"Drawn Into the Flight Path of the Sounds": Xenakis Listening Thread

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"The listener must be gripped... The sensual shock must be just as forceful as when one hears a clap of thunder or looks into a bottomless abyss."

The plan is to listen to the entire oeuvre chronologically, 45-60m per week, for as long as it takes.

For this week, let's try

Zyia (folk), S, male vv (10 minimum), fl, pf, 1952
Metastaseis, 1953–4
Pithoprakta, 1955–6
Diamorphoses, 2-track, 1957–8
Concret PH, 2-track, 1958
Analogique A & B, 9 str + tape, 1958

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 02:01 (three months ago) link

And I'll recopy the complete list of works (orig source Oxford Music Online). We'll skip any unpublished works.

Orchestral:
Anastenaria: le sacrifice, orch (51 insts), 1953, sketch
Metastaseis, 1953–4; SWF SO, cond. H. Rosbaud, Donaueschingen, 16 Oct 1955
Pithoprakta, 1955–6; Bavarian RSO, cond. H. Scherchen, Munich, 8 March 1957
Achorripsis, 21 insts, 1956–7; Colón cond. Scherchen, Buenos Aires, 20 July 1958
Duel, 2 small orchs, 1959; Radio Hilversum PO, cond. D. Masson and F. Terby, Hilversum, 18 Oct 1971
Syrmos, 12 vn, 3 vc, 3 db, 1959; Ensemble Instrumental de Musique Contemporaine, cond. Simonović, Paris, 20 May 1969
Stratégie, 2 small orchs, 1959–62; Venice Festival Orchestra, cond. B. Maderna and C. Simonović, 25 April 1963
ST/48, 48 insts, 1959–62; Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF, cond. L. Foss, Paris, 21 Oct 1968
Akrata, 16 wind, 1964–5; cond. Simonović, Paris, 1965
Terretektorh, 1966; Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF, cond. Scherchen, Royan, 3 April 1966
Polytope, 4 orch groups, 1967; Ensemble Instrumental de Musique Contemporaine, cond. Simonović, Montreal, Expo 67, 1967
Nomos gamma, 1967–8; Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF, cond. C. Bruck, Royan, 4 April 1969
Kraanerg (ballet), orch, tape, 1968; Ottawa, June 1969
Synaphaï, pf, orch, 1969; Pludermacher, cond. M. Tabachnik, Royan, 6 April 1971
Antikhthon (ballet), 1971; cond. Tabachnik, Bonn, Festival Xenakis, 21 Sept 1974
Eridanos, 8 brass, str orch, 1973; Ensemble Européen de Musique Contemporaine cond. Tabachnik, La Rochelle, 13 April 1973
Erikhthon, pf, orch, 1974; C. Helffer, Orchestre de l’ORTF, cond. Tabachnik, Paris, 21 May 1974
Noomena, 1974; Orchestre de Paris, cond. G. Solti, Paris, 16 Oct 1974
Empreintes, 1975; Netherlands Radio PO, cond. Tabachnik, La Rochelle, 29 June 1975
Jonchaies, 1977; Orchestre National de France, cond. Tabachnik, Paris, 21 Dec 1977
Aïs, amp Bar, perc, orch, 1980; S. Sakkas, Gualda, Bavarian RSO, cond. Tabachnik, Munich, 13 Feb 1981
Pour les baleines, str, 1982; Orchestre Colonne, cond. D. Masson, Orléans, 2 Dec 1983
Lichens, 1983; Liège PO, cond. Bartholomée, Liège 16 April 1984
Shaar, str, 1983; Jerusalem Sinfonietta, cond. J.- P. Izquierdo, Tel Aviv, 3 Feb 1983
Alax, 3 ens of 10 insts (fl, cl, 2 hn, trbn, hp, perc, vn, 2 vc), 1985; Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Köln, Gruppe Neue Musik Hanns Eisler, cond. E. Bour, Cologne, 15 Sept 1985
Horos, 1986; Japan PO, cond. H. Iwaki, Tokyo, 24 Oct 1986
Keqrops, pf, orch, 1986; R. Woodward, New York PO, cond. Z. Mehta, New York, 13 Nov 1986
Ata, 1987; SWF SO, cond. M. Gielen, Baden-Baden, 3 May 1988
Tracées, 1987; Orchestre National de Lille, cond. J.-C. Casadeus, Paris, 17 Sept 1987
Kyania, 1990; Montpellier PO, cond. Z. Peskó, Montpellier, 7 Dec 1990
Tuorakemsu, 1990; Shinsei Nippon Orchestra, cond. H. Iwaki, Tokyo, 9 Oct 1990
Dox-Orkh, vn, orch, 1991; Arditti, BBC SO, London, cond. A. Tamayo, Strasbourg, 6 Oct 1991
Krinòïdi, 1991; Orchestra Sinfonica dell’Emilia-Romagna ‘Arturo Toscanini’, cond. R. Encinar, Parma, May 1991
Roáï, 1991; Berlin RSO, cond. O. Henzold, Berlin, 24 March 1992
Troorkh, trbn, orch, 1991; C. Lindberg, Swedish RSO, cond. E.-P. Salonen, Stockholm, 26 March 1993
Mosaïques, 1993; Orchestre des Jeunes de la Méditerranée, cond. Tabachnik, Marseilles, 23 July 1993
Dämmerschein, 1993–4; Cologne RSO, cond. Peskó, Lisbon, 9 June 1994
Koïranoï 1994; NDR SO, cond. Peskó, Hamburg, 1 March 1996
Ioolkos, 1995; SWF SO, cond. K. Ryan, Donaueschingen, 20 Oct 1996
Voile, str, 1995; Munich Chamber Orchestra, cond. C. Poppen, Munich, 16 Nov 1995
Sea-Change, 1997; BBC SO, cond. A. Davis, London, 23 July 1997
O-Mega, perc solo, chbr orch, 1997; E. Glennie, London Sinfonietta, cond. M. Stenz, Huddersfield, 30 Nov 1997

Choral:
Zyia (folk), S, male vv (10 minimum), fl, pf, 1952; cond. R. Safir, Evreux, 5 April 1994
Anastenaria: procession aux eaux claires, SATB (30vv), male choir (15vv), orch (62 insts), 1953, sketch
Polla ta dhina (Sophocles: Antigone), children’s vv, wind, perc, 1962; cond. Scherchen, Stuttgart, 25 Oct 1962
Hiketides: les suppliates d’Eschyle, 50 female vv, 10 insts/orch, 1964; cond. Simonović, Paris, 1968
Oresteïa (incid music/concert work, Aeschylus), chorus, 12 insts, 1965–6; cond. Simonović, Ypsilanti, MI, 14 June 1966
Medea (incid music, Seneca), male vv, orch, 1967; cond. Masson, Paris, 29 March 1967
Nuits, 3 S, 3 A, 3 T, 3 B, 1967–8; cond. M. Couraud, Royan, 7 April 1968
Cendrées, chorus, orch, 1973–4; cond. Tabachnik, Lisbon, 20 June 1974
A Colone (Sophocles), male/female vv (20 minimum), 5 hn, 3 trbn, 6 vc, 4 db, 1977; Metz, 19 Nov 1977
A Hélène, Mez, female vv, 2 cl, 1977; Epidavros, July 1977
Anemoessa (phonemic text), SATB (42 minimum), orch, 1979; cond. R. Dufallo, Amsterdam, 21 June 1979
Nekuïa (phonemes and text from J.-P. Richter: Siebenkäs and Xenakis: Ecoute), SATB (54 minimum), orch, 1981; cond. Tabachnik, Cologne, 26 March 1982
Pour la Paix (Xenakis), SATB, 2 female spkrs, 2 male spkrs, tape (UPIC), 1981, version for SATB (32 minimum); cond. M. Tranchant, Paris, 23 April 1982
Serment-Orkos (Hippocrates), SATB (32 minimum), 1981; Greek Radio Choir, Athens, 1981
Chant des Soleils (Xenakis, after P. du Mans), SATB, children’s choir, 18 brass 6 (hn, 6 tpt, 6 trbn) or multiple, perc, 1983; Nord-Pas-de-Calais [simultaneous performance in several towns of the region], 21 June 1983
Idmen A/Idmen B (phonemes from Hesiod: Theogony), SATB (64 minimum), 4/6 perc, 1985; Antifona de Cluj, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, 24 July 1985
Knephas (phonemes by Xenakis), SATB (32 minimum), 1990; cond. J. Wood, London, 24 June 1990
Pu wijnuej we fyp (A. Rimbaud), children’s choir, 1992; cond. D. Dupays, Paris, 5 Dec 1992
Vakchai Evripidou (Les Bacchantes d' Euripide), Bar, female vv (also playing maracas), pic, ob, dbn, hn, tpt, trbn, 3 perc, 1993; J. Dixon, cond. N. Kok, London, 1 Sept 1993
Sea-Nymphs (phonemes from W. Shakespeare: The Tempest), SATB (24 minimum), 1994; cond. S. Joly, London, 16 Sept 1994

