The Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis began the movement that transformed and revitalized Greek popular music in the 1960s. This combines elements of the old Byzantine traditions, based on church plainsong and the Greek modes, with folk music and its more recent vocal and instrumental styles, which altogether give us that recognizable "Greek" sound -- lyrical and passionate melodies supported by driving rhythms and simple but strong harmonies. The other elements in this "new" popular music were the lyrics and poetry, which grew from the social and political events of the time (Theodorakis himself was tortured and imprisoned by the military dictatorship in 1967 and exiled in 1970). For his songs, Theodorakis is most often inspired by poetry about love and loneliness, freedom and oppression, and he has set both the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca and the Irish writer Brendan Behan to music. These three "Epitafios" are arrangements from a song cycle setting the lyrics of the Greek poet Ritsos.
Notes by John Williams