18 September 2008

Xenakis' Oresteia

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Xenakis' Oresteia in a performance at Miller Theater. The music remained elemental, glissandos throughout (the clarenettist remarked that he got good practice on them), it was honest and with a great dramatic force, the opening groans from the orchestra seemed as is the rocks and stones themselves were crying out. Other interesting musical notes, Agamemmnon's shrill fanfare - piccolo trumpet in the air. As for Agamemmnon, Wilbur Pauley - this man, newspapers reviews have spoken of his stature, is indeed enormous made all the more so by his stadning on a plinth to sing the Deese Athena moment at which point Athena establishes trial by jury. One beautiful moment of stagecraft came in the preparation for the Kassandra scene - Pauley stands, removes his sleeveless jacket, turns it inside-out and puts it back on, in the meantime a dancer hands him his psaltery. At the end the same happens in reverse. The music of Kassandra worked much much better in the theatrical setting. On the recording, it comes across as remarkably annoying but here is remarkably effective - the facial expressions bring out the two roles and the unreal falsetto ably reflecting on the lack of female performers in the Athenian stage. In the end, the gestures and switching from high to low gives the sense of the performer/character entering a trance for that section.

The chorus was remarkably effective, strong and powerful, the women singing with outstretched arms the men with the grace and strength implied in this music. Other intersting moments - the use of the children's choir at the end singing over the frantic activity on the stage, channeling almost Bach's St. Matthew Passion with its entrance of the children's choir in the chorale passages of the opening. The final rush into the audience seemed hokey and contrived - like something from a high school musical. (Though from my perch in the far balcony, I saw it only in absence.) As for the dancing, my companion wasn't too keen on it, but I found it to be a well-done writhing.

A final word on ICE - the International Contemporary Ensemble - showed themselves to be very able performers of this unremitting music. Obviously, one must signal out David Schotzko for his percussion work (he received an enormous ovation) as well as the less recognized players of low winds - Campbell Macdonald on contrabass clarinet (how nice to hear that) and Rebekah Heller on contrabassoon. Joy in these obscure combinations belching out sound is half the fun of Xenakis.

All in all George Steele, now leaving for Dallas, should be congratulated for bringing a good show to the stage and the performers pleased with their excellent showing.

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05 May 2007

Xenakis: Pu Wijnuej we fyp

Pu Wijnuej we fyp (1992): children's choir: After several days of data entry, I was able to hear this piece in Finale. Its an unholy noise that coming out of children would probably be quite demonic. I wonder if andhow this was performed - the score lists a premiere. Cluster chords throughout, so that the kids could basically sing any pitch at some point and they would be right. Quite difficult. And full of nonmusicall anagram syllables of a poem of Rimbaud - there is no informaiton about the cypher. Entering the work though was a major learning experience into Xenakis' methods, like cluster gamelan, or cluster kecak.

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29 March 2007


Sorry for the long delay. The thirteen instrument piece - Traffic - has been completed, parts are turned in and I wait in anticipation of the performance. What follows are a number of my reflections on the Xenakis I've been listening to lately. I've been unable to obtain really any of the scores for these later works.

Voyage absolu des Unari vers Andromede (1989): An electronic piece said to evoke an interstellar journey, what we end up with is a whole low of glissandi in essentially one continuous gesture. Pleasant, but not among his finer works in the medium.

Knephas (1990): A powerful choral tribute to Xenakis' friend and supporter Maurice Fleuret, the work is filled with complex choral clusters and an unremitting dissonance. Xenakis has a strange sense of counterpoint here in which chords are changed in the manuevering of individual elements within a sustained texture - we hear something similar in Tetora, I believe. Now this isn't particularly any different than Bach and it's hard to describe. The are no phrases per se, just shifting notes within a sustained harmony. Since Xenakis doesn't really change harmonies the sounding reslut is one of an almost prismatic reflection of dissonance. He also does a nice gesture in which different voices take up different notes of the melody, each holding their individual pitch. The sounding result here is one of a shifting melodic cluster - interesting.

Tuorakemsu (1990): Tribute to Takemitsu for which I was unable to obtain either a recording or score.

