Yannis Kyriakides – The Buffer Zone (Unsounds)


The premise of The Buffer Zone, the latest work by Cypriot artist Yannis Kyriakides, is neither musical nor aesthetic. Rather, The Buffer Zone rests in the slightly obscure, but wholly relevant paradigm of ‘sound-drama’ – a part fiction, part documentary exploration of the lasting, divisionary geographical, cultural and psychological spaces created by political and military conflict. Originally staged as an electronic opera, the piece’s case in point is that of the UN buffer zone established between Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities in 1964, following the island’s independence in 1960. The drama plays out in the monologues of a British UN border guard, whose one and only job is to keep watch over the buffer zone and report infringements. Made up of 66 time fragments – roughly 24 hours in the life of the protagonist – the piece utilises minimal vocal inflections, haunting piano and cello, and field recordings from the actual Cypriot buffer zone, to punctuate the border guard’s divergent, confused and lonesome discourse. The effect is remarkable. There’s a real sense of alienation here; of isolation between psychological and geographical states, of inordinate duty to an ill-defined, culturally dislocated cause. Sonically emotive and immersive, The Buffer Zone puts a distinctly human and subjective face to four-decade-long enforced separation. It looks to illustrate the effects that such an compulsory severance can have on the collective psyche of those involved in its everyday operation; the state of limbo enforced upon the minor players – the UN peacekeepers and the Turkish and Greek Cypriots on either side of the border – in a much larger political game. Kyriakides isn’t claiming to hold the answers here. Instead, he is merely suggesting that maybe such a buffer zone, originally imposed to put an end to a military conflict, actually ends up preventing a real and whole sense of peace for those who it affects the most. With The Buffer Zone, Kyriakides has created a very abstract and long-winded, but if taken in context, a very moving and engrossing work.


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