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

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

"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 (six 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 We'll skip any unpublished works.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 (six 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 (six months ago) link

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

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

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

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

Yes pls

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

Heroic! Looking forward to this.

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

following, this guy is on my list to investigate further

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

Same here.

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

Everyone is welcome!

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

Ιάννης Ξενάκης otm.

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

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

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

Haha, freaky timing.

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

Thanks, Tom!

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

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

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

I do not, thank you!

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

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

xp

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

And talking of Spotify and tagging: the Håkon Thelin recording of Theraps isn't as unreasonably slow compared to other recordings as it appears by its track length of 16:21. It is the last track of the album; Theraps actually ends at about 12:10 and is followed by a hidden track: POING playing a cover version of "Mr. Krinkle" by Primus.

anatol_merklich, Tuesday, 23 February 2021 18:07 (one month ago) link

This is how Theraps is described in the liner notes to Frank Reinecke's recording:

There now follows a descent into the nethermost regions in Theraps by IANNIS XENAKIS, a work traditionally regarded as unplayable. Xenakis flings the soloist into an almost impenetrable thicket of notes, far beyond his technical capabilities and as perilous as barbed wire. Poised at and beyond the borderline of the humanly feasible, Theraps, as suggested by the meaning of this ancient Greek word, has a ‘servient’ function in that it casts player and listener alike under its spell. Indulgent relaxation is out of the question: “We live more intensively,” Xenakis explains, “when we have to cope with hosts of problems.” Theraps is designed for one thing above all: precise listening – to microtonal gradations, two-voice up-and-down glissando peregrinations, sustained natural intervals, and queazily distorted double harmonics. The piece jumps abruptly between these elements. Though the parameters of rhythm, melody, and harmony are addressed as well, Xenakis has wrested them from familiar patterns and plunged them into gargantuan archaic formations. Audacity and panic are never very far apart in this piece

This seems about right. The overall form isn't obvious but it remains gripping and engaging in a visceral way and never harsh to my ear. The sustained 'queasy' double harmonics (I think that's what I'm hearing) are most striking to me, in that I might have possibly even guessed they were coming from extended techniques on some kind of wind instrument.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Wednesday, 24 February 2021 17:56 (one month ago) link

Well, Épéï is definitely different and shows the mellowing. I listened to it here since it's not on Naxos or Spotify:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGgAf_6Y7JQ

It doesn't seem to have been influenced by Miles Davis (and Harley says the title means "since" - in Greek?) but if someone had told me that it was Xenakis's homage to modal jazz, I would have believed them. Again, we have regular pulse and it's built around a very clear, obvious three-note motive treated in canon with a second part that almost seems heterophonic (the instruments vary single pitches but then we get a bit of melody too). It proceeds to flow in an organic way, similar to Psappha. There's a lot of Scelsi-style variation of timbre and dynamics on a narrow range of continued pitches and everyone comes together on a huge unison at the end.

Harley's breakdown:


The music is very much built upon continuous textural transformations. Timbre, too, or instrumental color, is treated in a continuous fashion, proceeding from homogeneity rather than contrast, restricting the differences between the instruments rather than emphasizing them. The long opening section proceeds without interruption for close to four minutes, almost one quarter of the piece’s duration. The muted trumpet states a three-note motive, shadowed by the clarinet playing legato an octave lower, and proceeds to vary it slightly with each repetition. The other instruments surround this strange canonic variation with sustained notes in the same register, varied in all manner of ways. After this lengthy, incrementally evolving passage, there are two short, contrasting sections. The first proceeds without break into a narrowband glissando sonority, with all instruments outlining slowly undulating, independent contours, the blocklike dynamic changes moving twice from pp to fff. A short break leads to the second section, in which a uniform pulse, articulating six-note clusters that vary slightly with each new beat, gradually moves out of phase and then back in again. The next section, which carries through pretty much to the end, though in less continuous fashion than earlier, begins with a sustained pitch, A4, doubled in the trumpet and cor anglais. This pitch is varied through octave doublings, dynamic and rhythmic variations, and by increasingly wide-ranging glissandi. The sonority is strongly reminiscent of the work of Giacinti Scelsi, although the sporadic flurries of notes away from (and back to) the central pitch add an energy that is proper to Xenakis. At m. 111, there is a sharp interruption, a succession of fff clusters in all the instruments but the cor anglais. The music then starts up again as before, with little or no sign that this event had any impact on the material. The textural variations otherwise unfold gradually, carrying on right up to the closing passage. A short break signals the end, which bursts into a short statement of layered pulsations, each instrument moving back and forth between two neighboring pitches at a different rate. This gives way gradually to trills in all the instruments, then a rather dramatic heralding of a single pitch, E, spread across five octaves.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Friday, 26 February 2021 02:02 (one month ago) link