Kyania (1990): This a twenty minute orchestral piece that is somewhat interchangeable with a number of his other late orchestral pieces. There are a few interesting moments when various, or mostm, instruments drop out and the listener is left with a small curious melody, these are always striking moments and moreso here given the eternal saturation of the pitch space. In listening to this I was reminded of that piece of Stockhausen's whose name escapes me here - anyone? - in which instead of adding notes to a score he took a score full of notes and then subtracted some sections - the "negative space" if you wlll becomes the sounding space - that which remains. I think Xenakis' pitch use is similar. We take the entire continuum of sound and then we subtract most of it to leave a set of pitches which will be the sound of the piece. From there we saturate the space with that pitch collection. It's an aeolian harp gamut in which various parts are excited and other parts are not as different times. There becomes no harmonic motion, but there is pitch motion - like a progression of twelve-tone chords.

Gendy3 (1991): A much more interesting electronic piece, perhaps one of my favorites, though it seems it is hindered by strange synthesized sounds that sound remarkably similar to old-school synthesized instruments. The harmonic field is again relatively static and it seems like this piece could effectively be orchestrated. The harmonies are interesting and the sound is really of Xenakis - muscular. Apparently, he had quite a difficult time creating this piece. There is an article in a 1993 Perspectives that discusses with a lot of mathematical formaulas the construction of this work. It is an example of theory that attempts to recreate rather than elucidate a work, detailing the mathematical formulas that Xenakis went through to create the piece.

Troorkh (1991): Concerto for trombone and orchestra whose overall impression, to me, is one of stultyfying dullness and tepidness. There is alternation of the soloist and ensemble combined with a relaince on homophonic wind textures, the piece has none of the power and energy of his earlier works. I wonder if Xenakis was cowed by the ensemble.

Paille in the wind (1992): Unable to hear a recording - instead played it through myself on the piano. Against and alternating with cluster chords on the piano the cello demonstrates its tessitura. A short - two pages only - slow satisfying miniature that could be taken up by a pianist of moderate ability and a cellist of greater ability. We do however certainly hear the way that Xenakis uses sieves not as scales but as pitches isolated from the continuum of sound.

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05 March 2007

Xenakis: Kassandra

Kassandra (1987): What Carla referred to as "the most annoying thing I've ever heard" thoug I seem to recal her having similar reactions to some other of Xenakis's pieces. Setting of a portion of the Oresteia in his "authentic" style, this time accompanied by several drums, five woodblocks and a lyre of sorts which sounds like an electric guitar using some pitch bend. The voice, wild, outrageous, alternates between a low bass voice and a high falsetto babbling incoherent at times and unstoppable. Uses untraditional notation, squiggles and time maps for the voice parts. A memorable experience, bold.

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04 March 2007

Xenakis: Waarg, Echange, Epicycle, Okho

Waarg (1988): I've listened to this now three times and have developed more of a liking to the piece. It seems to me to be one of a new type of works of Xenakis, a relentless chordal tickertape. This is different from somehting like the relentlessness of Oophaa, in that it seems to use arborescences as well. The opening is nice, one pitch with a few flutterings around it and at times one could make an argument that it sounds like litanies, but one would be likely pushing the metaphor. Waarg = "work"

Echange (1989): For Bass Clarinet and wind ensemble. Dark, dark, dark. With a tense opening in the bottom registers and lots of long held notes and dark sonorities. Split tones in the bass clarinet as well. Without the exuberance that characterizes a lot of Xenakis music, this is claustrophobic, angry stuff.

Epicycle (1989): For cello and ensemble and indeed many of Xenakis' classic moves from solo works are present again - this piece is like Kottos but with an accompaniment. The opening reeks of Messaien and throughout the harmonies have that sort of sound, though the piece lacks an overall harmonic progression, there is a lot of activity throughout but it doesn't really seem to go anywhere. Not one of Xenakis' better pieces, though the recording could contribute to an overall lackluster sense surrounding it.

Okho (1989): Three djembes and big African "skin" Likeable rhythmic, it ac tually gets a groove several times and exploits the characteristic sounds of the djembes. Probably fun to play as well. Reading Harley's ridiculous description of it after hearing it is an absurd exercise.

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24 February 2007

Xenakis: Taurhiphanie

Taurhiphanie (1987): Electronic work based on the bellowing of bulls, planned to accompany a live improvisation based on the movement of bulls and horses in a bullring. One hears a long opening and the bellowing sound, which must have been interesting to Xenakis because of their deep-glissandi effects. The transformations of the bull sounds bring to mind what is a major problem with much electronic music, everything can become through manipulation everything else, why bull sounds and should they retain any of their bullishness? Here they do, but they sound equally like other synthesized sounds, whether stings or complex sine-waves.

