Vassiliki Rapti & Ivaana Muse




(Greece – USA)




Vassiliki Rapti

(Harvard University):


Our Ludic Music: Performing Poetry and Music as an Ongoing Ludic Creative Process






My critical engagement with intermediality in performance as a vast ludic activity across media inscribed in a broader cultural discourse has been at the core of my research interests.[1] Thus since 2013 I have been intrigued by it and I have been further experimenting with the intersection of the media of poetry and music as a ludic creative process in two different directions. First, in a more traditional way in which a classically-trained composer (Kostas Rekleitis, Ph.D., University of Edinburg) encapsulates or rather “expands” my poems or “potential pre-musical forms, ready to be transformed into music material and song,” beyond the limited space of the text and launches them  in unlimited Space and Time.[2] The second way revolves around the ongoing project “our ludic music” ( in collaboration with the Hindo-American composer Ivaana Muse. It is an avant-garde experiment where music and poetry constantly interact in equal terms without any preponderance of the text or of music. It is this latter creative process that I wish to further explore here.

It is an essentially Surrealism-driven project because it embraces the “one into another” Surrealist ludic principle according to which two most disparate images can be approximated provided their perceiver can extrapolate their similarities and inner correspondences. It was exactly this inherent in Surrealism daring visuality that brought Ivaana Muse near me “apropos of this mysterious quality of Surrealism”, as she told me when first introduced herself to me in August 2013, asking me to teach her the “surrealist ludics.” I was moved that someone was touched by this concept and we immediately started a free-writing workshop that implemented automatic writing, collage techniques and other Surrealist ludic devices that encouraged vivid imagery and free expression in our native languages and this was another revelation for both of us. The result was the creation of the Yalophilia (Love of Glass) song

( which mixes English and Greek in its lyrics. Here are its lyrics in Greek followed by its English translation:


Γυάλινη καρδιά


Πίσω απ´ το τζάμι

Ένα μόνο φιλί

Μιαν ανάσα


Μέσα απ´ το τζάμι.


Glass heart

Torn apart

Behind the glass

Only a kiss



The glass.


Τα γυάλινα όνειρά μου

Μέσα στα εύθραυστα βάζα

Των πύρινων λυγμών μου

Μάταια σε καλούν στο γυάλινο πύργο μου.


Αέρα, ανάσα, φωτιά

Για ένα μόνο σεργιάνι

Στα κρυφά μονοπάτια

Του απόλυτου Πόθου.


My glass dreams

Within the fragile vases

My fiery cries

In vain call you to my ivory tower



Air, breath, fire

For a single stroll to

The hidden paths of

The absolute craving.


Ήρθες απόψε στ´ όνειρό μου

Την ώρα που σε γύρευα

Ανάμεσα σε μυριάδες νυκτολούλουδα κι υαλονούφαρα.

Σ’ άγγιξα μ’ ένα χάδι απαλό στα πέταλά σου

Κι αίφνης τα μάτια σου

Ένα θαύμα εμπρός μου

Ω!Ω!Ω! Φως μου ονειρεμένο

Α! Α! Α!

Ανάσα Αγέρας Αγιασμός



You came tonight in my dreams

While looking for you

Among a myriad night flowers and glass water lilies

I touchd you with a gentle caress on your petals

And suddenly your eyes

A miracle in front of me

Oh Oh Oh! Light my dream

A! A! A!

Breath breeze Blessing





Since “Yalophilia” we have been enjoying this liberating creative process and post-creation reflection in theoretical terms.

At times it is music or a rhythm that prompts our collaboration. Ivaana shares with me her initial melody or beat and the process of creation is kindled by initiating a two-way communication that weaves the canvass of the lyrics.

Such was, for instance, the beginning of the song “Yakshini” ( or (,

which fuses animal imagery from both the Hindou and Ancient Greek mythology. The lyrics are again both in Greek and English with some incantatory words from India. Indeed, it must be noted that a switch between the two or three different registries is an essential par t of our creative process.

