For its 7th release, Moneda is proud to announce Cathedral, a work by Mihalis Shammas. It features a unique string instrument: the Lyraei, which Shammas designed, engineered and fabricated over the last two years.
The album is comprised of five longform drone compositions, captured over a series of one-take improvisations. They were recorded during isolation, in a period when Shammas, like many other artists, were unable to perform live. In a sense, the recordings capture the intention of those live performances that have been suspended indefinitely, droning away. Hence, our decision to share this work with some restrictions that serve not as a paywall, but as an invitation to enter through the walls of sound and experience the work in its totality, as an imaginary performance would have been.
The ‘Lyraei’ is an eight-string walnut instrument, featuring deconstructed and redesigned string exciters that oscillate according to the waveforms of analog signals; that is, the movements found in traditional analog synthesizers is transposed to the oscillating vibrations that resonate the metallic strings, to create different electric-dependent harmonics. This quality alone sets it miles apart from the more conventional layering of e-bowed guitar strings drone music. Especially, when one considers that the instrument features tuners that can be adjusted in real-time to explore microtonal dissonances and an eight-channel mixer to blend the signals of each string.
It is tempting to keep disseminating the instrument, but as the recordings of the performances reveal, Mihalis Shammas pays equal attention to expression. Already known as a well-versed live performer, in Cathedral, Shammas’ affinity to detail and nuance, make him unavoidably a master of the instrument.
For the artwork, Mihalis’ brother and frequent collaborator Demetris Shammas, takes the fabrication 3d drawings of this instrument a step further and reconceives it as an architectural structure of an imaginary cathedral, faintly reminding us of Lyonel Feininger’s cathedral woodcut on the Bauhaus manifesto, where Walter Gropius called artists to return to craft in the service of a metaphorical cathedral of the future.
In many ways, we think Cathedral pays tribute to that often-forgotten communal ethos found in early Bauhaus theory, one in which art is made in the workshop, with other fellow craftspeople, and, more importantly, for the people. An overarching ethos that Shammas’ work encapsulates where design, craftmanship, artistic expression and engineering, do not stampede for the recognition institutions impose but instead move freely between artist and artisan, architect and engineer, to offer a glimpse of what that ‘cathedral of the future’ might be.
Released March 17, 2022
Performed, recorded, and mixed by Mihalis Shammas
Mastering by Giuseppe Ielasi
Artwork and design by Demetris Shammas
Artistic direction by Emiddio Vasquez
For more information on the instrument and Mihalis Shammas' work: mihalisshammas.com/Lyraei