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19 February 2007

Xenakis: Ata, Rebonds

At this point the Xenakis survey is looking more and more difficult to do. I've done some searching and it appears that I will be unable to obtain any of the scores from the 1990s. While I do have recordings of most of these pieces, the lack of scores will make it more difficult for me to study them. Xenakis entries will continue, but they will likely be far more sporadic.

Ata (1987): No score available. Boisterous, loud for full orchestra. Mainly consisting of a lot of sawing in even rhythms, with the occasional varied accelerandos that Xenakis began creating in Persephassa. Stinging ending with the ensemble pooping out after spending ten minutes or so beating its collective chest in an orchestral matam. One feels this music directly in the organs, though the visceral impact of the live performane cannot be matched in the recording. I recall hearing this at Ostrava and being constantly amused and charged with each new loudness. Close in some ways to the ecstasy of Lichens. Ata, according to Harley: ancient Greek for "human folly that imprisons one inside oneself"

Rebonds (1987-1989): Solo percussion work in two interchangable sections. Mainly stays with drum sounds with five wood blocks added for effect in part B. A constant steady sixteenth motion that must make this rather enjoyable for the player, I had fun myself playing fake drums while following along. There doesn't seem to be much a place for this piece to go and the thoughts that crossed my mind were in a way related to minimalism, which I think has a strong inspiration on this piece, though probably minimalism as mediated by something like Ligeti's etudes. The "a" section features a little bit more of randomness thrown into a steady drum soup.

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17 February 2007

Xenakis: Tracées

Tracées (1987): Five minute massive work for orchestra, which, surprisingly, sounds small likely because of the pitch saturation and the constant activity - the strings just don't have, for the most part, especially in the beginning, the time to really dig their bows into the strings. The bass drum has a particularly prominent role. Tracées = "traced" The ending is an almost frightening chorale at quarter = 7.5, and notated in small values, implying a very close look at the material. I recall being taken by the visceral experience, the first time I heard this music, but now, almost four years later I find it to be more tame. I should also note the odd piano solo which uses a low ostinato which Harley says is taken from Keqrops.

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15 February 2007

Xenakis: àr.: (Hommage a Ravel)

àr (1987): Short - 2.5 minutes, piano piece seems like a throw off piece, something that Iannis sketched out in an afternoon. Chromatic lines in contrasting motions (I don't think the term arborescences is appropriate as they are usually one voice) with interjecdtions of chords in generally the upper register. The middle of the piano is not used particularly much. Challenging but not overly difficult compared to his other piano music.

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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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12 February 2007

Xenakis: Jalons

Jalons (1986): This is an awful strange piece written for the Ensemble Intercontemporain - (one of everything ensemble + Bs. Cl, second violin and harp). It seems almost as if Xenakis is simply having fun writing for the ensemble, there little of the cohesiveness that ties together some of his other pieces, and the sections are not as clearly demarcated as in something like Empreintes. It is amazing also how thin the ensemble seems in Xenakis' orchestration. There are a few ideas that are worth recounting, the enveloping of the opening sonority - in that different pitches of the chord fade out as they would in an electronic setting. Also the sort of relentlessness of the sixteenth-note rhythm throughout - it is almost Baroque in a way. There's no percussion in this work. Nice moment toward the beginning with the high winds playing a glistening cluster around B as the strings have complex glissandi-melodies, which sound almost like talking especially with the entry of the low Bassoon. It almost seems as if Xenakis is really showing an awareness ofr hte acoustics and harmony here, which given his proclivity later in the piece and elsewhere for pan-scalar sonorities piques the ear, though this idea is not developed. Here is where I feel really left out of this piece, the sectional nature doesn't evidence, at least to my ear, development. Rather it is closer to moment form which is something I've never been all that compelled by. Jalons="signposts, landmarks" just like Horos - his last big commission, interesting, no?

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11 February 2007

Xenakis: Lichens I

Lichens I (1983): Is there a Lichens 2? Exuberantly noisy orchestra work with some real showpieces for the percussion. Begins with a weird alternation of the strings and some violin solos and eventually explodes in a riot of brass essentially performing slow tremolo interjections in the manner of a Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments, but much faster.