Other vocal:
Tripli zyia, 1v, pf, 1952, unpubd
Trois poèmes (F. Villon: Aiés pitié de moy, V. Mayakovsky: Ce soir je donne mon concert d’adieux, Ritsos: Earini Symphonia [Spring Symphony]), 1v, pf, 1952, unpubd
La colombe de la paix, A, 4vv (SATB), 1953, unpubd
Stamatis Katotakis (table song), 1v, male vv, 1953, unpubd
N’shima, 2 Mez/A, 2 hn, 2 trbn, vc, 1975; cond. J.-P. Izquierdo, Jerusalem, Feb 1976
Pour Maurice, Bar, pf, 1982; S. Sakkas, C. Helffer, Brussels, 18 Oct 1982
Kassandra (Aeschylus), Bar + 20str psalterion, perc, 1987; Sakkas, Gualda, Gibellina, 21 Aug 1987 [second part of Oresteïa: see CHORAL]
La déesse Athéna (Aeschylus), Bar, pic, ob, E♭ cl, db cl, dbn, hn, pic tpt, trbn, tuba, perc, vc, 1992; Sakkas, cond. Tabachnik, Athens, 3 May 1992 [scene from Oresteïa: see CHORAL]

Chamber:
Dipli Zyia, vn, vc, 1951, unpubd
ST/4, str qt, 1956–62; Bernède Quartet, Paris, 1962
ST/10, cl, b cl, 2 hn, hp, perc, str qt, 1956–62 cond. Simonović, Paris, May 1962
Morsima-Amorsima, pf, vn, vc, db, 1956–62; cond. Foss, Athens, 16 Dec 1962
Analogique A, 9 str, 1958 [must be performed with tape work Analogique B]; cond. Scherchen, Gravesano, summer 1959
Amorsima-Morsima, cl, b cl, 2 hn, hp, perc, str qt; cond. Foss, Athens, 1962
Atrées, fl, cl, b cl, hn, tpt, trbn, 2 perc, vn, vc, 1962; cond. Simonović, Paris, 1962
Eonta, 2 tpt, 3 trbn, pf, 1963–4; cond. P. Boulez, Paris, 16 Dec 1964
Anaktoria, cl, bn, hn, str qt, db, 1969; Octuor de Paris, Avignon, 3 July 1969
Persephassa, 6 perc, 1969; Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Persepolis, 9 Sept 1969
Aroura, 12 str, 1971; cond. Tabachnik, Lucerne, 24 Aug 1971
Charisma, cl, vc, 1971; Royan, 6 April 1971
Linaia-Agon, hn, trbn, tuba, 1972; cond. Tabachnik, London, 26 April 1972
Phlegra, 11 insts, 1975; cond. Tabachnik, London, 28 Jan 1976
Epeï, eng hn, cl, tpt, 2 trbn, db, 1976; cond. S. Garant, Montréal, 9 Dec 1976
Retours-Windungen, 12 vc, 1976; Berlin PO, Bonn, 20 Feb 1976
Dmaathen, ob, perc, 1976; N. Post, J. Williams, New York, May 1977
Akanthos, 9 insts, 1977; Ensemble Studio 111, Strasburg, 17 June 1977
Ikhoor, str trio, 1978; Trio à Cordes Français, Paris, 2 April 1978
Dikhthas, vn, pf, 1979; S. Accardo, B. Canino, Bonn, 4 June 1980
Palimpsest, eng hn, b cl, bn, hn, perc, pf, str qnt, 1979; cond. S. Gorli, Aquila, 3 March 1979
Pléïades, 6 perc, 1979; Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, 17 May 1979
Komboï, amp hpd, perc, 1981; Chojnacka, Gualda, Metz, 22 Nov 1981
Khal Perr, brass qnt, 2 perc, 1983; Quintette Arban, Alsace Percussions, Beaune, 15 July 1983
Tetras, str qt, 1983; Arditti String Quartet, Lisbon, 8 June 1983
Thalleïn, pic, ob, cl, bn, hn, pic tpt, trbn, perc, pf, str qnt, 1984; cond. E. Howarth, London, 14 Feb 1984
Nyûyô [Setting Sun], shakuhachi, sangen, 2 koto; 1985; Angers, Ensemble Yonin-No Kai (Tokyo), 30 June 1985
Akea, pf, str qt, 1986; Helffer, Arditti String Quartet, Paris, 15 Dec 1986
A l’Ile de Gorée, amp hpd, pic, ob, cl, bn, hn, tpt, str qnt, 1986; cond. Kerstens, Amsterdam, 4 July 1986
Jalons, pic, ob, b cl, db cl, dbn, hn, tpt, trbn, tuba, hp, str qnt, 1986; cond. Boulez, Paris, 26 Jan 1987
XAS, sax qt, 1987; Raschèr Quartet, Lille, 17 Nov 1987
Waarg, pic, ob, cl, bn, hn, tpt, trbn, tuba, str qnt, 1988; cond. Howarth, London, 6 May 1988
Echange, solo b cl, fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, tpt, trbn, tuba, str qnt, 1989; H. Sparnaay, cond. Porcelijn, Amsterdam, 26 April 1989
Epcycle, solo vc, fl, ob, cl, hn, tpt, trbn, tuba, 2 vn, va, db, 1989; R. de Saram, Spectrum Ensemble, cond. G. Protheroe, London, 18 May 1989
Okho, 3 djembés, tall African drum, 1989; Trio Le Cercle, Paris, 20 Oct 1989
Ophaa, hpd, perc, 1989; Chojnacka, Gualda, Warsaw, 17 Sep 1989
Tetora, str qt, 1990; Arditti String Quartet, Witten, 27 Apr 1991
Paille in the wind, vc, pf, 1992; J. Scalfi, Woodward, Milan, 14 Dec 1992
Plektó, fl, cl, perc, pf, vn, vc, 1993; cond. R. Platz, Witten, 24 April 1994
Ergma, str qt, 1994; Mondrian String Quartet, The Hague, 17 Dec 1994
Mnamas Xapin Witoldowi Lutoslavskiemu [In Memory of Witold Lutosławski], 2 hn, 2 tpt, 1994; cond. W. Michniewki, Warsaw, 21 Sept 1994
Kaï, fl, cl, bn, tpt, trbn, vn, va, vc, db, 1995; cond. D. Coleman, Oldenburg, 12 Nov 1995
Kuïlenn, fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 2 hn, 1995; Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Amsterdam, 10 June 1996
Hunem-Iduhey, vn, vc, 1996; E. Michell, O. Akahoshi, New York, 9 Aug 1996
Ittidra, str sextet, 1996; Arditti String Quartet, T. Kakuska (va), V. Erben (vc), Frankfurt, 4 Oct 1996
Roscobeck, vc, db, 1996; R. de Saram, S. Scordanibbio, Cologne, 6 Dec 1996
Zythos, trbn, 6 perc, 1996; Lindberg, Kroumata Ensemble, Birmingham, 10 April 1997

