Yesterday Greece's most iconic and proliferate composer, Mikis Theodorakis, passed away at the age of 96. He was a symbol for social activism and human rights. He was in the Greek resistance in 1943 as a teen, then in the anti-junta fight, he was tortured, exiled, prosecuted, and still created music that resonated internationally and was sung by some of the most renowned international singers of our time, from Edith Piaf to Joan Baez to the Beatles.
To give you an idea of how his music reached the entire world, you have heard of it. The classic tune associated with Greece, the Zorba the Greek dance, was composed by him. And so was the theme and soundtrack to Serpico and several other hollywood productions.
Needless to say I grew up with his music, imbued with his fighting spirit, and even though he was at a ripe old age it hurt that he died. And it got me thinking about what he did for Greece and for art- and naturally, my thoughts went to gatekeeping.
Because one of the biggest contributions of Mikis Theodorakis was that he tore down the strict, elitist gatekeeping of art that was upheld by the establishment of the 30s, 40s and 50s in Greece: he made Nobel-awarded poems into songs. Songs that were sung by the working class, in the factories and construction sites. Poetry at its finest which would normally be taught only in the closed circles of the intelligentsia and would be unknown to people who couldn't afford to go to school and perhaps couldn't even read or write very well, became those people's beloved entertainment and means of expression.
All thanks to Mikis Theodorakis…. and his choice to make these poems into popular songs enraged the ‘cultivated’ and the ‘civilized’. “How dare he sully the cream of hellenic and world poetry with the sounds of the bouzouki or the guitar or piano?” they raged and fought hard to stop him from doing so.
They failed, of course, since the poets were more than glad to offer their poems but I thought to share this anecdote with you to further the discussion of gatekeeping that Em started so well yesterday.
Art has always been a bone of contention in terms of gatekeepers. There were always attempts to restrict access to it and, if that was impossible, to diminish the value of the art that was readily available to the populace.
There are many theories as to why that is, but I tend to think it's often because art and the capacity to consume art is considered a status symbol; something that should be available to the few or controlled by the few.
If you want to take it further, through a prism of class struggle, art is a means of expression but also discourse and political stimulation. Through art a lot of movements were propagated and gained momentum. To allow art to be freely available or uncontrolled in its thematology or who gets to make it is to lose control of a narrative that gatekeepers like to control.
As early as Ancient Egypt, even earlier, art was used as a means of propaganda and political statements. It's not really any different today. Whoever controls mainstream art often controls the narrative on lifestyle, ethics, goals, and even daily routine.
When Mikis Theodorakis broke that gate to art that was being kept from the people, movements for equality, human rights, and anti-totalitarianism grew so strong that not even a Junta could withstand them.
Why wouldn't the intelligentsia of today (such as it is internationally) want to fight to keep the gates up in all forms of art, including webcomics?
Sorry if this was a little too meandering and a little too speculative. But still, I'm glad to have shared :)
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 4, 2021
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