Btw, the piece was commissioned by la Société de musique contemporaine du Québec and premiered in Montreal.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Friday, 26 February 2021 02:24 (one month ago) link

I haven't listened to the latest batch yet, but so far I am pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of Xenakis pieces that were commissioned by Canadian institutions and/or premiered in Canada.

pomenitul, Friday, 26 February 2021 02:26 (one month ago) link

"Epei" for "since" is Greek, yes. IIRC it works a bit like in English, in that it have the force of both "after" and "because".

anatol_merklich, Friday, 26 February 2021 10:35 (one month ago) link

*can have

anatol_merklich, Friday, 26 February 2021 10:35 (one month ago) link

Another light week for the last week of metal poll; 1976 was about solo and chamber music for X, it seems:

Week 17

Retours-Windungen, 12 vc, 1976
Dmaathen, ob, perc, 1976
Khoaï, hpd, 1976

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 1 March 2021 15:51 (one month ago) link

The first one seems absent from Spotify, except for a later 8-cello version, which from a quick sampling sounds pretty representative of the 1976 one.

anatol_merklich, Monday, 1 March 2021 20:42 (one month ago) link

Dmaathen is a fun listen! It may not be entirely coincidental that i) I love oboe and ii) I was seven years old in 1976, and this somewhat reminds me of some of the more far-out soundtrack work to children's TV (at least on Scandinavian state broadcasting) at that time.

anatol_merklich, Monday, 1 March 2021 21:24 (one month ago) link

Whoa, Chojnacka's Khoaï almost feels like some kind of manic 2003 glitchtronica project!

anatol_merklich, Monday, 1 March 2021 21:54 (one month ago) link

Late to the party, with little to add, but of the previous three, I enjoyed Theraps the most, and heard it as a double-bass expansion of the single-minded concept at play in Mikka. Epeï is quite cool as well, similar in some ways to the heterophonic idiom Ștefan Niculescu was pursuing around the same time. Psappha was pleasant enough, but it's not the most memorable of his works for percussion imo despite having been recorded numerous times.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 2 March 2021 16:55 (one month ago) link

I listened to the recording of Retours-Windungen by the cellists of the Berlin Phil on NML and also watched a clip on YT of Nomos playing it in a French museum, with the cellists in a circle around the audience. Without reading about it, it's a very nicely crafted short piece in a kind of ternary form. The first section might actually suggest the influence of minimalism. There's a steady repeated pulse and the harmony is surprisingly clear, simple, and largely (I think) diatonic at first, with a lot of major thirds iirc. Dense clusters build up, though, and we move into a B section that is more typically Xenakis, with a lot of timbral effects (col legno?) and glissandi, and no literally stated beat. This builds back into more rhythmic material but much more aggressively so than in the first section, and in gnarly clusters.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 7 March 2021 02:03 (one month ago) link

Listening for a second time to Dmaathen (Christian Hommel/Johannes Fischer). At the outset, you'd be forgiven for not believing it's Xenakis. It's a folky tune with a beat! But then we get long held multiphonics on the oboe and complex, less regular rhythms in the percussion. The percussion actually becomes more of the focus, with a wide timbral and dynamic range, although it drops out at times and I begin to focus more on the oboe multiphonics at that point. Quite a dynamic range in the oboe as well. About 4:40, the rhythm becomes regular and the oboe part is more melodic again for a while before we return to long multiphonic effects; more of an emphasis on tuned mallet percussion here. It sounds like there may be water bowls around 6:30?? We move back and forth between more melodic passages and more timbrally-oriented material, while the percussion part moves between being silent, being an accompanist, and being overpowering. It's almost dizzying.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 7 March 2021 21:55 (one month ago) link

Whoa, Chojnacka's Khoaï almost feels like some kind of manic 2003 glitchtronica project!

I'm listening to Jukka Tiensuu's recording. I've heard this piece before but not in ages and yeah, the above is accurate. Quite intense and energetic. There are recurring motives and phrase structure; in a way, it's also reminiscent of a hyperdrive version of Baroque counterpoint.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 7 March 2021 22:08 (one month ago) link

Week 18

Mikka ‘S’, vn, 1976
Jonchaies, 1977
A Colone (Sophocles), male/female vv (20 minimum), 5 hn, 3 trbn, 6 vc, 4 db, 1977

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Tuesday, 9 March 2021 03:44 (one month ago) link

Whoa, Chojnacka's Khoaï almost feels like some kind of manic 2003 glitchtronica project!