Solo instrumental:
Seven piano pieces without title, Menuet, Air populaire, Allegro molto, Mélodie, Andante, pf, 1949–50, unpubd
Suite, pf, 1950–51, unpubd
Thème et conséquences, pf, 1951, unpubd
Herma, pf, 1960–61
Nomos alpha, vc, 1965–6; S. Palm, Bremen, 5 May 1966
Mikka, vn, 1971; I. Gitlis, Paris, 27 Oct 1972
Evryali, pf, 1973; C. Helffer, Paris, 1974
Gmeeoorh, org, 1974; C. Holloway, U. of Hartford, CT, 1974
Psappha, perc, 1975; S. Gualda London, 2 May 1976
Theraps, db, 1975–6; F. Grillo, 26 March 1976
Khoaï, hpd, 1976; E. Chojnacka, Cologne, 5 May 1976
Mikka ‘S’, vn, 1976; R. Pasquier, Orléans, 11 March 1976
Kottos, vc, 1977; M. Rostropovich, La Rochelle, 28 June 1977
Embellie, va, 1981; G. Renon-McLaughlin, Paris, 1981
Mists, pf, 1981; Woodward, Edinburgh, 1981
Naama, amp hpd, 1984; Chojnacka, Luxembourg, 20 May 1984
Keren, trbn, 1986; B. Sluchin, Strasbourg, 19 Sept 1986
A r. (Hommage à Ravel), pf, 1987; H. Austbö, Montpellier, 2 Aug 1987
Rebonds, perc, 1988; Gualda, Rome, 1 July 1988

Tape
some works exist in one or more revised realizations

Diamorphoses, 2-track, 1957–8; Brussels, 5 Oct 1958
Concret PH, 2-track, 1958; Brussels, Philips Pavilion, 1958
Analogique B, 2-track, 1958–9 [must be performed with chbr work Analogique A]; cond. Scherchen, Gravesano, summer 1959
Orient-Occident, 2-track, 1960; Cannes, May 1960
The Thessaloniki World Fair (film score), 1-track, 1961
Bohor, 4-track, 1962; Paris, 15 Dec 1962
Hibiki Hana Ma, 12-track, 1969–70; Osaka, Expo 70, 1970
Persépolis, 8-track, 1971; Persepolis, 26 Aug 1971
Polytope de Cluny, 8-track, lighting, 1972; Paris, 17 Oct 1972
Polytope II, tape, lighting, 1974; Paris, 1974
La legénde d'Eer (Diatope), 4- or 8-track, 1977; Paris, 11 Feb 1978
Mycenae alpha, 2-track, UPIC, 1978; Mycenae, 2 Aug 1978
Taurhiphanie, 2-track, UPIC, 1987; Arles, 13 July 1988
Voyage absolu des Unari vers Andromède, 2-track, UPIC; Osaka, 1 April 1989
GENDY3, 2-track, Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis, 1991; Metz, 17 Nov 1991
S 709, 2-track Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis, 1994; Paris, 2 Dec 1994

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 02:02 (three months ago) link

The versions of Zyia that I see on Spotify, Youtube, and a quick look at Naxos all seem to be for solo soprano with flute and piano but that version also seems to date from 1952 so should be fine.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 02:08 (three months ago) link

Thanks for setting this up. I’ll get on it asap.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 02:14 (three months ago) link

Oh wow, you went ahead with it. Awesome. I shall return...

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 02:27 (three months ago) link

Yes pls

J. Sam, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 02:36 (three months ago) link

I listened to two recordings of Zyia: the one on Spotify sung by Angelica Cathariou and this one, with Raquel Camarinha singing: https://youtu.be/qLxLx29S2yA ; found a score on Scribd. The one on Youtube made the stronger first impression - and it's a strong one, with pretty (if very complex) melodies juxtaposed against clusters in the piano's low register, sometimes reminiscent in a way of what Vivier would get up to a couple of decades later. Quite different from the stochastic music we typically associate with Xenakis, still very much built around melody and metre. The vocal melody lines often draw on diatonic collections and even suggest tonal goals, although these change frequently and the clusters in the piano part obscure tonality. Metre also changes often, with additive patterns appearing at times.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 03:43 (three months ago) link

Metastaseis - opus 1! Just listened to two versions this morning, the Rosbaud-conducted one on this box: https://www.discogs.com/Various-Musique-De-Notre-Temps-Reperes-19451975/release/2583078 and the Tamayo-conducted RAI Symphony one I streamed on Naxos, which I liked so much I listened to it two more times. We're into the real deal now - huge, terrifying sound masses with that stunning first crescendo. Must have been incredible to see in 1955, a half-decade before Ligeti's and Penderecki's sound mass pieces, well before sci fi and horror film directors adopted those sounds. I'm sure it would still be a dazzling live experience. This was actually the first piece I ever heard by Xenakis, in an undergrad music history class. Definitely made an impression.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 13:14 (three months ago) link

Just took a look at the score and wow, yeah, 60 different parts, all written out by hand. Sort of incredible that there was a time when a Greek guy in his early 30s could even write something like this as his op. 1 and get it performed.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 13:20 (three months ago) link

I've listened to Zyia twice now, several hours apart. I like what the piano and flutes doing a lot, though the presence of vocals (not sure I've heard Xenakis with a solo vocalist before!) makes me slightly anxious about what I'm missing in the absence of a translation. The low clunky piano rhythms around, say, the 5:00 mark bring to mind Messiaen. Though it's fair to say that I'm kinda conditioned to hear Messiaen in things!

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 13:37 (three months ago) link

Pithoprakta - just listened to the Tamayo-conducted Luxembourg Orchestra recording. This is probably the Xenakis piece I've listened to most, since I used it when teaching for a couple of years. He kept the 46 strings, two trombones, and wood block from Metastaseis but not the rest of the winds and brass. All playing individual parts again. Doesn't quite have the huge dramatic moments of Metastaseis but I find it a bit more satisfying as an overall composition, I think. The arc-like form is very pleasing and well-constructed and the percussive extended techniques on the strings are great. The composition was inspired by Brownian motion iirc. A great demonstration of this concept:

The collision of hail or rain with hard surfaces, or the song of cicadas in a summer field. These sonic events are made out of thousands of isolated sounds; this multitude of sounds, seen as totality, is a new sonic event.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 13:48 (three months ago) link

Yeah, tbh, I have no idea where the text for Zyia comes from or what it's saying. If someone has a translation or speaks Greek, would be happy to hear!

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 13:49 (three months ago) link

Heroic! Looking forward to this.

Maresn3st, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 14:03 (three months ago) link

Hi, is it okay for me to join in with this? I probably won't have much of interest to contribute, but despite having heard about "this guy Xenakis" for much of my music-listening life I've never really investigated the work, so this would be a cool learning experience.

emil.y, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 14:56 (three months ago) link

following, this guy is on my list to investigate further

sleeve, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:00 (three months ago) link

Same here.

Ilxor in the streets, Scampo in the sheets (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:00 (three months ago) link

Everyone is welcome!

pomenitul, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:01 (three months ago) link

Xenakis would have definitely wanted it that way. The full quote referenced above, as quoted in Ross, is in fact "The listener must be gripped and—whether he likes it or not—drawn into the flight path of the sounds, without a special training being necessary. The sensual shock must be just as forceful as when one hears a clap of thunder or looks into a bottomless abyss."

