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24 October 2018

Christopher C. King (*) – LAMENT FROM EPIRUS

An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest Surviving Folk Music Hardcover – 304 pages

In the tradition of Patrick Leigh Fermor and Geoff Dyer, a Grammy-winning producer discovers a powerful and ancient folk music tradition.

In a gramophone shop in Istanbul, renowned record collector Christopher C. King uncovered some of the strangest—and most hypnotic—sounds he had ever heard. The 78s were immensely moving, seeming to tap into a primal well of emotion inaccessible through contemporary music. The songs, King learned, were from Epirus, an area straddling southern Albania and northwestern Greece and boasting a folk tradition extending back to the pre-Homeric era. To hear this music is to hear the past.

Lament from Epirus is an unforgettable journey into a musical obsession, which traces a unique genre back to the roots of song itself. As King hunts for two long-lost virtuosos—one of whom may have committed a murder—he also tells the story of the Roma people who pioneered Epirotic folk music and their descendants who continue the tradition today.

King discovers clues to his most profound questions about the function of music in the history of humanity: What is the relationship between music and language? Why do we organize sound as music? Is music superfluous, a mere form of entertainment, or could it be a tool for survival? King’s journey becomes an investigation into song and dance’s role as a means of spiritual healing—and what that may reveal about music’s evolutionary origins.  

Anyone interested in the power of music―spiritually, culturally, historically, or politically―will find this odyssey to be transformative. By way of an anthropological detective story, Christopher King deftly reveals details and echoing connections I personally never even imagined. Fascinating – Jim Jarmusch

This engaging, well-researched, and peculiar book is not only a work of music criticism or a philosophical rumination on the meaning of music—it’s also a travelogue in which the writer goes native – New York Review of Books

Enjoy the hypnotic clarity of the landscape—physical, human and musical—that [King] paints. … [Epirus’s] depth and freshness are undeniable, and I thank Mr. King for giving me a sip – Wall Street Journal

The culmination of King’s devotion to the music of this region and its connections to the lost traditions of American folk music… When you put down the book, having read King’s rapturous descriptions of the tunes he loves, your own collection will seem suddenly aglow with a curious new power – Oxford American

A must-read volume for those interested in music, even if your village is about as far from Epirus as can be… King explores music as a powerful form of communication, a tool for healing and even survival, as a shared experience for the community – The National Herald

* Christopher C. King, a Grammy-winning producer, musicologist, and prominent 78 RPM record-collector, has written for The Paris Review and the Oxford American. Profiles of him have appeared in the New York Times Magazine and Washington Post. He lives in Virginia.