― anatol_merklich, Monday, March 1, 2021 4:54 PM (one week ago) bookmarkflaglink

YES. The harpsichord is my favorite keyboard instrument, so Khoaï and all the Xenakis/Chojnacka collabs are IT for me. Ligeti's harpsichord pieces (Passacaglia Ungherese, Hungarian Rock, and Continuum) scratch a similar itch but are definitely less far-out

J. Sam, Tuesday, 9 March 2021 04:04 (one month ago) link

Mikka 'S': Listened to Irvine Arditti's recording a few times. The idea of the continuous glissando from Mikka is still there but for most of the piece, there are two voices on the single bowed instrument, sometimes with separate glissandi in both, sometimes with a pedal (often on open strings, from what I gather) in one. In the last section, we lose the counterpoint and the gliss is punctuated with aggressive bow attacks. The very end of the piece has felt abrupt every time. Fascinating, regardless.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Thursday, 11 March 2021 04:15 (one month ago) link

Jonchaies: this is fantastic, a real tour de force. (Listening to Tamayo/Luxembourg Phil). He worked his increasing comfort with melody and pulse into a massive orchestral piece that brings back the grandiose sonic aspirations of his early pieces.

Harley:

Jonchaies (“rushes, reeds”) calls for an orchestra of gigantic proportions: 109 musicians, including quadruple winds (with six clarinets and six horns), six percussionists, and an extra large string section. Parts of the piece are volcanic, with thickly layered, pounding pulsations, or wailing clusters of brass. Other parts, however, are surprisingly delicate, even lyrical. The long opening section for strings alone (with a few discrete intrusions by the bass drum and temple blocks) is, without a doubt, one of the most melodically expressive passages in all of Xenakis’s output. After a dramatic launch, a glissando rocketing up to the high register to fall back slightly to a sustained B6, a modal melody unfolds. As it wends its way slowly down to the mid-low register and then back up again, the melody splits off into six voices, each following more or less the same contour by some degree of delay. The resulting texture is at the same time quasi-imitative and quasi-heterophonic. Each of the six voices is assigned a roughly equal complement of string instruments split into three layers, one bowing the notes normally, the second bowing them and adding a glissando, and the third (not always present) plucking the notes. The resultant additive sonority sounds like an Indonesian gamelan, enhanced by the intervallic structure of the pitch sieve used...

... The opening melody zeroes in right away on the intervallic structure Xenakis was attracted to in the Javanese gamelan. The major third is surrounded above and below by a semitone, outlining the interlocking fourths he mentions. The unfolding of the melody proceeds primarily by a steplike motion (from one pitch of the sieve to the next) or by jumping over one note to the next. The difference in sonority between this melodic structure and the chantlike melodies in the choral works written just prior is striking. In those, the contours appear to be freely composed, guided by the prosody of the text and a knowledge of Greek tetrachordal organization. The restricted range allows the flow of the language to proceed in a relatively natural(istic) way. In Jonchaies, and many subsequent scores, the intervallic structure of the sieve, which often remains fixed throughout a section or piece, creates a certain identity or “timbre.” The periodic nature of the sieve creates uniformity throughout the full range of the material, though its nonoctaviating structure (where the interrallic pattern does not repeat at the octave) structure has the effect of weakening the tonal implications of the leading tones to create a more mysterious, compelling expression. With six rhythmically independent lines carrying on together, the string sound is certainly complex, but the strong identity of the intervallic structure of the underlying sieve produces a clarity that would otherwise be missing.

The remaining sections of Jonchaies are quite different from the opening passage, but no less powerful. The second part is the most substantiated (at five minutes, being a full minute longer than the opening), and it is built from layers of rhythmic pulsations involving the full orchestra. Each layer moves chromatically along a slowly undulating, independently conceived, contour. The driving pulse is occasionally fractured by certain layers shifting to a different tempo. The orchestration is noteworthy for its dynamic mixtures of instruments, the timbral components of each layer shifting as lines enter and drop out.

