“A truly baroque celebration of great emotions, a rush of sounds, lights and picturesque colors. Polymediality as a concept.”

Mittelbayerische Zeitung




by Marios Joannou Elia



The central concept of my work is based on a qualitative polymediality which consists of two dimensions: the work-immanent compositional dimension and polymediality (alongside all the associated media) in the process of staging. In the first instance, non-conventional musical materials and music-extraneous media elements become integral components of the composition. In the second instance, the composition – as an entity – interacts synergetically with other art forms and media. 

The Work-Immanent Compositional Dimension  

On the plane of composition, polymediality can express itself in various ways. From one perspective, for example, it takes the space factor – the physical interior and exterior ‘rooms’ being used for the performance – into consideration when designing the musical and dramatic structure of the piece. The characteristics of the performance location have already been considered during the creative stage and will influence the entire composition. Here, in this context, innovative technology will be implemented: for example a 360 degree sound engineering system in a multi-channel audio format, which would facilitate the localization of all acoustic sources and the uniformity of all sounds reproduced on the performance site. From the other perspective, non-traditional and non-musical elements (unconventional sound systems and sound components), electronic media, theatrical as well as visual elements are all integrated and assimilated into the piece. 

A complex spatial system had been conceived and constructed in order to generate a ‘surrounded’ effect for the acoustic irradiation of the gigantic city square in AUTOSYMPHONIC (2010/11) and the two-floor car showroom in the opera DIE JAGD (2008). This resulted in the creation of an ‘amphitheatre’ of acoustical events which enveloped the performance within the extended environmental parameters. Thanks to this spatial conception, the positioning of musicians and the 360 degree audio rendering, an acoustic topography emerges within a three-dimensional environment (sound holography). 

The instrumental piece EN PLO (2007) is written for low instruments, electronics, a loudspeaker orchestra and an electrically operated scenographic draft which occupies both the stage and the audience area – and participates in the acoustical, theatrical, physical and thematic environment of the work. The latter is prescribed on the score: a devise for vibrating the audience seating during the “collisions”, two wind machines with powerful airflow (from the back sides; pointed towards the audience), a ship propeller, a capstan with anchor and steel chain, etc. In STROPHES (2003/04), the highly unusual architectonic features of the Volkswagen Transparent Factory influenced the production of sounds. For example, the trumpet’s part exploits the therein-existed huge glass-tower and glass-elevator, either as reverberation effect transducer, damper or pitch shifter. Such conceptions, however, are often unique and not repeatable, simply because they are existing environmentally in advance and therefore exploitable for the unique purposes of the required concrete space.

Additionally, the music incorporates extraneous musical elements (unconventional sound producers, non-European and folk instruments, speaking and shouting choruses), electronic media and electroacoustic sounds, literary texts, theatrical and visual components. Through the exploitation of acoustic sources such as the automobile and machine parts in DIE JAGD, STROPHES and AUTOSYMPHONIC, the possibilities of sound creation and playing techniques are extended. The performative potential in machinery is particularly unique. I systematically investigate this feasibility, which permits heterogeneous sound mixtures: On the one hand, a hybridity of diverse automobile sounds; on the other hand, a polyphonic setting of the automobiles with instruments, voices and electronics.

A new context materializes from the atypical approach to traditional ensemble formations, and vice versa: atypical ensemble formations are given traditional parameters of music:

  1. In the case of STAUBZUCKER (2007), the guitar quartet is treated as a quasi percussion group. The underlying idea is to downplay the traditional guitar playing and transfer a selection of sounds that are commonly produced on percussion instruments on the guitar.
  2. In the scene II of DIE JAGD, NACHT, DAMALS (A) – NIGHT, THEN (A), the lights of the six cars have been rhythmically composed. This episode carries the description “LICHTMUSIK [Lichtrhythmus]” (Light’s Music [Light’s Rhythm]).
  3. The instrumentalists in AKANTHAI (2006) perform chanted elements that are textually assigned with expressive nuances.




The Dimension of Staging

The holistic nature of musical synthesis interacts dynamically with other art forms and media (as in the case of DIE JAGD and AUTOSYMPHONIC), within the framework of staging the music.

