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Old 05-01-2017, 10:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Iannis Xenakis

One of the other great icons of the 20th Century (and my favorite composer).

He was innovative and prolific (like many of his contemporaries) and wrote much of the most deeply emotional and expressive music I've heard.

In every genre of music he wrote, he broke ground:

Orchestral
Chamber
Ensemble
Vocal
Electronic

His catalogue is very diverse and he explored a lot through his near 50 years of composition. Between Metastasis (or even earlier, Six Chansons for piano), to the late O-mega and Sea Change, there is an extreme stylistic development.


I'm a huge fan, overtly familiar with the majority of his available output and am always sharing my passion. Long live Xenakis!
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Old 05-02-2017, 09:43 AM   #2 (permalink)
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A master of sound coloration - whether it's his orchestrations or his unusual electronic resources.
I wouldn't go so far to say that he broke ground in these areas other than his extreme uses
of sound forces in his compositions - much in the same manner as someone like Scelsi or
Dumitrescu for instance. The "breaking new ground" aspect is more in line with both Cage and
Stockhausen with their ever-evolving interests in continual change. Tho Stockhausen spent
nearly 30 years on this one major project, his work before and after this time more than made up
for this relatively staid period. Cage too, in differing ways, was in constant search-mode and
delivered beautifully nearly always. During his last six years he did become somewhat comfortably
ensconced in a singular method, but the swift technological change concerning the people's easier
access to information may have been impetus enough for him to search and change yet again if he
would've survived into his 90s. It's a guess, sure, but one based on the way his thinking evolved.
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Old 05-03-2017, 03:01 AM   #3 (permalink)
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What "period" of Xenakis' work do you love best? early, middle, late?
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Old 07-07-2017, 09:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newindiansongs View Post
I love middle period of Xenakis.
That is where true modernism and primitive collide in fireworks of great magnitude. Truly great music, one of the best.


For me the early work is still really good but more like the process of developing a new, unique style moving from the post-Stravinsky/Varese/Bartok idiom into his own incredibly contemporary world of music.

So many great works in this period (in fact too much for some people to comprehend ). That period encapsulates some of my favorite works of all time, any genre
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Old 07-16-2017, 02:18 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Anyone else heard "Le Sacrifice"? he wrote it before Metastasis and it's a really interesting piece (even just historically) showing that he already knew where he wanted to go way before he starting incorporating architectural shapes in his work!


(hint, he resumed the kind of post-Stravinsky/Varese style in Le Sacrafice after 1968 aprox. with a much more experienced and enlightened mindset)


Xenakis IS what Stravinsky should have been!
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Old 07-16-2017, 03:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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"Le Sacrifice" is the second part of a triptych of pieces he wrote ("Anastenaria").
That piece is really on the cusp of his change to the modernist nature of the works
that follow with its modal serialism derived from Messiaen. You can hear how he took
eight fixed pitches and assigned Fibonacci-based durations along with the glissandi
that is so familiar to his works thereafter. Also, you might notice the lack of vibrato.

His first explicit use of mathematics (also with the Fibonacci sequence)
occurred back in '52 with "Tripli Zyia" while, before then, his interest
would lie more in the sonorities of Ravel and Bartók ("Phipli Zyia").
As a matter of fact, he had said that he wanted to be the "Greek Bartók").

Last edited by rostasi; 07-17-2017 at 07:03 AM.
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Yep, I got the Anastenaria cycle. Procession is very post-Stravinsky/Orff, greek modes and all. Very characteristically Xenakian percussion going on there!

I singled out Le Sacrifice in particular because it seems to reflect his later mature style but at a still very formative stage in his development as a composer. It's like "this is 70s Xenakis, but not" in a less-literal way.

Bartok is a big part of Xenakis' style absolutely, those early Zyia pieces blatantly reflect this but there are so many allusions to Bartok all throughout Iannis' career.

The Six Chansons have that strong correlation with Ravel, the kinda post-"impressionist" thing. The counterpoint is so much like Bach though!

But Bartok, Stravinsky and Messiaen are Xenakis' spiritual "guides" their ideas parallel many of Xenakis' in many way and their influence would be a better way for the general public to grasp what Xenakis is about from an initial introduction than perhaps how he is usually introduced.


Back to the Zyia pieces though, I really like them. So fascinating, the soprano + piano version vaguely reminding me of Varese's "Un grand sommeil noir".
Brings to mind an alternate reality where young Iannis decided to compose arias
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rostasi View Post
that follow with its modal serialism derived from Messiaen. You can hear how he took
eight fixed pitches and assigned Fibonacci-based durations along with the glissandi
that is so familiar to his works thereafter. Also, you might notice the lack of vibrato.
This too is a good thing to note, I remember reading in a Xenakis-overview book about this. The whole "limited modes of transposition" definitely had a influence on Iannis' later development of "Sieves". So meeting it back to the earlier pieces, confirms how I've always seen Xenakis' aesthetic; as an amalgamation of a lot of these concepts/techniques and a stylistic development forward!
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Old 07-16-2017, 11:17 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I know some of Xenakis's electronic works but he's admittedly a blind spot for me. Just started listening to this record and had no idea about this side of him tbh. I thought it was interesting for a violinist I saw mention that she had premiered Xenakis pieces when she had nothing to do with electronics.

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Old 07-17-2017, 12:09 AM   #10 (permalink)
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^^ Yep Frownland, he's a smorgasbord of quite a diverse set of music. His orchestral works are also seriously looking into (if you like very highly-concentrated and often quite aggressive orchestral music)

The chamber works tend to be quite melodious (in a much more obvious way), he's got some great harmonies. Those solo cello pieces (Nomos Alpha and Kottos) also show that when he is writing for a single instrument, he is not at a lack of possibilities. Really engaging pieces live too!

I love that chamber works set. It also gives you three of his string quartets (ST/4, Tetras and Tetora) which are also unique masterpieces of the contemporary quartet genre.


As you initially stated, yep the electronic works are massive, excellent pieces. I know Merzbow fans tend to love Persepolis, lol.
But all those electronic works are all very different to each other, lots to hear there! (the late electronic stuff like "S.709" is a little questionable though...)


As many of us on MB tend to love quite extreme music, there should be no problem diving into his more larger works too!


What pieces are you enjoying the most so far?
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