The third, relatively brief, section turns the spotlight back onto the strings, supported by sustained clusters in the winds and rolls on the low drums. The strings repeat a sharply defined gesture four times, varying the proportions with each. A strongly articulated ascending passage, in which each of the five families of strings proceed along independent rhythmic and melodic trajectories, is succeeded by a static passage of chordal pulsations, this time synchronized, leading into a glissando passage that falls back down again, each group proceeding independently as before. A conceptual link to the earlier sections is found in the wavelike contours of the material, with each passage offering a different musical perspective on the title, conjuring winds blowing through a field of rushes.

This rather enclosed section is succeeded by a narrowly banded texture featuring the brass, each instrument playing articulated glissandi. The emphasis shifts from horns to trumpets and trombones (from the more rounded sonority of the conical tubing to the more pointed sonority of the cylindrical brass). A “still point” is reached at m. 182, where the trombones sustain a chord through a fermata. The sound fills out again as all of the brass reenter, followed by the woodwinds, percussion, and finally the strings, as the concluding section begins. This final portion, quite substantial at something over three minutes, is by far the most complex. As many as seven layers of independent sonic entities are deployed at the same time. Overall, the music is filtered upwards beginning with the ripping glissandi of the horns, and finally concluding with the high chirps of the piccolos, xylophone, and marimba.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 March 2021 01:36 (one month ago) link

I have a better idea of what sieves are after reading some of this: http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/15753/1/11.2-Dimitris-Exarchos-&-Daniel-Jones.pdf

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 March 2021 01:36 (one month ago) link

Jonchaies is incredible, yes – top 5, possibly top 3 Xenakis for me.

pomenitul, Monday, 15 March 2021 02:08 (one month ago) link

I'll try to catch back up tonight, the metal poll rollout had me busy most of last week. Spotify is as updated as I could get it, unless someone has a bead on A Colone or Retours-Windungen.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Monday, 15 March 2021 12:11 (one month ago) link

I bought the New London Chamber Choir/Critical Band/James Woods album Xenakis: Choral Music on iTunes since I couldn't find a streaming version of "À Colone" anywhere. It doesn't seem like the most exciting of his works. The singers mostly chant/declaim in ancient Greek (from Sophocles's Oedipus at Colonus apparently) with occasional brass punctuations. There is a brief melodic instrumental introduction. The liner notes describe that this was Xenakis's effort to recreate speech patterns of the fifth century BC. I don't dislike it but I feel like I might get more out of it if I knew the language or had studied the text? At least the next track on the album is the mind-warping "Nuits".

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 March 2021 13:04 (one month ago) link

Do people want a week to catch up after the metal poll?

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 March 2021 13:07 (one month ago) link

I didn't dare ask, but that would be great, yeah.

pomenitul, Monday, 15 March 2021 13:19 (one month ago) link

No problem, also gives me time to listen to more of the metal albums (and do a little listening before Rundgren ballots are due!).

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 March 2021 13:43 (one month ago) link

Thanks!

pomenitul, Monday, 15 March 2021 13:47 (one month ago) link

Listening to Khoaï now, it really is a trip. Is this solo harpsichord? Some of these sounds don't seem like they could have existed in the 17th century, but I guess theoretically they could have if anyone had thought to play them. Sounds like video game music, if you play really weird video games.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Saturday, 20 March 2021 23:21 (four weeks ago) link

According to this article:

The continuous and very quick change of registers is possible only with modern harpsichords where registration can be made using pedals. If the piece is performed on a historical copy the player will be forced to ignore a great deal of these indications.

Harley also notes that Elisabeth Chojnacka, for whom the piece was written, incorporated "amplification as an essential element of her instrument".

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 02:07 (four weeks ago) link

Ah. I noticed some seemingly impossible timbre changes at one point near the middle, too, I wonder if that was a modern innovation. FWIW I didn't even know they were still making harpsichords until maybe a few months ago.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Sunday, 21 March 2021 02:09 (four weeks ago) link

What I didn't know was that there was a modern harpsichord developed in the 20th century, heavily influenced by the piano (and perhaps the organ??) which apparently fell somewhat out of favour with the HIP trend in the late 20th century: these have 4', 8', and 16' registers controlled by pedals, and which can also be partially engaged to allow for some timbral variety. (You can find excerpts of the score for Khoaï that have staves for these different registers.) Seems they also have other differences like wound steel strings, metal casing, hard leather plectra, and more powerful soundboards (and possibility of amplification). There's some info near the bottom of this; the author is clearly not a fan: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/cambridge-companion-to-the-harpsichord/history-and-construction-of-the-harpsichord/3A52A2F5D80CF9382932EF6E1024EA02/core-reader

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 02:28 (four weeks ago) link

Based on the fact that it made Khoaï possible, I think I'm a fan.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 02:48 (four weeks ago) link

Haha yeah there's a little 'editorial' in that tone. "Deficient sound," etc. I have a hard time understanding people who think you can't (shouldn't?) improve on technology in 400 years.

