A composer and architect observes the era of the coronavirus

Manos Milonakis

Treeman, with roots and branches

Text: Chryssa Nanou || Photographs: Manos Milonakis’ archive

The year 2020 had got off to a flying start, full of inspiration and promises, for Thessaloniki-based composer and architect Manos Milonakis, at least up until the coronavirus breakout turned everything upside down, thwarting his plans. “Due to the pandemic, I was forced to cancel/postpone gigs both in Greece and abroad,” he explains, while enumerating this unpleasing list: Athens, Thessaloniki (x2), Bratislava and Stockholm, whereas two more live performances are bound to be postponed, one at the Byzantine Bath of the Upper Town, in Thessaloniki, scheduled for June, and one in Potsdam, scheduled for July. “In March, the original music I composed for the stage performance of Chekhov’s The Seagull was released in CD amidst unfortunate circumstances: closed record stores and many delays in distribution. And that’s only the starter, as we have no idea what else the coronavirus has in store for us, or when this grim story will come to an end”, he goes on to say.

As to how this compulsory confinement altered his perception of time and space, two structural elements in both architecture and music, Manos Milonakis says the following: “As an architect, I realized how much I cherish being in public spaces. I would have never thought that I would dreadfully miss strolling in the park, along the seafront promenade, in the squares. Moreover, the beauty of the city landscape, when devoid of people, really struck me. During the first days of the “hardcore” quarantine, Thessaloniki at moments seemed like a blockbuster movie setting. At another level, I grew aware of the importance of an apartment’s architectural design (being myself confined in one), especially during a period of dramatic rise in the amount of time spent at home. I did not go so far as to count my bathroom’s tiles one by one, but I did track down a whole lot of unseen details: I noticed that many beams are not connected to columns (!), I have managed to pinpoint the exact five minutes when the my living room is bathed in the morning sunlight, and I have worked my way into moving through space in the dark, without turning on the lights! As a musician, as a result of the confinement, time’s fluidity escalated in me. Days follow one another, like an endless loop. Almost instinctively, I feel the need to navigate myself through time using music as a compass. For the time being, I have gone down some ambient roads…”

Manos Milonakis takes a keen interest in the new forms of online communication between the public and the artists’ work, a change that has been going on for years now, but was speeded up by the pandemic. “Self-determination and our era’s new technologies have gone way beyond the areas of communication tools and promotion platforms. Communication between the artist and the public has become so immediate and instantaneous that it can literally shape the artistic outcome. The public is practically involved in the stages of production and performance, it keeps tab on the artist’s personal life, influences, brainstorming, studio work, even gets an early view of the very first notes on the pentagram, through tweets and Instagram stories. In reality, the creative process and the process of reaching out to the public have now become the one and the same thing. We get real-time feedback and instant reactions and it’s up to you how to cope with this new state of things. On one hand, it has an encouraging effect, serving as an extra source of inspiration and much-needed spontaneity, that drives us forward. On the other hand, it overrides personal boundaries and dismisses the opportunity for research and the will to delve into your art, amplifying the risk of producing way too much art for the little time we can devote to it.”

Performances, exhibitions, concerts, tours will be out of the question for the following months and innumerable artists all over the world have found themselves jobless due to travel restrictions. “Such a mass restriction inflicted a major blow to the art community worldwide, as it turned things upside down. It is as if they transported us to the Middle Ages using a time capsule,” points out Manos Milonakis. “Besides the financial impact, the psychological toll is unfathomable, especially for the sensitive state of mind of an artist and notably in countries such as our own… What I sincerely wish is that all this pressure is not channeled into introversion. To the contrary, I hope that we will come out this experience stronger, display adaptability, and prove that every cloud has a silver lining.”

Who is Manos Milonakis
Manos Milonakis is a composer and architect. He was born in Thessaloniki, where he lives and works. He has studied classical piano and music theory. His first steps in composition, instrumentation and music production came in 2006, when he co-founded, along with George Papadopoulos, the music duet Your Hand in Mine, a project that served as initiation to the art of music composition for image.

As a member of Your Hand in Mine, he was given the chance to delve into composition, music technology and street music, but also to form an impressive collection of music instruments: Wurlitzer piano, accordion, electric bass, guitars, percussion, Persephone synthesizer, stroh-violin, ukulele, glockenspiel, melodica, toy piano, music boxes… In summer 2014, and after YHIM was dismantled, Manos Milonakis travels to Reykjavik, where he records his first EP (for piano and string quartets) as a solo artist, bearing the title Sólfar.

Later on, he set out to compose original music for plays staged by the National Theater of Northern Greece, as well as for independent productions, documentaries, online video and TV spots, while he is always keen on performing live on selective occasions. Over the last years, he has released some of his theatrical soundtracks in CD and digital forms. He is also the founder of the Thessaloniki-based “TΜ arxitektones” architecture/design studio.




Manos Milonakis

updates Manos Milonakis Strelitzia, a quarantine work Text: Chryssa Nanou | Photos: @ Fani Tripsani Recorded, mixed, produced by Manos