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09 February 2007

Xenakis: Horos

Horos (1986): Monumental orchestra piece reknown in Xenakis theory circles as being the first extensive usage of cellular automata. According to Makis Solomos, the opening harmonies derive from self-developing algorithms taken directly from an issue of Scientific American and used on Xenakis' hand computer - the strange numbering at m. 10 (4200410) is an example of this. The work is massive as befits its title - horos = landmark - and its focus is with rare exception on harmony. I'm not sure again if it can be called harmony becuase for the most part the entire chromatic gamut is in play often in varying registrations - this is almsot an organ piece in its orchestration. So the strings play shifting colors of the chromatic complement over which the winds play the chromatic complement at a different speed with interjections from the brass - the entire pitch spectrum is so saturated that we don't hear it as such. Only when the winds come in with a high Lutoslawski-esque usage of a pelog-like scale do we get a reprieve before it happens again. By the end of the piece - a massive solid sonority with quicker interjections by various groups at quarter = 15 - we feel like we are hearing the whole spectrum when I don't believe we are. This is perhaps the most Messiaen-ic of the Xenakis works I've heard until now and seems to be pointing in a different direction - though its my belief that Xenakis didn't use the automata very much more owing to the difficulty of calculating out the pitches.

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07 February 2007

Xenais: A l'Ile de Goree

A L'Ile de Goree (1986): For Harpsichord and Ensemble ( 1.1.1 Named after the slave trading island off the coast of Dakar. Less dissonant work, begins with a beautiful and harmonically staic cluster with resonance that recurs modified at the end. Do I detect Bminor? F#, G, A, Bb, Cb, D, C#, E = B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A, A# = B harmonic minor + A. This gesture - like waves lapping on shore - lasts much too short, before a rather rhythmic rest of hte piece. Xenakis makes the first extensive use of (subtle) multiphonics since, was it, Akrata, and begins using ensemble vertical sonorities extensively, including a rather lazily notated unison spatial bit. A very strange nd beuatiful trumpet plus other brass melody at the end, but still these pitch sieves aren't really used as scales in a harmonic or contrapuntal sense, they are used as a compound sonority as if pandiatonicism is attached to different collections of pitches from the standard diatonic.

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06 February 2007

Xenakis: Keqrops

Keqrops (1986): Another piano concerto, in some ways between than Synaphai, in other ways not. Premeired at, of all places, the NY Phil, with Roger Woodward. Sunning opening, with full orchestra pounding almong with low drums off the beat - powerful. However, at other ,oments it falls into a Palimpsest-like dullness of multiple layers of non-octaviating scales overlapping in slightly differnt tempos - these never work for me, they seem to be space-fillers. One beautiful moment sticks out in what I think was an otherwise relativdely lackluster piece, though lackluster is a strong term - a trio for piano and harp in highest registers in a free spatial-esque notation accompanied by clusters in the bass. The sound is really nice. Otherwise, I feel that the rest of the piece doesn't live up to the promise of the opening, the level of activity of tension of intensity is on par with Empreintes, but then it falls down, restored at moments, but only moments.

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03 February 2007

Xenakis: Naama

I wouldn't usually do such a thing, but, here to quote from the liner notes of the Ultima 2-CD set that features a recording of this work: "Naama (meaning 'flux') calls for 'periodic constructions thanks to a group of exahedric transformations and stochastic distributions'" Now, this is quite ridiculous. Stochastic is random, conjectural and refers to the process of generating pitches. "Exahedric" appears in only one internet citation - that relating to this quote and as best I can piece together, is either from exa- "10 to the 18th power" + hedric - from hedron faces on a geometric figure, or else from exo-, which becomes ex- =outside of as in "exoskeleton" + a- the Greek negation, thus meaning outside of the negation of the faces of a geometric figure. Whatever it means, is this supposed to tell us anything about the piece, or else allow to understand it better. Obviously not, it's put forth to make someone feel as if they should respect a piece and points to a lack in confidence in the sounding result of the work. That aside, this work for harpsichord is generally exciting, it makes full use of the capabilities of the instrument, brings out its colors, has rhythmic vitality and surprising moments. Uses a non-octaviating scale in an almost Sheppard tone sort of way, uses another scale in apedantic way - actually both scales are used pedantically. Its as if once we accept the pitch sieve we don't need to do anything with it.

