Michael Adamis was born in Piraieus, Greece, on 19.5.1929. A graduate of Theology at the University of Athens, he completed his studies in both Western (composition with Y.A. Papaioannou) and Byzantine music, and pursued advanced studies in Composition, Electroacoustic music and Byzantine music paleography at Brandeis University in Boston, MA.
Renowned as a major composer of his generation, Adamis has been repeatedly commissioned by international festivals and cultural organizations and his works are widely performed and broadcasted. His choral pieces are established in the repertory of Greek choral music. Besides composition he has engaged himself in choral direction and in research in Byzantine musicology; active in projects aiming at a reconception of the rationale, the scope and the actual practice of music education, also a forerunner in the promotion of Byzantine music as a great musical culture, as well as one of the leading figures for the establishment of contemporary music creation in Greece.
In his studies and his general musical endeavour he has always combined the quest of Contemporary creative music with the insight in Byzantine, two fields that have interlinked in his compositional work giving it a characteristic identity in the international avant-guarde. Adamis' personal idiom, founded in the musical culture of the Greek Tradition, has long been recognized as a new trend in Art Music. Developing a way of composing which draws from the functional quality of several structural and morphological features of Byzantine music and maintains integral references to its aesthetics and its ethos, Adamis regards his native musical tradition as the field of generative ideas for the development of a new musical experience within contemporary music conception.
The role of micro-tonal intervals in the organization of the musical phrase, the acoustics of traditional percussion, the particularity of the musical articulation of the chanter-psaltis, whom he first introduced as a soloist in contemporary works, with its quality of expression which reflects and promotes a special ethos, the fundamental logic of the art of drone which underlines the melodies and supports their movement, the melismatic character, the finely ornated melodic formation, are basic features that he integrates and elaborates upon in his idiom.
Aiming primarily at the organization of the Form, he develops a compositional technique which employs a multi-melodic and multi-rythmic treatment that supports an unusual linear, horizontal development in which melodic structures in different rythms sound together, join in an elaborate compound of recurrently unfolding levels to produce the sound impact of a dense interweaving in which the dimension of depth is an outcome of the horizontal treatment of the melodic combinations and of their succession.
Adamis’s production of more than three hundred works to date includes pieces for orchestra, instrumental ensembles, solo instruments, voice and choir, multiple media, pure electronic or in combination with instruments and/or voices, also works for the Church, the Theatre and TV. It follows on the whole two parallel lines:
i) An investigation within the framework of the recognizable symbolic material is well depicted in works with direct references to their musical source as, for example, in the choral “Byzantine Passion” (1967), “In Bethleem” (1988) for orchestra and choir, “Tetelestai” - It Is Finished (1971) for psaltis, choir and electronic music, “Rodanon” (1983) for psaltis, byzantine chorus and intrumental ensemble, “Kalophonikon” (1988) for sax quartet, “Os Thesavron” - As a Treasure (1994) for choir and chamber orchestra, “Theoptia” (1997) for two psaltes, mixed choir and orchestra.
ii) A tendency to move beyond, rather transcend the symbolic musical material and promote it to its more abstract consequences in the ideal of absolute music, is already apparent in “Apocalypsis” (1967) for choral groups, narrator and electronic music, becomes clearer in “Kratema” (1971) for voice, oboe, tuba and electronic music, gets characteristically realised in “Photonymon” (1973) for psaltis, choir and traditional percussion, and further develops in “Hirmos” (1975) for six solo voices, “Quartet” (1977) for flute and string trio, “7 Automela” (1990) for string orchestra, the orchestral “Evolutiones” (1980) and “Epallelon” (1985), the “Visions from the Apocalypse” (1993) for barytone and chamber orchestra, “En Yi Erimo” - On Desert Land (1994) for trombone and percussion, the choral "Bright Cloud" (1999), and the orchestral "Kymorroos" (2001) and "Restless Geology" (2002).
Along the same line from within symbolism to abstraction, yet drawing mainly from the Greek Demotic-Folk Tradition, are such works as “Gennesis” (1968), “Orestes” (1972), the choral “Prometheion” (1983) and the instrumental “Alloiostrofa” (1986), a number of chamber music pieces - “Eptaha” (1989) for cl and vla, “Nine Yirismata” (1989) for piano, “Paga Laleousa” - Purling Spring - (1992) for wind quintet, “Moiroloi tis Panayias” - Virgin Mary’s Lament - (1994) for choir, Nefeli Fotini-Bright Cloud, for Eight-Voices Mixed Choir1999. “Hellenion” (1995) for woodwinds, “Mayema I Fysis” - Magic is Nature - (1998), for soprano and woodwind quintet, "Tis Avyis"" - Of Dawn - (2003) for choir, and also several Song Cycles for choir, "Nyfiatica" -Bridal- (1979), "Koitica" (1982), "Hiotica" (1989).
Among his musicological works, most important and widely known are his transcription and reconstitution of the Office of the Three Youths in the Furnace (the only example of an Eastern Church Office with staging elements that is preserved in the manuscripts with its music) and also his discovery and transcription of the two-part “Aineite” by Manuel Gazis, the oldest so far example of the rare “polyphonic” writing in the Mid-Byzantine Era.
Adamis started his career very young, in 1950, when he founded the Greek Royal Palace Chapel Boys’ Chorus, which he directed until 1967. In 1958 he founded the Athens Chamber Choir which he directed until 1961 .From 1961 to 1963 he taught Byzantine Music and directed the choir of the Orthodox Theological College “The Holy Cross” in Boston USA. In 1965 he founded the first electronic music studio in Athens. From 1968 to 1999 he was Head of the Music Department and Director of the Choir at Pierce College in Athens.
He was president of the Greek Society for Contemporary Music for a decade, 1975 -1985. Between 1981 and 1984 president of the Committee for Choral Development hosted by the Greek Ministry of Culture. Since 1979 he is president of the Greek Byzantine Choir. Member of the Board of Directors of the Ionion University, 1990 - 1994, in which capacity he planned the curriculum and the organization of the School of Musical Studies (founded in 1992) in which he also taught and which conferred upon him an honorary doctorate in 1999. He was also proclaimed an honorary doctor of the University of Athens in 2004.
Michael Adamis passed away on 21 January 2013.