He's not a composer I'd say I'm exceptionally well-versed in myself so this is meant to be educational for all involved.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:25 (three months ago) link

Ιάννης Ξενάκης otm.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:29 (three months ago) link

I've got all his stuff and am most familiar with and have a preference for his piano works and have nothing of interest to say beyond oafish inarticulate enthusiasm - so I'll be another lurking observer here. Maybe learn something for once!

calzino, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:48 (three months ago) link

Btw, Nagx3, I don't think it's just your conditioning: Xenakis studied with Messiaen. If you can read French, this gets into the relationship between the two, with some discussion of Zyia: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/file/index/docid/770144/filename/Notes_sur_les_relations_musicales_entre_Xenakis_et_Messiaen.pdf

It seems like this is a piece Messiaen went over with Xenakis when he was working on it. The quotes from Xenakis's notes show that Messiaen's comments were important to him. He mentions Messiaen's praise and specific comments on various compositional elements, thanked him and said it was thanks to his encouragement and instruction in Indian rhythms as well as Le Corbusier and Greek folk music, and even noted that he felt like "a new man" because of Messiaen's encouragement:


15 novembre 1952. Messiaen a vu la Zyia. Il l’a lue attentivement en en trouvant des fautes de copie. Il m’a dit : « Mais c’est formidable le progrès que vous avez fait depuis les harmonisations. Vous avez maintenant une langue, un style. C’est très très bien. Comment avez-vous fait ? Vous vous rendez compte ? ». J’ai dit que c’était grâce à lui, à son encouragement, à ses leçons, ensuite à la rythmique hindoue, à Le Corbusier et ?? à la musique populaire grecque.
Il m’a répété son étonnement [41] à plusieurs reprises.
Il m’a dit qu’il voudrait bien entendre la partie centrale, ?? [soprano], flûte et piano, qu’il trouve exceptionnelle à cause de la combinaison des timbres, mélodies et rythmes.
Il a eu un doute quant au raccord de la strette avec les doubles croches de Bartók, mais, a-t-il dit, ce sera très bien quand même.
...
Il a trouvé la partie du piano solo avec la variante du refrain très bien et pas du tout longue et statique, à cause des accidents rythmiques (changements de mesures).
Il m’a proposé de montrer la Zyia de sa part à Marcel Couraud pour qu’il la mette dans ses
...
[42] Je commence à me sentir à nouveau un homme parce que les paroles de Messiaen sont très encourageantes et parce que je ?? ?? ?? {suis d’accord avec lui}. C’est le début de la fin du Moyen âge ?22 »

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:56 (three months ago) link

He recalled the composer Iannis Xenakis saying that it would take him six months to figure out a 30-minute Cecil Taylor piece. Xenakis is “my favorite European composer,” Taylor continued

Cecil was obv a big fan.

calzino, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 16:01 (three months ago) link

The few things I'd heard from him were very abstract and cacophonous, so the relative accessibility and simplicity of Zyia is a nice start. Looking forward to following this.

octobeard, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 16:38 (three months ago) link

now listening to Metastaseis. Yeah this guy is the Autechre of orchestral music

octobeard, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 16:48 (three months ago) link

thanks so much for this, Sund4r. will check in later tonight when i get a chance to listen to this first set of compositions.

budo jeru, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 22:46 (three months ago) link

Diamorphoses: I always preferred Xenakis's instrumental music to his electronic music so it's good to be able to revisit and reconsider these pieces I haven't listened to in ages. This was his first electronic work, done at Pierre Schaeffer's GRM studio, again, while he was Messiaen's student. A musique concrète work in ternary form based on white noise as well as aiui samples including bells, trains, and jet engines. On the first couple of listens, I listened for the form, which seems clear enough, with the low-end white noise largely dropping out or becoming less consistent in the second section. The glissandi derived from the bell samples are v cool. Obv people have done much more complex and elaborate things with electronic processing since then but the creativity and vision here still come through and the form is very well-balanced and pleasing. (And noise artists still do LESS complex and elaborate things as well!) Has a similar dark, intense character as some of his instrumental music from around the same time, and certainly when compared to other early musique concrète.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 October 2020 22:56 (three months ago) link

Concret PH: next piece on the CD. This short work is derived from 1s samples of crackling embers, layered in different densities, similar to the sound mass processes he was working with in his instrumental music. Written for the Philips pavillion at the World Fair, to be played between playings of Varèse's Poème électronique. It doesn't have as much dramatic impact but the sounds are pleasant.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 October 2020 23:05 (three months ago) link

I want in but I didn't see this thread until right now. I assume we do 5 pieces a week so if you miss one, you can catch up later?

Let's put the X in 100 gecs (Tom Violence), Wednesday, 14 October 2020 23:45 (three months ago) link

45-60m of music a week and we're still in the middle of the first week.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 October 2020 23:50 (three months ago) link

Is anyone doing a Spotify playlist? Should I?

Let's put the X in 100 gecs (Tom Violence), Wednesday, 14 October 2020 23:54 (three months ago) link

That would be great if you want to do that, thanks!

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 October 2020 23:59 (three months ago) link

A few of the more prominent recordings on Youtube:

Metastaseis - Orchestre National de l'O.R.T.F./Maurice Le Roux
Metastaseis - Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Arturo Tamayo

Pithoprakta - Orchestre National de l'O.R.T.F./Maurice Le Roux
Pithoprakta - Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Arturo Tamayo

Diamorphoses - magnetic tape

Concret PH - magnetic tape

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:00 (three months ago) link

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1J3dBKMAwe0ttB13rMogfX?si=IlhgenD_S1e5M0Wkv3nqFQ if anyone needs it. Open to suggestions ofc

Let's put the X in 100 gecs (Tom Violence), Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:00 (three months ago) link

Haha, freaky timing.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:01 (three months ago) link

Analogique A+B: well, this is definitely different. A piece for 9 strings (Analogique A) and 4-track tape (Analogique B), where the ensemble and the tape alternate in a call and response fashion. From what I gather from here: https://www.iannis-xenakis.org/fxe/catalog/oeuvre_15.html , the A part was composed by stochastically generating material in arbitrary ranges of pitch (frequency?), volume, and density, and these ranges change according to probabilities determined by a Markov chain, resulting in eight 'sonic states'. The tape part is an early (the first?) granular synthesis composition, based on similar processes. Unlike the other pieces so far, these structural ideas are not apparent on listening, at least to me in two distracted listens. Feels comparatively static. Some interesting sounds for certain. I might give it another try.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:09 (three months ago) link

Spotify link for this one: https://open.spotify.com/album/6DqkaXUhKsbnshFkzhnfOG?si=GXgMPYPmSceXKtcafUxRQQ

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:10 (three months ago) link

Thanks, Tom!

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:10 (three months ago) link

Running late on this... I’ll get there before the week’s through.

pomenitul, Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:11 (three months ago) link

I'm familiar with Concret PH and Diamorphoses from an LP called Electro-Acoustic Music that I got out of the library as a teenager. Those versions are apparently revisions from 1968, although I don't know if that simply means that was when a stereo mixdown was made. The liner notes to that record describe Diamorphoses as having four parts, with the two inner sections having less sonic density than the other ones.

I wonder if the relative homogeneity of the sound sources that he uses makes his work easier to parse for "rock" based listeners than composers who used a very eclectic variety of sounds. There is more of an atmosphere and mood here than in some electronic music of the era where the composer is changing directions every 15 seconds.

I probably won't be able to listen to everything week by week, but threads like these are a great resource to go back to at a later date!