Iannis Xenakis double fisting Cutty Sark (Tom Violence), Sunday, 21 March 2021 11:54 (four weeks ago) link

I'm not sure he's right about the early 20th c modern harpsichord being used widely by pop/rock artists. I think this is the instrument that was used in 60s pop; it seems much more stripped-down, without the pedals etc, just with a guitar pickup: http://collections.nmc.ca/objects/205/baldwin-electric-harpsichord?ctx=cedc754f-cd3e-4924-980f-7da04725a0e2&idx=8

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 14:39 (four weeks ago) link

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5e/PleyelGrandModeleDeConcert.JPG/600px-PleyelGrandModeleDeConcert.JPG

vs

http://collections.nmc.ca/internal/media/dispatcher/741/preview

If any rock bands did in fact use the kind of modern harpsichord that was played by Chojnacka and Landowska, I def want to hear it, though.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 14:46 (four weeks ago) link

Getting OT but Tori Amos? This definitely doesn't look (or really sound) like the Baldwin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vi-hnpvMt0

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 15:38 (four weeks ago) link

And getting back on topic, here's our listening for this week. Between 45-50m this week; a mix of small ensembles, solo, and tape music. I'm leaving La légende d'Éer for next week, since it is 46m on its own.

Week 19

À Hélène, Mez, female vv, 2 cl, 1977
Akanthos, 9 insts, 1977
Kottos, vc, 1977
Ikhoor, str trio, 1978
Mycenae alpha, 2-track, UPIC, 1978

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 15:46 (four weeks ago) link

Just in for a nod in agreement to Jonchaies being a monster. I already knew that, of course... because it was in pom's period polls not too long ago, where glowing talk about it made me check it out. :)

anatol_merklich, Thursday, 25 March 2021 22:59 (three weeks ago) link

Happy to hear it. :)

I've fallen behind but I'll try to catch up in the coming days.

pomenitul, Saturday, 27 March 2021 01:49 (three weeks ago) link

So have I tbh. 21st Century Guitar took up my whole week.

Just Another Onionhead (Sund4r), Saturday, 27 March 2021 01:50 (three weeks ago) link

So, based on one listen while putting together breakfast and dealing with the sound of construction, À Hélène seems like another declamation, although with what I think of as more conventional choral vocal timbres (at least in this recording) and with a bit more to it melodically - nothing very disjunct or dissonant but no strong sense of development or dynamic range. I'm listening to a version by members of the Danish Natl Radio Choir on NML. Are there clarinets in other recordings? This is just voices.

Akanthos otoh seems really gripping and emotional. I was listening to the recording by Tony Arnold and ICE from this album: https://moderecords.com/catalog/261xenakis/ . It flows really organically, the wordless vocal is really expressive, and the instrumental responses are evocative and dramatic. Very effective blend of X's timbral and dynamic explorations with melody and pulse.

Just Another Onionhead (Sund4r), Monday, 29 March 2021 13:31 (two weeks ago) link

I listened to Rohan De Saram's recording of Kottos from the Arditti album. It's pretty cool. Seems to juxtapose deep scratch tones (on-the-bridge bowing acc to Harley - just checked), glissandi (with art. harmonics), and long bowed pitches, then develop each of these ideas with greater activity, again keeping a good pulse near the end.

I stuck with the same album for the string trio Ikhoor. This is a satisfyingly constructed and energetic piece that again juxtaposes and reconciles a couple of ideas. It starts with quick rhythmic hocketing between the three players, over which glissandi begin to emerge, which become a focus of the B section. Some ostinato material also appears here. We then return to the rhythmic back-and-forth but using something closer to the ostinato material now, before we get to longer sustained harmonics, which again become rhythmic.