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31 January 2007

Xenakis: Keren

Keren (1986): Solo trombone work. In the vein of many of Xenakis' other solo works, particualrly in its almost modal-character and later in the repeated note values of an almost Baroque type-solo. Like Kottos and like Embellie this too uses this device and again like these works seems to focus around the pitches B. It seems to ramble a bit. Xenakis has a nice use of a singing playing flutter noise that appears in the low register and peeks out as sort of a verse divider before flourishing and being developed at the end. Keren is from Hebrew for Horn. Interesting that Xenakis would turn to Hebrew titles. I think probably he is seeing some connection with the ritualistic-ness of the language in much the same way as ancient Greek. Consider, too, that Stravisnky's most ritualistic pieces used ancient languages - Oedipus, Threni in Latin and Abraham and Isaac in Hebrew.

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30 January 2007

Xenakis: Thallein

Thallein (1984): For Fourteen instruments. Again enigmatic - dull, thin beginning half, that then becomes a rather perky strange melody ala Varese with sme nice sort of planing of the ensemble - that is the various sections play off against each other, almost as if they were unaware of each other ending in string glissandos. It almost feels like Xenakis was fishing around for something to write and then came upon something. The title means "to sprout." I could be taken aback by the poor quality of the Neuma recording, I recall hearing a performance a long time ago with the Callithumpian Consort at NEC that was riveting. I am however still impressed with Xenakis' idiomatic, yet novel writing for percussion, the use of the toms, bongos and wood blocks are well gradiated and dramatically sensitive.

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27 January 2007

Xenakis: Khal Perr

Khal Perr (1983): For Brass Quintet (2 tr, tbn, hn, tuba) and percussion. An enigmatic piece only in that the tempo marings are remarkably slow for Xenakis. There are many times when we come on a very static harmony that we stay with for some time. In these sections we can really hear the way the tuba bass notes control the harmony - a change in pitch is signaled by a tattoo on the bongos. It also has a "traditional" Xenakis brass entry - single pitches like an announcement entry, compare Ais or A Colone for instance.

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26 January 2007

Xenakis: Pour la Paix

Pour la Paix (1981): A radiophonic piece for electronics, speakers, and eight-voice choir. The story, by Xenakis' wife tell sabout two soldiers in enemy camps who sneak off together to recall boyhood and hang out diving in a lake. This is an interesting piece particularly in the way that many of the Xenakis effects become contexualized by the narrative that surrounds them. So whereas we hear the frequency running that is so present in the beginning of Tetras, and here it has the sense of radios searching for a frequency. We hear the glissandi and it becomes waves and water. In effect, these sound abstractions are twisted in the listener to become more concrete ideas - perhpas this is the funciton of their abstraction. However, when we take them all as a whole the fact that they are so suited to war, makes me believe more that these light tracings, these glissandi sires, these radio fiddlings, these random percussive blasts are war sounds. I recall when Boornstein asks Xenakis about the influence o the war on his music, Xenakis ignores the question entirely. I think the piece works fine as a radio play, unlike Harley, though I might have liked a more contrapuntal treatment of the sounds and the narration. The choral moments are not among his most inspired but fit with the sense of the play for the most part.

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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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24 January 2007

Xenakis Listening Notes

What follows are various listening notes for works by Xenakis. This takes the notes up to their current state. New notes will be added as necessary. I have listened to all the previous pieces, but have not taken notes. This may change.

Noomena (1974): I found this piece not particularly memorable save for a few moments. One feeling I felt with this and with a Nono piece I also listened to is that these composers are tending to write the same piece over and over. In this case it was a lot of scratching and glissandi in the winds and the strings but without any real sense of comprehensible form that can be found in some of the other works, I'm thinking of Synaphai with its great ending. One nice thing was the foghorn like effect about 5 minutes into the piece. I'd be interested to see how that comes about.

Erikhthon (1974):Erikhthon is a powerful massive work for piano and orchestra. Like glaciers crashing or worlds being moved. It is unstoppable, massive and calamatous. This is said to be the best example of the use of arborescences laid out in vaguely organ-like orchestration. Where these really work is in the larger scale glissandis and in this case some of the harmonies developed, where they don't work is in the chromatic scales that can whip across and seem so dull and devoid of tension. This piece is full of tension and it works magnificently.

