Iannis Xenakis with Le Corbusier (on the Left)


Iannis Xenakis was born on May 29, 1922 in Braila (Romania) as a son of Clearchos Xenakis and Fotini Pavlou. Around the age of five, he settled, with his father, in Greece. From 1947 he started studying at the Polytechnical Institute in Athens, where he was also part of the anti-fascist and later anti-English underground movement. Because of these activities he was sentenced to death in 1947. The same year he fled to France where he started working as an architect, being an assistant of Le Corbusier. He continued working with Le Corbusier until 1960. In these years he realized a.o. the Couvent de La Tourette (1955) and the Philips Pavilion at the Expo in Brussels (1958).
His first musical studies were around 1948 with Arthur Honegger, Nadia Boulanger and Darius Milhaud. In 1949-50 he studied with Olivier Messiaen, who encouraged him to develop his musical ideas.
In 1953 he married Francoise Gargouil. In 1965 Xenakis founded the Centre d'Etudes de Mathématiques et Automatique Musicales (CEMAMu) in Paris. Between 1967 and 1972 he was Music Professor as well as founder of the Center for Mathematical automated Music (CMAM) at the Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. From 1972 to 1989 he was Professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris and in 1975 he was Professor of Music at the City University of London.
Xenakis received many awards and titles such as the Manos Hadjidakis Prize in Athens (1963), the Nippon Academy Award (1971), Officier de l'Ordre National du Mérite in Paris (1985).

Iannis Xenakis died on Sunday, February 4, 2001. He is survived by his wife Francoise and his daughter Makhi.

After writing some early works in the late 1940s, Xenakis' first mature work is Metastasis. At its premiere in 1955 it caused a scandal because it did not deal with serialism, incorporating sound blocks and masses of glissandi instead. This composition is the first where Xenakis, still intuitively, uses mathematical calculations as the basic musical material.
In later works Xenakis started to introduce the probability theory, leading to his so calle Stochastic music.
But he continues searching for new roads and possibilities, resulting in compositions like Duel and Strategies, based on game-like strategies or Evryali, a composition using aborescences, tree-like branching curves.
From early on and throughout his compositional career, Xenakis composed tape music. His first work is Diamorphoses from 1957 and his most recent composition is S.709 of 1994. In his later tape works he uses computers as well. A fine example of his tape music is Concret PH, composed in 1958 as an overture to Varese's Poeme electronique in the Philips Pavilion at the Expo in Brussels. Part of many of his large scale instrumental and electronic works is the use of light effects, slide shows and laser projections. Examples of these works are his Polytopes, Diatope and Mycènes alpha.
Even though the use of all mathematical theories, which is a method for Xenakis to avoid putting emotion in his music, it definitely is music with beauty, power and character. The brutal sound-blocks of Cendrées and Nomos Gamma, the sweeping rhythms of Psappha and Kottos and the screaming glissandi of Metastasis and Mikka S nevertheless bear emotions that grow on further listening. It definitely isn't easy music, but being a world in itself, it is extremely rewarding.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1953 Metastasis 4.50 stars LP
Comments:
Xenakis had been trained as an architect.

His formal musical training is shredded in clouds. But his mathematical skills were ok. And he had new ideas. On paper you fear serial hell. But a little magic takes place. Specially in Metastasis.

French RTF orchestra cond. Maurice Le Roux.

EIMCP cond. Konstantin Simonovic.

1955-1956 Pithoprakta 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

French RTF orchestra cond. Maurice Le Roux.

EIMCP cond. Konstantin Simonovic

1957 Diamorphoses, for 2-track tape & at least 4 loudspeakers 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Electronic work, realissed at Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in Paris.

1958 Concret PH 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Electronic work, made as an opener for Varese's Poème électronique

1956-1962 Antrées 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

Ensenble Instrumental de Musique Contemporaine de Paris cond. Konstantin Simonovic.

1956-1962 Morsima-Amorsima 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

Piano, Violin, Cello, Bass,
cond. Konstantin Simonovic

1956-1962 Morsima-Amorsima 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

L'Octour de Paris

1956-1962 St4 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

Bernède String Quartet

1963-1964 Eonta 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

French RTF orchestra cond. Maurice Le Roux.

EIMCP cond. Konstantin Simonovic

1965-1966 Nomos Alpha 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

Pierre Penassou - Cello

1965-1966 Nomos Alpha 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

Siegfried Palm - Cello

1969 Anaktoria 4.00 stars LP
Comments:

L'Octour de Paris

1979 Pléïades 4.50 stars CD
Pléïades Comments:
Mélanges
Métaux
Claviers
Peaux

Percussion as I remember it. This is the sound of the seventies.

Les Percussions de Strasbourg

Compilation Instrumental Works 4.00 stars 2 CD
Pléïades Comments:

Phlegra (1975)
Jalons (1987)
Keren (1986)
Nomos Alpha (1965-1966)
Thallein (1984)
Naama (1984)
Khoai (1976)
Komboi (1981)
A l'Ile de Gorèe (1986)

Ensemble Intercontemporain cond. Pierre Boulez

Ensemble Xenakis cond, Huub Kerstens

1987 XAS for Saxophones 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Habanera Saxophone Quartet