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X is for Iannis Xenakis

Iannis Xenakis, was born May 29, 1922, Brăila, Romania to a wealthy family of Greek ancestry and died February 4, 2001, Paris, France. He was a Romanian-born French composer, architect, and mathematician who originated ‘musique stochastique’, music composed with the aid of electronic computers and based upon mathematical probability systems.

Xenakis moved to Greece in 1932 and fought in the Greek resistance movement during the second world war where he lost an eye. Xenakis graduated from the Athens institute of technology in 1947, but was then exiled from Greece owing to his political activities.

He moved to Paris, and for 12 years associated with the architect Le Corbsier and he designed the Philips Pavilion for the Brussels International Exhibition of 1958.

During his 30s Xenakis turned his attentions more seriously to musical composition, training with Darius Milhaud and studying composition under Olivier Messiaien at the Paris Conservatory from 1950 to 1962. It was following a suggestion from Messiaen ,that he began to use mathematical models in composing his musical pieces, an approach that was rare among European composers.

In 1954 he began his experiments in stochastic music with the composition Métastasis and in 1955 wrote an article “The Crisis of Serial Music” explaining his method whereby the performers—mostly on standard instruments—are directed by a specially devised notation to produce sounds specified by a computer programmed by the composer.

Xenakis established the School of Mathematical and Automatic Music in 1966

He composed chamber music, music for chorus, wind instruments, orchestra, works solely for electronic reproduction and other works with both human and electronic components, such as Pour les Paix (1982), for mixed chorus, electronic tape, and narrators. 

O-mega (1997) for percussion and ensemble was his final composition.

Here are links to Mestatasis at the beginning of his career and O-Mega at the end

Iannis Xenakis: Metastasis

and finally by contrast Okho by Iannis Xenakis, performed by the Peabody Percussion Trio


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