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:33 (three months ago) link

Interesting. The liner notes to the 1997 Xenakis - Electronic Music CD describe Diamorphoses as a ternary form, which is audible to me and is a standard classical form, but I can see how you could subdivide the middle section into two subsections for a four-part form.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:52 (three months ago) link

Analogique sounds pretty cool on first listen. Definitely never heard that before. Though I've tended to get more mileage out of his chamber stuff and his tapes/electronic stuff than the vast-clouds-of-sound stuff and he's neatly catering for that niche market here. :)

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:59 (three months ago) link

Catching up. Zyia is indeed Messiaen-esque, occasionally even Bartókian in its writing for the piano (maybe because Xenakis was born in Brăila?), with a dash of André Jolivet in its conception of neo-classicism as a return to pre-Christian Greek sources. I also hear echoes of Ravel's Cinq mélodies populaires grecques, which leads me to speculate that Xenakis perhaps subsequently felt the need to break with the 'exotisant' gaze of the French scene through a more forceful idiom of his own. Anyhow, I very much agree with Sund4r that the vocal melodies in particular look ahead to Claude Vivier (himself a quasi student of Messiaen via Gilles Tremblay), although to my knowledge Xenakis doesn't seem to have explored this avenue much further in his later compositions.

Even with the benefit of experience, I was expecting Metastaseis to come as a shock after Zyia, but the nifty thing about these listening threads is that they help you re-contextualize and re-historicize that which might otherwise seem sui generis. When listening to them back-to-back, both come across as constructs made of space, which to my mind implies a move away from narrative (a chiefly temporal art) and makes me wonder what Metastaseis in particular would sound like if it were played backwards or cut up and stitched back together in a different order. After all, the title really just means 'change' (including political change, which is not irrelevant here), as though to mark not only a break with his juvenilia but also to indicate that the work itself is by no means set in stone, a music of constant becoming rather than of being, quite unlike the fantasies of a return to European civilization's Greek 'roots' some of the aforementioned French composers peddled in their own compositions.

Pithoprakta is where Big Brain Xenakis really comes to the fore. Glissandos conceived as the thermodynamic movement of gas molecules, underlying scientific laws promulgated by German and British dudes whose names I'm too much of a philistine to remember, probability theory as the basis of aesthetics… I imagine this is all a musicologist's wet dream, and I am in no position to intelligently comment on any of it, but I will say that the application of theorems drawn from other disciplines to notated music remains an incredibly fecund compositional approach and – as much as I value it in its own right – it does put the comparative narrow-mindedness of integral serialism to shame. I will also say that it also sounds great (tbf I'm a sucker for string orchestras, here augmented by two discreet trombones, xylophone and a wood block), and the coexistence of pointillistic pizzicatos and nearly smeared glissandos foreshadows Ligeti's beloved 'clocks & clouds'.

Musique concrète is a blind spot for me more often than not, but I found much to enjoy in Diamorphoses, the second piece of his I had never heard so far (after Zyia). Sund4r summed it up nicely, and helped me get a better grip on what goes on in this piece, which does indeed strike me as more modern (and listenable, frankly) than what many of Xenakis's peers were up to at the time in their own electronic experiments. The link between this and his orchestral works is also quite obvious in terms of their sense of shape, and it gets me thinking about how much of Xenakis's art is one of correlation and translation between different media, almost as though he were guided by a theory of forms, if you'll forgive the lame reference.

Concret PH is considerably glassier and hence more, uh, concrete, but it also evokes a piano, which creates a strange aural illusion whereby the abstract (absolute music) and the figurative (recognizable noises made by everyday objects) coexist. It makes for an eloquent little fragment (or shard).

Analogique is perhaps the toughest nut to crack thus far, although quite interesting in that it spells out what I was just saying about correlation: its stated aim is to seek analogies between the strings and their corresponding tape material, which often requires that the two soundworlds take turns, thereby stressing their distinctness. This dual state greatly serves the piece imo – listening to A and B in isolation wouldn't work quite as well.

pomenitul, Thursday, 15 October 2020 20:54 (three months ago) link

As a student of, mainly, the natural sciences it's possible Xenakis' borrowings from extra-musical disciplines are part of the appeal before even hearing a note. I mean, I don't feel like it aids comprehension (the maths, when written out, looks immensely scary) but when one reads about him and finds diagrams of probability distributions and auditory response thresholds, etc, a certain deeply nerdy part of my brain gets all "these are a few of my favourite things". Hehe.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Friday, 16 October 2020 01:10 (three months ago) link

Can't find Analogique on youtube and I've forgotten my spotify password as I use it so little, so I guess I'll have to skip it? Bah.

Some scattered thoughts, probably of no use to anyone (I'm also going to try to avoid musicology terms in fear of using them wrong in front of proper musical theorists/classical buffs, so I'm gonna come across as very basic):

Zyia - not what I was expecting but I really like this one. The vocal fixes me, an anchor point in the sea, while the instrumentation roils. Nice, nice.

Metastaesis and Pithoprakta are in line with what I expected Xenakis to sound like, probably b/c the former is the only one I've heard before. The latter almost gave me an anxiety attack tbh. I used to chill out to Stockhausen and sounds like that, I don't think I can do it any more. Doesn't mean I don't like it, it's super cool, but my chest was definitely tightening in places.

Diamorphoses - love this but I want to argue with pomenitul's statement that it's more modern (and listenable, frankly) than what many of Xenakis's peers were up to at the time in their own electronic experiments, I'm just not sure I'm up to the job. Would be interested to know what pieces you were thinking of specifically in your comparison, and maybe we could tease out why we differ in stances?

Concret PH - this is gorgeous and I wish it went on forever. It's obviously the least 'composed' of all the pieces on the list, but the sounds are perfect for me.

emil.y, Friday, 16 October 2020 14:38 (three months ago) link

I was thinking of stuff like Varèse's Poème électronique, Stockhausen's Studie II, Boulez's Etudes I & II, Barraqué's Etude (I see a pattern here!), etc. Luc Ferrari, Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani and other noted musique concrète practitioners from that era are in a different category as far as I'm concerned because they devoted the quasi entirety of their efforts to the genre.

pomenitul, Friday, 16 October 2020 14:49 (three months ago) link

Ah, okay, so that rules out some counterpoints, and I don't know the Boulez or Barraqué. Poème électronique is basically godhead to me, so I've got to disagree about its listenability at least. Do you think that what separates out Diamorphoses is that it's already moved to composition where the examples you mention are still stuck in exploration?

emil.y, Friday, 16 October 2020 15:11 (three months ago) link

If you don't know Vivier's Lonely Child, it might be worth a try if you like Zyia.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Friday, 16 October 2020 15:11 (three months ago) link

I do not, thank you!

emil.y, Friday, 16 October 2020 15:14 (three months ago) link

Do you think that what separates out Diamorphoses is that it's already moved to composition where the examples you mention are still stuck in exploration?

I would say so, yes. Keep in mind that I am generally not very receptive to tape music/musique concrète/sound collage/early electronic experiments/Cageian 'banal noises are also music', so my assessment is bound to be harsh by default – no doubt unfairly so, but we all have our blind spots. Perhaps I'll overcome this one someday.

pomenitul, Friday, 16 October 2020 15:16 (three months ago) link

Check out the studio version with Susan Narucki – you can find it here.

xp

pomenitul, Friday, 16 October 2020 15:18 (three months ago) link

I'm reading that Hibiki Hana Ma was composed using UPIC in 1970, but then reading that UPIC wasn't invented until 1977. I guess if anybody could have invented time travel, ol' Iannis could have.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Wednesday, 16 December 2020 00:37 (one month ago) link

There are a lot of interesting and appealing moments in Persephassa but I'm not sure if I'm sold on the composition as a whole. Reading Harley, it was written for the six players to be arranged in a hexagon around the audience, which would have made it very hard to actually co-ordinate all the complex rhythms. Tom, are you able to pick out the rhythmic canons and layered tempi?

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Wednesday, 16 December 2020 18:12 (one month ago) link

Hibiki Hana Ma: listening to the version on the 97 Electronic Music CD. Apparently this was written for the Osaka Exposition in 1970. The liner notes are a little baffling: they say all the sounds are derived from instrumental samples, which is believable, but also that the sound sources are never made unrecognizable, which is less so imo. I enjoy the piece with its timbral and dynamic range and movement across the soundstage, but much of this sounds like various kinds of noise!

