Impermanence, the title of composer Othon’s recently released album, is defined as the property of not existing for indefinitely long durations. This is certainly true of the tonal explorations and atmospheric tensions of Othon’s music and Tomasini’s singing – together they carve out a landscape that travels from the baroque to the minimal, from the eerily atmospheric to the sensual, creating a space of suspension. For the duo, aesthetic considerations and the way the music is performed are as important as the music itself, and the liveness that defines their work translates into a complex theatricality, also reflected in their identities as artists.
Resting at the meeting point between performance and experimental music, Othon and singer/performer Tomasini bring pop to classical, romanticism to cabaret and highly refined classical musicianship with experiments in theatricality in what they call ‘death baroque’.
Produced by Natasha Davis, the launch of Impermanence took place as part Chelsea Theatre’s Sacred Festival 2011 and featured Laura Moody and Marc Almond.
DD: Your journeys into music and performance are rather unconventional and packed with learning experiences, but also a constant search for an artistic community and cultural context that can accommodate your identities as performers and musicians. Can you tell us about how you got to where you are now?
Othon: My musical education started at a really young age and by the time I was five I gave my first concert in Athens. I was introduced to the general director of the Hellenic Conservatoire soon after, who took me on as his personal student and generously gave me pocket-money after each lesson, while refusing to take any payment! Subsequently, I became the protégé of the great Greek pianist and teacher, Maria Kanatsouli, who was to remain my tutor until I left Greece. Together we developed a really strong relationship and I underwent rigorous training- each lesson extended to three-four hours and I would often spend three hours each day practicing. I won national competitions, appeared on major TV channels and performed in a variety of concerts. At the prime age of sixteen I graduated with honours.
All these achievements did not mean much to me. I was expected to become a concert pianist and I was working hard, often out of habit and because of external pressure to do so. At the same time, the conservatism of the classical music world became increasingly apparent to me. I felt suppressed and I found this environment mediocre and hypocritical. My appearance became increasingly more “erratic”- I was one of the first youngsters in Athens to be covered in facial piercings, even when piercing studios were non-existent in the city. Clothes and hair were equally extravagant. This affected my relationship with the establishment, including my piano teacher.
All this made an escape from Greece look enticing; I came to England to study piano at the Royal College of Music, followed by studies at Birkbeck University and Trinity College. At Trinity I studied composition with some fantastic teachers like Andrew Poppy and Stephen Montague and won a scholarship and awards. The environment at Trinity was hugely inspiring and these years were pivotal to my development as an artist.