Just Another Onionhead (Sund4r), Monday, 29 March 2021 17:38 (two weeks ago) link

Mycenae alpha: all right, no mellowing here. This is a nicely raw and bracing slice of noise with effective stereo movement. What sounds like a flanging effect at times. The comparative simplicity of the 2-track construction actually means that it translates v well to headphone listening. Reading a bit from here, it seems that the UPIC system was an early system for transforming graphic composition into sound, where the composer would draw on a tablet w axes for pitch and time: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02986061/document . You can see some of his preparatory sketches here: https://fr.calameo.com/read/0043738738c59884d6fd2?page=1

Just Another Onionhead (Sund4r), Wednesday, 31 March 2021 13:29 (two weeks ago) link

Superficially catching up…

Retours-Windungen: watched the Ensemble Nomos's performance on YT and it was quite placid and pleasant despite its forward momentum. I am not at all surprised that it was written for the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic, who don't appear to have recorded it, however.

Dmaathen: an unexpected pairing, and since I, like anatol_merklich, also love the oboe, I am quite taken with this piece's archaisms. In fact I prefer it to his works for solo percussion.

Khoaï: this is way more metal than 99% of avant-metal fare, and I'm here for it (listened to Jukka Tiensuu's recording).

Mikka ‘S’: I know this one from the Arditti two-fer and I still enjoy its deceptive single-mindedness a great deal.

Jonchaies: spectacular, possibly the peak of his orchestral output as far as I'm concerned. Per Nørgård's Terrains vagues, a belated offshoot of Jonchaies, is also worth looking into if you're a fan.

A Colone: Xenakis in his Ancient Greek ceremonial mode, and too text-oriented to speak to this non-Greek speaker.

À Hélène: along similar lines, although I much prefer this one, perhaps due to its relative accessibility melody-wise (there was no clarinet on the version I heard btw, by the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart).

Akanthos: more enjoyable still, in no small part thanks to Tony Arnold's performance and because this piece comes across as a synthesis of the ancient and the modern rather than a doomed attempt at recreating the former.

Kottos: I get why Nomos alpha's controlled chaos is more revolutionary, but I think I prefer this one for its craftsmanship and overall coherence.

Ikhoor: Harley points out that this one owes much to Jonchaies and exhibits a greater concern for tempo and pulse, which I think suits Xenakis quite well and partly explains why late 70s/early 80s Xenakis may well be my favourite of his avatars.

Mycenae alpha: loses some of the sense of discovery that marked his early electronic works but more than makes up for it in simplicity of execution.

pomenitul, Thursday, 1 April 2021 01:46 (two weeks ago) link

still have to get to most of these. butsince it hasn't come up yet about Jonchaies, it's worth noting: its middle section is basically a straight transcription of the rendered computer music crescendo at the center of Legende d'eer

I know a lot of people who always rate the orchestral works as The Work, and point to his transcriptions of his electronic efforts almost as proof that they were mostly useful as research. But that unbelievable rhythmic shepard's tonepile in the middle, it still does the exact same thing to my brain every time I hear it, it goes all the way in, that piece is still the summit for me. Hearing Jonchaies nailed all these issues for me about what a score is, what's an artifact, what depicts a sound...

Unlike Persepolis there aren't too many mixes of it out there, just make for sure you are not listening to one released on Mode. the 2016 one on Karlrecords from a few years ago does some interesting things with EQs that amp it all up without ruining it. but it's still the original stereo on Auvidis right down to the cosmic liners, which a generous person uploaded: https://www.discogs.com/Iannis-Xenakis-La-L%C3%A9gende-DEer/release/978498

Milton Parker, Thursday, 1 April 2021 18:29 (two weeks ago) link

As promised,
Week 20

La legénde d'Eer (Diatope), 4- or 8-track, 1977

Just Another Onionhead (Sund4r), Sunday, 4 April 2021 22:38 (two weeks ago) link

Well, this is delightful brain-melting noise so far.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Friday, 9 April 2021 13:08 (one week ago) link

I'm listening to the 2003 Naive release, on NML. It's almost done and it was very satisfying - the overall shape is very clear, there's a lot of sonic variety, and I really enjoy the high tones that begin and end the piece. I gather it's a mix of synthesized and prerecorded sounds?

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Friday, 9 April 2021 13:35 (one week ago) link

And we're back with:

Week 21
Anemoessa (phonemic text), SATB (42 minimum), orch, 1979
Dikhthas, vn, pf, 1979
Palimpsest, eng hn, b cl, bn, hn, perc, pf, str qnt, 1979
Aïs, amp Bar, perc, orch, 1980

42m percussion ensemble piece Pleïades will get its own week next week.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 18 April 2021 15:59 (four hours ago) link

Falling behind as usual, but I always catch up in the end, so it's only a matter of time…

pomenitul, Sunday, 18 April 2021 16:00 (four hours ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.