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Thursday, 17 December 2020 19:38 (one month ago) link

here's my 2002 village voice review of the persepolis + 8 remixes cd:
https://www.villagevoice.com/2002/11/05/math-destruction/

wrangles with some ideas abt form, convention and homage per the darmstadt era -- or ruins of same maybe

mark s, Friday, 18 December 2020 12:33 (one month ago) link

^ seems an uncharitable perspective on "new music"/"art music," but maybe not entirely baseless-- bringing to mind the essay by Babbitt about how some music was meant to be composed and studied, but not necessarily heard or performed live. (Interesting take considering Persepolis was designed only to be heard "live" in a very particular setting, and also considering some of the performing demands of say Persephassa and its hexagon of performers.)

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Friday, 18 December 2020 13:23 (one month ago) link

Good piece, mark. 'Running out of language' is exactly what I want a work of art to do to me, however, so much of what you find off-putting about the Modernist (Romantic neo-sublime) aesthetic (unless I misunderstand you) is the very reason I listen to music – to experience the illusion of being ephemerally freed from language, over and over again. It seems to me that works of art that take the path of least resistance to language better lend themselves to commentary, so critics are quite grateful for such verbal crutches when they arise… but I am not a music critic and part of my enjoyment stems from knowing I don't have to say anything about music at all! (This is the blind spot of these listening series, incidentally – oftentimes I'd rather just listen and remain mute, but that would break the undertaking's spirit of camaraderie.)

pomenitul, Friday, 18 December 2020 13:59 (one month ago) link

the essay by Babbitt about how some music was meant to be composed and studied, but not necessarily heard or performed live

If you mean "The Composer As Specialist" ("Who Cares If You Listen?"), this seems like a misreading. Babbitt's point was that it is fine, and even desirable, for composers of "'serious', 'advanced' contemporary music" to write just for a niche audience of other highly trained specialists since the music requires so much knowledge and training (or at least "experience") and effort to appreciate that it is not meant for the general public, in the same way that academic conferences on theoretical physics are meant for other specialists - but that pursuing this work in an academic niche is necessary in both cases for the sake of the evolution and progress of the discipline. I don't see anything that indicates that he didn't think the music had to be heard or performed - if anything, he advocated the use of electronic means to precisely reproduce the complex compositions better than human performers could (or would) in some cases. As per the quote at the top of the thread, Xenakis's views on the purpose of music and how an audience should relate to it were fundamentally different from Babbitt's, however, and, as we've seen, many of these pieces were written for large public events.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Friday, 18 December 2020 15:23 (one month ago) link

But if Babbitt did write something that advocated for music that lives just on paper, I'd be interested to read that.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Friday, 18 December 2020 15:24 (one month ago) link

(more of a misremembering than a misreading, but yes, that one)

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Friday, 18 December 2020 15:36 (one month ago) link

OK, Harley's description of Hibiki-Hana-ma is more useful and makes more sense than the liner notes:

Hibiki-Hana-Ma (“reverberation-flower-interval”) is just under eighteen min- utes in length and was originally composed for twelve tracks, later mixed down to eight for concert diffusion. The music was recorded and assembled at the electronic music studio of Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) in Tokyo. Xenakis had access to an orchestra there, and much of the material comes from orchestral sonorities (typical textures from existing scores with emphasis on strings, particu- larly glissandi and natural harmonics). To this he added the Japanese plucked biwa and some percussion sounds. As in the tape part of Kraanerg, there are varying degrees of studio manipulation of the instrumental sounds, from virtually none to so much that the original sources are unrecognizable. There is a much wider range of sounds presented in Hibiki-Hana-Ma than in the earlier ballet, which is under- standable considering that the tape is the only sound source. The possibility of deploying up to twelve channels enabled Xenakis to build up layers and complex superpositions of sonorities.

The music is put together from blocks of material spliced into the different channels, in a similar process to Kraanerg, extended from three or four layers to twelve. There are many sudden shifts of sonority, density, and intensity, and various + layers are brusquely cut in or out. Major articulation points serve to loosely divide
the piece into four sections. The first, lasting up to the 3'00" mark, is built from a low, booming, undulatory sonority over which orchestral string sounds are layered, primarily built from glissandi of different speeds, directions, and densities. A sweep up to a sustained high-register cluster signals the start of the second section, which introduces a layer of tinkling bells, stochastic clouds of whips and pizzicati, and much else. A sudden drop in dynamic level and number of layers at 6'32" signals a new section, although it features successions of a wide range of sonorities, most of which were heard in the previous section. The orchestral winds are introduced, in both sustained sonorities and glissando textures reminiscent of similar passsages in Nomos gamma and Kraanerg. At 11'07", another sudden drop in intensity/density signals the final section. This is the longest and most sustained of the four, introducing various noise-based sonorities of both the sliding and fixed-band types. These continue to the piece’s end, layered with previously introduced sounds. The impact of hearing this wide range of sonorities, both sustained and percussive, being projected through a large, spatialized sound system would surely have been powerful.
Hibiki-Hana-Ma (“reverberation-flower-interval”) is just under eighteen min- utes in length and was originally composed for twelve tracks, later mixed down to eight for concert diffusion. The music was recorded and assembled at the electronic music studio of Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) in Tokyo. Xenakis had access to an orchestra there, and much of the material comes from orchestral sonorities (typical textures from existing scores with emphasis on strings, particu- larly glissandi and natural harmonics). To this he added the Japanese plucked biwa and some percussion sounds. As in the tape part of Kraanerg, there are varying degrees of studio manipulation of the instrumental sounds, from virtually none to so much that the original sources are unrecognizable. There is a much wider range of sounds presented in Hibiki-Hana-Ma than in the earlier ballet, which is under- standable considering that the tape is the only sound source. The possibility of deploying up to twelve channels enabled Xenakis to build up layers and complex superpositions of sonorities.

The music is put together from blocks of material spliced into the different channels, in a similar process to Kraanerg, extended from three or four layers to
+ twelve. There are many sudden shifts of sonority, density, and intensity, and various + layers are brusquely cut in or out. Major articulation points serve to loosely divide
the piece into four sections. The first, lasting up to the 3'00" mark, is built from a low, booming, undulatory sonority over which orchestral string sounds are layered, primarily built from glissandi of different speeds, directions, and densities. A sweep up to a sustained high-register cluster signals the start of the second section, which introduces a layer of tinkling bells, stochastic clouds of whips and pizzicati, and much else. A sudden drop in dynamic level and number of layers at 6'32" signals a new section, although it features successions of a wide range of sonorities, most of which were heard in the previous section. The orchestral winds are introduced, in both sustained sonorities and glissando textures reminiscent of similar passsages in Nomos gamma and Kraanerg. At 11'07", another sudden drop in intensity/density signals the final section. This is the longest and most sustained of the four, introducing various noise-based sonorities of both the sliding and fixed-band types. These continue to the piece’s end, layered with previously introduced sounds. The impact of hearing this wide range of sonorities, both sustained and percussive, being projected through a large, spatialized sound system would surely have been powerful.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Friday, 18 December 2020 15:40 (one month ago) link

Sorry for the double-paste

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Friday, 18 December 2020 15:41 (one month ago) link

As per the quote at the top of the thread, Xenakis's views on the purpose of music and how an audience should relate to it were fundamentally different from Babbitt's

"Without a special training being necessary" seems U&K (so I'm not sure understanding the mathematics behind his compositional method - which I freely admit I don't - is expected of the listener or meant to be integral to the listening experience)

