic and was introduced to Europe by the Turks… but that’s another story) have been expanded musically by adding a Dutch approach.

Dimitrios Polisoidis