Courtesy of the Artist
Courtesy of the Artist

Costis Drygianakis was born in Volos, Greece, 1965. He studied Physics and Social Anthropology, got involved with music, loves dogs, collects ceramics, cooks spaghetti. Active as a composer and record producer since 1987. According to an old press release, “the music of Costis Drygianakis, usually assembled with the help of recording media (tapes, computers etc) belongs to the broader genre of electroacoustic music, though generally avoiding dogmatic approaches. Frequently using unorthodox relationships of composition, recording and re-composition, it employs and tames randomness and improvisation, balances in-between ambiance and surprise, makes references but denies identifications and, finally, explores without abandoning its sentimental space.”

Mikhail Kalatozov, Salt for Svanetia
Mikhail Kalatozov, Salt for Svanetia

I made new music for the film Salt for Svanetia in Greece in 2021. I do not belong to its original circle of creators and I confront them critically, without trying to align with their spirit. Making the film, the Soviet filmmakers attempted to present the distant Svans to their own Muscovite environment; today, the filmmakers are as far away from me as the Svans were to the filmmakers: the distinction between them collapses under the weight of time and dislocation of place. Further, language itself is a crucial question. For the vast majority of spectators, here on the fringes of the Western world, Russian, Georgian and the Svan language are equally unintelligible and foreign. What is left of a language if we do not understand the meanings of the words? Is translation necessary? I chose to manage the uncanny not by translating but by implying and reinforcing the ambiguity. Ambiguity is often absent in cinema especially in ethnographic film; narrative and narration dominate sound and image. In fact, silent films often use written texts to dispel doubts. On the contrary, ambiguity is a feature of the musical language; here, further reinforcing, we have abolished the translation of the original Georgian subtitles.

When we see old films, we always see them through a telescope of place and time, a telescope created by the limitations of the technology of the epoch of their making, and by the perceptions that determined their production. What does the movie show? Is it real? Is there anything real when we try to depict something, or is there only what we want to show or what we manage to see? Maybe all ethnography is something like fiction, finally? Does it all depend on the observer’s viewpoint? Today, here, we observe the Soviet intelligentsia observing the Svans, and if one sees the film with my new music after a hundred years, he will observe us who observe, a kaleidoscopic vision fractalizing time, place, and observers.

––– Costis Drygianakis 

Mikhail Kalatozov, Salt for Svanetia
Mikhail Kalatozov, Salt for Svanetia