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Friday, 18 December 2020 15:49 (one month ago) link

as someone who owns and has ploughed through formalized music (and has a degree in maths and philosophy lol) i think the answer has to be no

except to say it's kind of built into the idea of stochastics that no one can apprehend the many micro-elements individually (and nor do you need to grasp and study the effects on masse)

mark s, Friday, 18 December 2020 16:31 (one month ago) link

i mean it's not actual bullshit the wa it sometimes is in stockhausen and la monte young

mark s, Friday, 18 December 2020 16:32 (one month ago) link

good review of that crazy Asphodel remix edition of Persepolis. it had an upstart feel coming at a time of peak exhaustion for remix albums -- even though Naut and Karkowski's curation felt great, it had the same whiplash effect most projects like that have. going back to it for the first time in 20 years last week, I was more able to enjoy it as a time capsule, hearing tiny flickers of the source material remade totally in each composer's style, but it still required absolutely all of my attention. (Probably a good thing Volume 2 never panned out, but it was fascinating at least to hear the multitracks when they made the rounds back then)

I've only heard the original Philips vinyl Xenakis mix once, which breaks the piece into two sides and omits a bit of the piece's middle. The Fractal CD's silver cover is modelled on the original Philips vinyl cover, with João Rafael's mix in 2000. I hear the idea of that one was to match the original vinyl release as closely as possible, while staying complete, still hoping to compare (if anyone's got a good transfer of this, help me out)

The Daniel Teruggi mix on Disc 1 of the Asphodel imported the 48k masters at 44.1k, so the Asphodel version is a half-step slow. This is deal-breaking for some, but one of the pleasures of listening to this on vinyl is taking it -16% down.

The Daniel Teige mix on the 2CD Editions RZ comp around the same time is notably different -- slower fade in, mammoth modern reverb, really hovers, totally epic. My favorite for a while, but definitely an interpretation.

The Martin Wurmnest mix on Karlrecords a few years ago really gets precise and vivid with the EQs. The panning & distinction between the layers is more chiseled. Totally great! Rashaad Becker mastered all 56 minutes onto one vinyl disc, but I burned the FLACs from bandcamp.

Milton Parker, Friday, 18 December 2020 18:22 (one month ago) link

Ooh that's good stuff, mark, though, of course, in 2020 we all know Xenakis lost an eye fighting the bloody British not the Nazis.

Eggbreak Hotel (Tom D.), Friday, 18 December 2020 18:26 (one month ago) link

mark, I seem to recall you linking to a typically stimulating piece on so-called ‘extreme’ metal in which you also approach the genre from the problem of verbal congruence, i.e. which descriptors best match the sounds under discussion, how quickly criticism exhausts its designated lexical well, and what this tells us about the music ‘itself’. Have you explored these issues from a broader and more abstract theoretical point of view in any of your other essays? If so, I’d be very curious to read them.

pomenitul, Friday, 18 December 2020 19:03 (one month ago) link

...but...but...isn't <i>Persepolis</i> for later, this is <i>Persephassa</i> week! Ah ok then, good discussion started is well continued, go on plz :)

I'm just here to say that I've been fortunate to experience <i>Persephassa</i> live in hexagon, so to speak. I don't know how they did the coordination of the rhythms, and I cannot speak to the overall composition and organization, but I do know that towards the end, when the drumrolls were circled and bounced around the perimeter and across the diameter like hot speedy fire balloons, the thrill was as visceral and far from cerebral as any I have experienced in music.

Like that hoary Elgar quote of "I've got a tune that'll knock'em flat" for the hope & glory thing, I cannot listen to the end here without imagining Xenakis rubbing his hands going "hah this will put the ph3ar of Zeus into'em". I don't get much of this feeling from any recording I've tried, though. If it is played, go, I guess is my message.

anatol_merklich, Saturday, 19 December 2020 20:13 (one month ago) link

aaargh tag fail #2419

anatol_merklich, Saturday, 19 December 2020 20:14 (one month ago) link

yes sorry i posted out of order, i felt the things i was discussing in that review maybe applied to earlier works and also i knew i wd likely be busy when it reached the actual proper moment and miss it entirely

pom the two pieces are nearly 20 years apart and honestly i didn't notice or think of overlap until you pointed it out: it's absolutely a general topic i care about and plan to write more about -- but strangelyi haven't till now thought abt organising pieces under this specific heading, other things i wrote may well go in this column, i will give it a good think

mark s, Sunday, 20 December 2020 13:03 (one month ago) link

Thanks, mark. It leaped out at me because it's a topic that plays well with my own critical/theoretical hobbyhorses. No pressure, obv., but if you do come back to this theme, do let me know!

pomenitul, Sunday, 20 December 2020 15:32 (one month ago) link

Just a note that we'll pick this up next week after the holidays. My listening is largely occupied with the virtual Kalakendra Carnatic festival and catching up 2020 releases rn.

Marconi plays the mamba (Sund4r), Tuesday, 29 December 2020 15:41 (three weeks ago) link

Perfect, thanks.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 29 December 2020 15:48 (three weeks ago) link

And we're back in the new year:

Week 11

Antikhthon (ballet), 1971
Aroura, 12 str, 1971
Charisma, cl, vc, 1971
Mikka, vn, 1971

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Monday, 4 January 2021 18:10 (three weeks ago) link

I really have no idea how to talk about this music but Mikka is great. thought I knew it but had it confused with one of the cello pieces- this solo/chamber stuff is definitely my way in, I feel it a lot better than the big ensemble stuff which I will need to let grow on me (seems to be the other way round for some people)

Left, Monday, 4 January 2021 18:50 (three weeks ago) link

Before I tackle the latest batch, I just wanted to say that I liked Persephassa better than I expected (not huge on all-percussion ensembles more often than not), and that Hibiki-Hana-Ma is wonderful both in terms of its electro-acoustic integration and its use of the biwa. Speaking of which…

https://ase-hujiko.tumblr.com/post/118838964334#

pomenitul, Tuesday, 5 January 2021 01:35 (two weeks ago) link

Love it!

anatol_merklich, Tuesday, 5 January 2021 11:35 (two weeks ago) link

I'm quarantined in my room outside of work hours, so I will probably be able to catch up over the next ten days. I'll start with the current batch and either work backwards or listen to multiple recordings of things-- there are at least two recordings on Spotify of the original Mikka (not Mikka S, which I imagine is different), for example.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Tuesday, 5 January 2021 13:38 (two weeks ago) link

I just listened to Mikka (Irvine Arditti recording) and Charisma (Alain Damiens/Pierre Strauch) twice each. They're both interesting. Mikka seems like a study in wide glissandi and sustained straight tones throughout the range (in register, dynamics, and timbre) of the violin. The overall shape seems comprehensible, starting quieter, almost like a sigh, emphasizing the lower register, working upwards, building to contrasting dynamic levels and scratch timbres, and ending softly closer to the upper register. I think those are glissandi on artificial harmonics in the latter part? It's effective and pleasingly crafted, affecting in its expressive range. Charisma I had a little harder time with: the 'extreme' sounds on cello and clarinet and the use of silence are definitely interesting, but I didn't quite get the form. I'll come back to it, maybe after reading a bit.

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Tuesday, 5 January 2021 15:27 (two weeks ago) link

Listened to Aroura twice just now, when distracted. The intense masses of string sound contrasted with stretches of silence definitely make an impact, though, again, I wasn't sure I picked out the form.

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Wednesday, 6 January 2021 17:41 (two weeks ago) link

I went back and listened to Kraanerg, quite a trip. I kept thinking something was wrong with my headphones. It sounded like recordings of the orchestra that were tape-damaged?

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Wednesday, 6 January 2021 23:01 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah, orchestra + tape (mostly from processed recordings of the orchestra) iirc.

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Thursday, 7 January 2021 01:14 (two weeks ago) link

Listened to Antikthon twice now, while doing things, and read Harley on this week's pieces. I love the opening section with multiphonic clusters in the clarinets, brass clusters, and snare drums, and the fourth section with the string glissandi, although my mind did wander a bit, maybe since, again, the overall form is episodic and doesn't lead itself to an easily apparent narrative or environment ime. It's another case where I imagine the live experience might be much more intense. Mikka is definitely the standout from this week for me. Fascinating to read how it was conceived as an application of a random walk (use in designing a digital waveform) for solo instrumental writing - it makes perfect sense! Also to think about the challenges for the violinist in accurately playing those glissandi when it is harder to aurally ground oneself with reference pitches.