At times, it is just an image or a line from a famous poet from our familiar to us canons that we share with each other and mobilize our imagination. An exchange of countless emails begins then until we come to a final agreement. Such was, for instance, the case of the music that Ivaana wrote to convey the tone of my poem “The Gourds of Seferis” inspired by the born in Asia Minor Greek Nobel laureate George Seferis. The music composed for this poem, also included in my poetry collection Transitorium (Somerset Hall Press, 2015) was released during a joint poetry reading with American poet Cecilia Wolloch in Istanbul on June 25th, 2015. Hee it goes:

“The Gourds of Seferis”



Fumbling, pleading, squeezing the brain

to retrieve His lost-in-oblivion form

a dark-covered shade.

«Because thus it had to be done», you said.

«Because so you learned to say», I said, in tears.


…carve your lyrics now on the pumpkin

Draw a mask with an open space for mouth

And two black lines for eyelids.

And, if necessary, do not be afraid to show disobedience.

Do not get tired to dig ever deeper

To carve a hole therein.

Just empty the last seed

after you dig

and dig into your thoughts

till you empty them out.


the King of Assini

may show up at long last!



And here is the corresponding music that brings an Eastern air:!/home



Another fascinating source of inspiration comes from science that Ivaana is so good at first locating it and then further exploring it before presenting it to me thanks to her extraordinary intuition and training. Indeed, she has an amazing ability to identify the most ingenious scientists-artists (mostly through MIT where she literally spends most of her life the last few years). These interdisciplinary scientific projects trigger our imagination and are always rewarding in themselves, as they are transformed into distinct cultural projects that resonate within society. Such is for example the intermedial project directed by Ivaana Muse and entitled Changeling: A Musical Tribute to Cancer Research in which she asked me to participate as a “non-trained” actor and as a script writer in order to support funding for cancer research at the MIT Laboratory Research Scientist at MIT Sangeeta Bhatia Lab for Cancer Research.

As much as “tough” this project was that was inspired by the scientist Tal Danino’s research on cancer colonies, because it required me to expose my own experience with cancer within my family and my friendly circles, in the end, it functioned as a healing process for me, as my poetry was translated into another medium, while with dance and music the cancer cells of the initial inspiration were transformed into a creative hub emanating an enormous hope for research against cancer. Here is the relevant project with the promising title Changeling:

In short, standing always in equal terms in the interplay between poetry and music and enjoying the idea of sharing and collaboration is the most rewarding experience for all parties involved in such a creative process where the play concept is of paramount importance and helps everyone be open to the quotidian “marvelous.” Its endless possibilities in the sphere of creativity has a great potential for social change, since it is grounded on the well-known principle that “poetry (and music , as well as change, I would add ) is made by all,” a principle which both Ivaana and myself wholeheartedly embrace.




[1] See, for instance, my monograph Ludics in Surrealist Theatre and Beyond (Ashgate, 2013).

[2] See Demosthenes Agrafiotis, in Kostas Rekleitis and Vassiliki Rapti. IA SONGS for Voice and Violoncello, Athens: Musica Ferrum, 2015, p VI. This ongoing collaboration took the form of a tour of poetry readings and performances in the summer of 2015 successively in Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Athens, Paros and Naxos, involving composer Kostas Rekleitis, literary critic and actor Nikitas Zafiris, soprano Stella Markou, tenor Yannis Filias, cellist Eugene Bensis and actor-narrator Yorgos Liakos. Here is a sample:
















Vassiliki Rapti


Ph.D. is Preceptor in Modern Greek at Harvard University, where she teaches courses in Modern Greek language, literature, theatre and cinema. The ludic principle and Surrealism are at the core of her research interests. She is the author of Ludics in Surrealist Theatre and Beyond (Ashgate, 2013) and co-chair of the Harvard Mahindra humanities Ludics Seminar. Besides her extensive scholarly work, she also devotes time in poetry and poetry translation and interactive projects like “our ludic music.” For her, scholarly and creative work constitute two communicating vessels, inseparable one from another.!/home


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