Pamopoulos, P. (2018). ‘Vocal letters: a migrant’s family records from the 1950s and the phonographic production and reproduction of memory’, entanglements, 1(2):30-51.
Found and bought a few years ago at an Athens flea market by visual artist and avid record-collector Panos Charalambous, a body of 19 rare acetate 78 rpm. records, made in the United States in the late 1950s by the Greek migrant Konstantinos Chronis and his family, triggers a series of ethnographic and artistic encounters that bring out the role of vocality and phonography in the production and reproduction of memory. Konstantinos Chronis, who migrated to the USA in the beginning of the 20th century, sent these private recordings to his brother and his family back in Greece as a form of vocal letters, including folk songs and nostalgic narratives, family news and highly emotional promises about meeting them once again. Anthropologist Panayotis Panopoulos traces the social life of these records backwards, meeting their original receivers, members of the family and co-villagers of Konstantinos Chronis in Athens and the mountainous village of Roino in Arcadia region, Peloponnese. Vocal traces of more than half a century ago, probably considered forever lost, return to stir up memory, which was also the strong stimulus for the records’ production in the first place. Different layers of memory are assessed and discussed as various performances and levels of (phonographic) vocality accumulate through time. The artist’s intention in the project to resurrect the voices of the dead among their living relatives and village community meet the anthropologist’s interest to reassess the experience of the records’ reception and social life, in a performance of ethnographic/ artistic DJing, through which the recorded voices address their original receivers once again in a meaningful gesture of mending a broken chain of contact and communication.