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Saturday, 9 January 2021 15:28 (two weeks ago) link

Week 12

Linaia-Agon, hn, trbn, tuba, 1972
Polytope de Cluny, 8-track, lighting, 1972
Eridanos, 8 brass, str orch, 1973

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Tuesday, 12 January 2021 17:33 (one week ago) link

Sorry, I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up with Mr X at the moment. I'll try to catch up pronto.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 12 January 2021 17:37 (one week ago) link

Before I check out the last three, I did catch up with…

Antikhthon: a wonderful title, that – 'Anti-Earth'. Beyond the Pythagorean reference and the fact that Xenakis conceived it as a piece of abstract music, I can't help but read a bit of Stravinsky into it, since Georges Balanchine is the one who commissioned it for the New York City Ballet. It's nowhere near as tightly structured as a Stravinsky score, however, and, barring a few episodes here and there, it doesn't have enough going for it in terms of uniqueness to make me want to revisit it over his other orchestral works from this period.

Aroura: after 'Anti-Earth', this one reportedly just means 'Earth'. Although its moment-to-moment narrative impetus remains quite elusive, it's far more immediate to my ears: the timbral palette is narrower, which creates a sense of focus, and its rather more liberal use of silence helps punctuate proceedings, even as the 'sentences' themselves are hard to unpack. It all flows quite nicely, though I certainly couldn't tell you why!

Charisma: that cello entrance is metal af! What follows is a play of alternatively aggressive and airy sustained notes for both instruments – it's quite suggestive over its 4:30 duration. I like this miniature a lot.

Mikka: an all-glissando, all-elastic piece for solo violin. Even if I didn't know (as I now do) that it's meant to mimic a 'random walk', there's something very figurative and appealing about it from the get-go. This is a memorable piece, for sure, and Irvine Arditti unsurprisingly nails it.

pomenitul, Friday, 15 January 2021 03:28 (one week ago) link

I listened to two recordings of Linaia-Agon today. Before reading, it seemed far more loose and improvisatory than anything else so far and, after reading Harley, I gather that it is exactly this: a Stockhausen-inspired attempt at integrating improvisation, structured as some sort of game between the musicians. He doesn't spend that much time on it so I look forward to reading more. Wasn't sure I fully got my head around it.

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Friday, 15 January 2021 05:53 (one week ago) link

Little time right now bcz of sudden stressful personal stuff, but had a whack through this week's; the Polytope I would like to gnaw more on at a later date possibly but certainly not now; the two acoustic ones felt unexpectedly... peaceful and inviting or something? Thoroughly enjoyed having them in my ear while not in the best of spaces, which I'm not sure I could say about a majority of the earlier stuff (not a diss).

anatol_merklich, Friday, 15 January 2021 21:54 (one week ago) link

Eridanos: It seems like we've lost the really clear, obvious dramatic forms of the earlier Xenakis but yes, I also find this one pleasant and inviting, even 'soft' in a way. There's still a lot of drama and intensity but I don't find it harsh and I can get lost in the sound-world, even when I'm not following an obvious form. Harley's comments are helpful:

This score pits the brass against the strings (there are no woodwinds or percussion), treating them more or less on equal terms (the strings play no glissandi at all, which is unusual). Rather than construct an architectural form from contrasting sonic entities, Xenakis looked to harmonic structures for his building blocks. Inspired by the structure of DNA chains, four elements (hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and phosphorus) are represented by intervallic sets, divided between the brass (carbon, phosphorus) and the strings (hydrogen, oxygen). The form consists of statements (blocks of rhythmicized textures) of these elements, the overlapping succession of intervallic sets building up a structure rather in the manner of the genetic chain. These harmonic fields are subject to permutation, and are sometimes shared between brass and strings.

On occasion, between statements of the elements, episodic material is heard, built primarily from timbral and dynamic variations of a single pitch (which changes each time). There are also three moments in which the strings create an unusual sonority by bowing on the body of the instruments. These episodes serve as a foil to the ongoing dialogue, providing respite from the high density of musical information being projected and acting as connecting tissue between larger groupings of the intervallic blocks. The harmonic sets are built from quarter tones, necessitating

accuracy in performance and reception in order to distinguish between them. This intervallic intricacy is mitigated by the simplicity of the rhythms, limited to multiples of the basic sixteenth-note pulse with no layering of different tempi or subdivisions. While Eridanos is something of an anomaly in Xenakis’s output, it nonetheless points to a return to considerations of pitch organization. In the works leading up to this point, Xenakis had been more concerned with other aspects of the music, particularly on the architectural level. Through the 1970s, and manifestly in Eridanos, he became more and more preoccupied with developing more allencompassing, or at least more prominent, structures involving pitch.

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Friday, 15 January 2021 23:44 (one week ago) link

Thoroughly enjoyed having them in my ear while not in the best of spaces, which I'm not sure I could say about a majority of the earlier stuff (not a diss).

Same here. Linaia-Agon in particular feels like a nice change of pace after the bold din of his previous works, and I dare say he does a better job with these quieter moods than I expected. (Also, is it just me or is the title a bit misleading?)

Eridanos feels busier and more characteristic despite the absence of glissandi. I would have preferred a bit more gestalt.

As for the Polytope de Cluny, parts of it have a bit of a 'fourth world' vibe to them thanks to the mbira, which is not an instrument I expected here given the installation's setting (the Musée de Cluny showcases artifacts from the Middle Ages and it was built on the remnants of third century Gallo-Roman baths).

pomenitul, Saturday, 16 January 2021 22:08 (one week ago) link

Just listened to Polytope de Cluny. Although it's ofc different, I also found it relatively gentle and pleasant, with am ambient quality. Really enjoyed the sounds and textures. The mbira almost tickles the ear over the washes of noise. Apparently, it was the first piece in France to use digital synthesis?

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Sunday, 17 January 2021 03:27 (one week ago) link

That's probably my favourite of this week.

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Sunday, 17 January 2021 03:27 (one week ago) link

Week 13

Erikhthon, pf, orch, 1974
Cendrées, chorus, orch, 1973–4
Evryali, pf, 1973

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Sunday, 24 January 2021 15:07 (yesterday) link

"Evyrali" is awesome.

Waterloo Subset (Tom D.), Sunday, 24 January 2021 15:25 (yesterday) link

Evryali there's a halo hanging from the corner of my girlfriend's four-post bed

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:17 (yesterday) link

Listening to Aki Takahashi's performance now, I'm so used to hearing her Feldman performances that I guess I wasn't expecting this level of almost mania.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:18 (yesterday) link

There's a lot of cascading up and down the keyboard, sometimes I suspect each hand in a different direction. This motion seems coherent, in a way, despite no clear tonal center or traditional harmonic structure, if only because the change to repeated chord clusters or a swirling monophony or dead silence feels abrupt, almost shocking.

I'm trying to balance "sounding smart" with "knowing what the heck I'm talking about," so please bear that in mind. I'm not a musician (I'm a drummer) so I'm probably using the language incorrectly.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:23 (yesterday) link

Does anyone have a Spotify link to Cendrées to add to the playlist?

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:25 (yesterday) link

On to Cendrées now on YouTube, the version with the description in English (Chœurs de la Fondation Gulbenkian de Lisbonne / Orchestre National de France / Michel Tabachnik). I can appreciate Xenakis' dedication to the art of the glissando, but I wonder if he ever felt pigeonholed? Pressured to write glissandi anytime he was composing for strings? Do you think people stopped him on the street and begged him to do a glissando for them?

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:29 (yesterday) link

He moved away from glissandi in the Week 12 pieces!

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Sunday, 24 January 2021 20:15 (yesterday) link


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