Psappha (1975): Psappha for solo percussion. Xenakis eschews traditional notation for a Feldman-esque box. That doesn't stop him from being rhythmic - this is one of his most rhythmic pieces I've heard. One can hear some glorious polyrhythms - and no doubt Xenakis was aware of some traditional drumming. I'm also quite impressed by the use of sonorities and the way that he brings them in at specific moments. One could easily not do such a thing. Seems like a challenging work and would likely benfit from being taken out of the non-traditional notation and into traditional. I don't think it would lose very much.

N'Shima (1975):N'shima for two peasant style voices, horns and a cello. In regular strophes - a formal pattern that Xenakis likes with his "antique" pieces - consider the choral work "A Colone" The cello has an almost mystical esoteric function capping the ends of each section with a wide erase of the musical space. The voices keen around small notes and the horns also. Memorable moments include when we finally hear a solid harmony and the overall effect. Details don't remain from this piece rather the overall. we can also hear well the arborescences. Other moments the move toward machine gunning at the end. Xenakis likes to give something new near the end of the piece. This one is no exception.

Empreintes (1975): A striking, enigmatic and ultimately somewhat sad piece for orchestra. Essentially there are three ideas - the first unison treble G for nearly 5 minutes we can hear the delightful overtones as the ful complement of brass play it in the beginning. Overlaid on this at times are varied glissandos in the strings which eventuly take over the entire ensemble reminiscent of early Xenakis - e.g. Metastasis. This eventually splits into a more chaotic section until we end with a series of morse code like gestures from various choirs over clusters. The work ends with the sound of the low Bb on the Contrabassoon. I'm not sure how to react. Technically Xenakis has learned how to better handle glissandi on the brass which sound much les coarse when the are used to fill out certain points in the curve rather than all points in the curve. This also provides a harmonic gambit as well. I come out feeling like there has been a narrative and that the world was shattered and we are left with these tiny phrases trying to peek through. Xenakis himself talks of the imprints left after the setting of the sun - comparing the opening detuning of the G to the sunset.

Theraps (1975): Solo bass piece full of sliding around. Apparently a major step in the repertoire for solo bass, which honestly isn't saying much if you consider the competition. Bottesini anyone?

Khoai (1976): Work for solo harpsichord that makes the noisyness of the harpsichord particularly apparent. It also makes good use of octave particularly in the beginning. I have to say I don't think octave Fs have ever sounded so good as when Chojnaka plays them. Another piece in which the arborescences work. What is a real benefit about this piec eis the way that it completely reinvigorates the harpsichord in a way that perhaps would't happen again until Ligeti's Continuum. In both these works the harpsichord is viewed as an almost electronic instrument - consider also the way both composers view the organ - completely denatured of human expression (why did Stravisnky never write for the organ?) Xenakis was quite busy at this time. I'm convicned there was something in composing with arborescences that made it easy for him to be prolific.

Mikka "S" (1976): The second of Xenakis' double gliss pieces for solo violin and perhaps somewhat more effective. This one seems to have more contrary motion than Mikka. It seems a trifle, if perhaps an important trifle in developing this technique, which seems to me to be a way to make the glissandos work on a smaller scale. at this point glissandos have been scientificized once again into arborescences. Consider the small arborescence works against something large like Erikhtohon which is massive and moving - the same massiveness cannot be found in the smaller works and a new direction must be found.

Dmaathen (1976): Classic work for oboe and percussion. Can hear a real pitch centeredness that moves out and a real sense of the multiphonic possibilities of the oboe. What is strange is that no one has remarked on the similarity to Muay Thai music, the only traditional music I'm aware of that makes use of the combination. The opening is almost uncannily like the sound of Muay Thai and I have no doubt that the influence is there. Consider also in Nuits, the choral work, there is no mention of the almost near duplication of the famous Monkey dance from Bali which shows up notated in Xenakis. I don't believe that I can accept the notion that all these things are purely scientific, rather I'd suggest that the sounds that he was aware of become filtered through his scientific frame and his own language. I'm not aware of earlier instances (before Nuits) of the rat-a-tat style that would become more prominent - tough no doubt one could include machine gun fire in the influence pool.

