Classicism and Romanticism form a duality in our culture that is generally invisible to us in our mundane lives; yet, this duality still exerts a tremendous impact on everything that we do. Any time that we find ourselves divided between the desires of the heart or the understanding of the mind, our final decision is informed by these art movements, with centuries of rhetoric piled up on either side.
It’s humorous, then, that from Greece—the birthplace of so many Classical ideals—should come a composer devoted to the opposing point of view.
Alexander Zafiropolous‘s released work under the name of Crestfallen consists of a single album, Chamber Works, which is said to be eight years in the making and steeped in the contemplative attitude of the Romantic movement.
While the music itself is meticulously organized and flawlessly produced, it is certainly not written for the common listener. An attitude of deep seriousness permeates the album. Instrumentally, everything is weary and somber, and the vocals more so, full of plaintive vibrato that teeters frequently at the edge of histrionics. The lyrics are often stretched to fit over music that is metrically incompatible. Surprisingly, this is never awkward, but it does obscure the words enough that the lyrics sheet becomes essential.
Fortunately, the lyrics are the great strength of this album, and reading them from the page is a pleasure. Almost every song weaves meaning and imagery together into a thought-provoking, poetic expression. Memorable lines are abundant, such as, “If the hourglass was malleable, I would clog its waist,” and, “Writing is (just) an assemblage of words. This I tend to forget.”
The website for Chamber Works mentions “Ananke,” (roughly translated as “necessity”), which Victor Hugo used as a motif in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. According to the website, this concept is the “sole driving force” of Crestfallen’s works. There are other indications, too, of Zafiropoulos’s conscious alignment with the Romantic movement of previous centuries. If there is an air of self-seriousness to Chamber Works, it derives from this Romantic revivalism. Romanticism is many things, but in almost all cases it is fraught with sensitivity and aspires to total commitment. On Chamber Works, Zafiropoulos does his part to extend the Romantic point of view into our own time, and to remind us that our contemporary Gothic music is itself a child of this important tradition in the history of art.
01) Spleen Personality
03) Narrations of a Marooned Pirate
04) Wax Arlequin
05) As a Boy, I Never Liked Buffoons
06) Time, Carnivorous Time
07) Henceforth, I Seldom Repose in It
08) Sleep Remedy
09) Less Womb than the Skin Suggests