25 January 2007

Xenakis - Tetras

Tetras (1983): String Quartet. I have mixed feelings about Tetras. On the one hand it seems quite uneven with its cumulative glissandi in all instruments that sound like dull fiddling with an ondes martenot, and I kind of think that this sort of sound was desired. It becomes tiresome and pointless like fiddling with the dial. However, when the multiple glissandi are combined with rhythmic articulations as they are at the end of the work it becomes powerful and exciting. The Jonchaies non-octave replicating scale makes an appearance again, and again in a formulaic way, simply up and down articulations of the scale, whether quite quickly or more slowly. Again with this sort of scalar use there is no tension, no need for one note to follow the other. However, when he uses it harmonically, again mixed with a rhythm - as in the section of the work where all in struments are playing polyrhythmic double-stops, as is done in Dikhthas, it becomes a shimmering, well perhaps not shimmering, but alive surface. He utilizes several noise elements, not integrated so much, but appearing at the beginning and the end almost symmetrically in the structure as well as a section of the graphic notation - derived from Psappha and later used as it is here, in Mists. Once again, it doesn't free up the rhythm so much and the harmonic tension is lost. So ultimately I'm feeling a lack of direction in the piece, sound-wise, structurally and harmonically.

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