The lineaments of holistic musical synthesis are systemic, synthetic and summative. Included is the intellectual and intuitive grasp of the ideas behind the music, since it often attempts to render an extra-musical narrative, as well as all music-extraneous media elements that are integral components of the score. The significance of the smallest segments that might be considered units can only be understood in terms of their contribution to the significance of the whole. The latter is therefore epistemologically the former.

Holistic polymediality is not just the sum of the music and its staging, but the compositional effect of the summative image of the music being staged.  

Quality Versus Quantity 

I make use of the prefix poly throughout, but I change the paradigms: by this I mean that I do not strive to achieve a multiplicity in the sense of quantity but rather an abundance in the sense of quality. Hence the term polymediality does not refer to the amount of media used in the composition or performance of the piece. 

In fact the meaningful relationship between the music and these mediated apparatuses plays the central role, inclusive of the forms of fine arts. The result is an alternating, synergetic interaction (active and mutually stimulating) between the actual music and the various media implemented in the piece which lend the entire work an atmosphere of an assembled musical aestheticism (polyaestheticism). In other words, the creative process embeds an all-encompassing dramaturgy and aesthetic consistency. In spite of this heterogeneous mixing, matching and interlocking, each individual media element maintains its own immanent identity.   


Furthermore, the utilization of vehicles has a strong contextual reference: the themes of wanderlust, discovery and adventure are central motives that inspire the creation of associated sound worlds/structures. In AUTOSYMPHONIC, for instance, the history of the automobile, based on Carl Benz’s autobiography, is mirrored in an idiosyncratic way in the nine movements of the symphony. When observed methodologically, the compositional procedure is construed as a permanent change of perspectives, thus reflecting a multifaceted movement. 

September 2010 (updated Sept. 2011)

Bibliography of Selected Writings

Marios Joannou Elia, The Concept of Polymediality: Literary Sources as an Inherent Polymedial Element of Music (Mainz: Schott Music, 2017).

Marios Joannou Elia, Zeitgenössische Musik im Kontext von Polyästhetik und Polymedialität (Contemporary Music in the Context of Polymediality and Polyaesthetics) (Mainz: Schott Music, 2016). [Read Online] [@ Schott]

Marios Joannou Elia, Polymediality as a Concept: The multimedia symphony autosymphonic (orig. Polymedialität als Konzept – Die Multimediasinfonie autosymphonic), in: Ästhetik des Vorläufigen: Skizze – Entwurf – Probe, ed. by Thomas Hochradner and Sabine Coelsch-Foisner, Reihe Wissenschaft und Kunst (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2014). [Buy Book/eBook]

Andi Schoon, Geräusch als Spektakel. Zu den plurimedialen Kompositionen von Marios Joannou Elia (Noise as Spectacle: On the Plurimedial Compositions of Marios Joannou Elia), in: Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, p. 56-59 (Mainz: Schott Music, 1/2014). [Read Article]

Marios Joannou Elia, Polymedialität als Konzept – Die Multimediasinfonie autosymphonic, in: Ästhetik des Vorläufigen: Skizze – Entwurf – Probe, ed. by Thomas Hochradner and Sabine Coelsch-Foisner, Reihe Wissenschaft und Kunst, (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013).




Marios Joannou Elia, The Concept of Polymediality, in: autosymphonic, ed. by Horst Hamann (Mannheim: Edition Panorama, 2012), in English and German. [Buy Book Online from Publisher or Amazon]

Susanne Kling, Marios Joannou Elia: Polymedialität als Konzept. Musik im Dialog mit aussermusikalischen Medien, in: autosymphonic, premiere program book (Mannheim: m:con-mannheim: congress GmbH, 2011).  

Andi Schoon, Geräusch als Spektakel: Zu den plurimedialen Kompositionen von Marios Joannou Elia (Bern University of Applied Sciences, 2011).

Marios Joannou Elia, Portfolio of Compositions with Accompanying Commentary (British Library: EThOS Electronic Library, 2010). [Read Abstract]

Marios Joannou Elia, Zeitgenössische Musik und ihre Wahrnehmungsformen im Kontext von Polyästhetik und Polymedialität (Vienna: University of Music and Performing Arts, PhD, 2009). 


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