13 February 2007

Xenakis: XAS

Xas (1987): Xas, is surprise, surprise, Sax backwards. Adolphe Sax the inventor of the saxophone. The quartet though has some flaws as I see it, in some ways he treats the four saxophones like they are the same instrument instead of like a string quartet, whose ranges they effectively duplicate. There is much homophonic writing in the piece and a good number of parallel chords - some multiphonics (a new obession it seems at this point for Xenakis) but not used well. Almost as if he is unsure of what he can do, which is strange since Xenakis is always writing things that stretch or challenge accepted instrumental techniques. Harley claims the lack of glissandis must stem from a desire to avoid "blues-type" sounds, which I find dubious, Harley also suggests that Xenakis was quite busy at this time, which I think is a more likely idea. The piece seems to sound like it had been quickly written. There is also something very Andreissen in the sonority, the use of the pelog-like scale (evidently the same scale as from Serment) and in the combination of Lutoslawski-like heterophonic passages and clustery chords.

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