Georgia Kalodiki



Atoma is based on the atomic theory of the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus (460 - 370 B.C), who was born in Thracian Abdera. It is an experimental work centered on the concept of the gradual accumulation of similar sound elements.

Before progressing further, it is vital that we examine some of the leading philosophical principles of Democritus's atomic theory 1. According to the ancient philosopher, the basic characteristic of a physical entity is its material constitution. In fact, Democritus was the first systematic materialist in the history of philosophy. He developed the concept of a qualitatively uniform material substance, represented as a dense net of mobile atoms. From his point of view, every phenomenon is closely related to the mechanical movement of atoms, and as a result every entity in the real world is subject to quantitative measurement. He also believed that atomic theory exists not only in the material world but also in the spiritual world - a soul is made of atoms of fire, and an increase in the quality of its atoms simply means a closer approach to the real substance of being.

In general atoms differ in both size and shape, and they can be combined in an unlimited number of different forms. In practice they are perpetually moving and clustering together, forming groups and resulting into entities. Smoother atomic movements lead to calmness, and unruly and irregular movements - of soul atoms for example - are responsible for every psychological disorder.

In Atoma, this atomic theory is extended into the domain of sound. In other words, the pitch material of the piece is considered as a dense net of mobile atoms. This conception is based on the axiom that notes are atoms of the same substance, that they can adopt different positions in the composition's sound space and that these atoms can produce various shapes and models by moving, clustering and interacting with each other.

To be more specific, notes gradually change their position in time, thus affecting the pitch and rhythmic sequence of the piece. Changes of pitch represent the atomic movements in space and changes in rhythmic density represent the degree of atomic attraction. Repeated notes in alternating rhythmic associations reflect the linear movement of atoms on a similar spatial plane. Clustered sounds and dense rhythmical shapes imply the atomic accumulation from which, according to Democritus theory, true and genuine knowledge derives. Finally, semitone intervallic steps, as found towards the end of the piece, represent a diminishing developmental process leading to calmness. In accordance with the tempered twelve-tone scale, the semitone is considered the smallest existing interval in this piece.

Having made the above points, it should be noted that this gradual condensation is often inverted during the piece by removing pitch material and loosening the rhythmical density, in order to give a rather circular and recurring character to the overall structural design.

1 see Audi 1999: 217-218
Goldsmiths - University of London, 2002