Editor’s Choice: Fivos Valachis “A Different Gaze”

Editor’s Choice 25th January 2015

 

Fivos Valachis has established himself as one of the most popular and successful composers within The Piano Cloud, growing an audience of 6,000+ followers on SoundCloud within just over a year. His music is remarkable for its emotional content, its harmonic interest, and very often its broader aesthetic intent. “A Different Gaze” continues in these strengths, with a gentle lilting rhythm that underpins unlikely harmonic and tonal shifts, while building into a piece of remarkable poise and delivery.

Fivos has much to say about the piece:

“I love to read the thoughts of Einstein.
He often does cleaning, brings order, on confusing topics.
A different gaze compared to standard thinking.
So the other night, I was reading again one of his books.
I found various parts underlined in time.
Here is the sound result of sentiments he instilled me.”

He underlines this by providing an illuminating series of quotations from Einstein himself, which you will perhaps enjoy reading while listening to this lovely piano piece…

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A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (1954)

To see with one’s own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one has seen and felt in a trim sentence or even in a cunningly wrought word- is that not glorious? It is not a proper subject for congratulation? (1934)

When we survey our lives and endeavours, we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires is bound up with the existence of other human beings. We notice that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have produced, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth, would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. (1934)

Man is, at one at the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behaviour. (1949)

It is society which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labour and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word society.
It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished- just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human beings which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organisations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.
Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. (1949)

Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behaviour of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate. If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. (1949)

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption. I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis in our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of evil. (1949)
I, too, am in favour of abolishing large cities (1934)

The population of the civilized countries is extremely dense as compared with former times; Europe today contains about three times as many people as it did a hundred years ago. But the number of leading personalities has decreased out of all proportion. Only a few people are known to the masses as individuals, through their creative achievements. Organisation has to some extent taken the place of leading personalities, particularly in the technical sphere, but also to a very perceptible extent in the scientific. (1934)

Communities tend to be guided less than individuals by conscience and a sense of responsibility. How much misery does this fact cause mankind! It is the source of wars and every kind of oppression, which fill the earth with pain, sighs and bitterness. (1934)

To inquire after the meaning or object of one’s own existence or that of all creatures has always seemed absurd from an objective point of view. And yet everybody has certain ideals which determine the direction of his endeavours and judgements. In this sense I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves – this ethical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavours, life would have seemed to me empty. The trite objects of human efforts-possessions, outward success, luxury-have always seemed to me contemptible.
My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a ‘lone traveller’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude-feelings which increase with the years. One becomes sharply aware, but without regret, of the limits of mutual understanding and consonance with other people. No doubt, such a person loses some of his innocence and unconcern; on the other hand, he is largely independent of the opinions, habits, and judgements of his fellows and avoids the temptation to build his inner equilibrium upon such insecure foundations. (1954)

(On the occasion of Gandhi’s 70th Birthday in 1939)
A leader of his people, unsupported by any outward authority: a politician whose success rests not upon craft nor the mastery of technical devices, but simply on the convincing power of his personality; a victorious fighter who always scorned the use of force; a man of wisdom and humility, armed with resolve and inflexible consistency, who had devoted all his strength to the uplifting of his people and the betterment of their lot; a man who had confronted the brutality of Europe with the dignity of the simple human being, and thus at all times risen superior. Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked on this earth.

 

Throwback Thursday: Luke Freeman “7 O’Clock”

Another week, another Thursday, another Throwback Thursday! Throwback Thursdays show off the forgotten tracks from Piano Cloud members, and consist of tracks nominated by you! So please leave a comment below if you have a track from a Piano Cloud member which you would like to see reviewed here, or leave a comment at the Facebook Group.

This week’s track was nominated by both Terry Robinson and Fivos Valachis. I present to you Luke Freeman‘s “7 O’Clock.”

This is also one of my favourites. I remember hearing Luke perform this when we met at the very first Piano Cloud meet up in London, 2012. It is absolutely amazing. There is so much energy, there are so many twists and turns, and the piece is soooo hard to play that it takes a virtuoso pianist to even get through it. Luke writes:

I’ve always been fascinated by unconventional time signatures, so I went out of my depth a little to compose and perform this piece in 7/8. Hope you all enjoy!

I absolutely love the time signature and the added drive and edge it gives the theme. I especially enjoy the multiple key changes, transpositions, and clever chord usage. This man’s hand span is the size of a truck, I swear to you. Anyway, getting carried away here, but just listen to this and appreciate the mastery that has gone into it!

Tune in next week for another Throwback Thursday!