Epei (1976): horn, english horn, clarinet, 2 trom, db. Strange strange ensemble, strange title - it means "since" and stranger piece. A keening Xenakis. It begins with this strange degraded version of a motive - could this be Xenakis referring to Grisey's classic use of the degraded harmonic series - I think these were written at the same time - that eventually alls into a keening of all the instruments that lasts quite some time an is in the end effective and memorable. though I have to say, I'm afraid I may be confusing it with Akanthos whose ensemble is similar.

Windungen (1976): I was only able to listen to the first minute of this and then continue by looking a the score of this work for 12 cellists. It appears to be a strong piece with some of the classic large cello nsemble gesture - cf Messagesquisse - of lots of cellos playing the same melody that gets brokn up. The idea is that the cellists are arranged in a circle which Xenakis takes full advantage of - a large portion of the work seems to involve motion of glissandi around the circle which would no doubt sound really good if one were in the middle of the circle. There is also a rather dramatic moment when we are left with just one cello playing low C#. I'd be interested to hear a performance.

Kottos (1977): Excellent work for solo cello. The proportions are right on this. Particular favorite moments are when the cello is in a constant use of all of its registers. The melodies - quasi-Greek sometimes are also sometimes Baroque though up in a completely crazy register - consider the end when there is the movement round an E center at the top of the treble staff. Also nice how Xenakis uses noise in the work having the noise of the bridge open up into melodies.

Legende d'Eer (1977): Electronics. A have a hard time with these large Xeankis electronic pieces as I tend to do with most electronic pieces, I'm never quite sure how to grasp them though I do hear larger sweeps I get lost in the details. This work seems to me to be more of a soundscape than something like Kraanerg or Persepolis which if memory serves me make more use of the repeating note idea. This also uses repeating notes but way up in the highest ranges at the beginning of the work. Ultimately, I hear this similar to something like Conrete PH with its burning sounds - it is full of seemingly natural sounds, whether like cicadas, or tectonics or an overall dinosaur type sound. This is a piece that creates another world and one that for the most part isn't entirely unpleasant. - I'd rather be here than in Kraanerg. I hear an overall descent in range then an ascent curve, but would need many repeated listenings to get details.

Akanthos (1977): Slightly larger ensemble - fl, cl, piano, soprano, string quintet. Needs a fabulous soprano who doesn't seem foolish sining nonsense phonemes. This, if I rememebr right was a work wose arborescences seemed forced, too much chromaticism.

A Helene (1977): For two part choir - can be transposed at will. A syllabic setting of some ancient Greek play - Harley says from Euripides' Helen of Troy. Set in almost constant eighth notes and homophonically. At the end a dramatic shift happens in the tonality. I think about the use of rhythm here and how, likely, at least from what I remember, ancient Greek theories of rhythm had a different sense of versification, though I could be confusing it with Latin verse. Also, I'm reminded of the almost arbitrariness of the note hoice, which seems in some ways fitting wth a stochastic idea. Not nearly as good as A Colone.

A Colone (1977): I'm very much enthused by this choral work in the ancient Greek modes, though in some senses itfeels like Xenakis moved toward the Syntonic diatonic of Ptolemy. One can see how he would be excited by the Aristoxenan genera and there is always the idea of authenticity - notice that the work is scored for men's voices in falsetto as ancient Greek drama was said to be sung. There are the strophe-antistophe pattern in structure. Also the instrumentation, trombone, horn and doublebass is spectacular and add an air of modernity and antiquty. The trombone part is quite high. Challenging, but I would not say too much so.

Jonchaies (1977): Large orchestra work, extremely violent. Up there I would say with Ameriques and the end of the Rite as some of the more overall intense primitive sounding scores. This is a war piece for me - conflict, perhaps is better put and is almost impressionistic, if it ould be used to describe such scenes, the sirens in the high winds, the keening of the brass, the incessant percussion and the machinistic rhythms of the full orchestra. The ending bomb blasts, reminiscent as well of the end of Terretekhtorh. It ends with the morse-code in the piccolos which are used also in the opening of the Legende and the ending of Empreintes. Commentators tend to focus on the new uses of sieves to a) make a scale that doesn't replicate at the octave, and b) to determine the rhythmic content. I find these far less interesting than the overall formal content which is continually powerful and constant. According to Harley: "jonchaies" = "rushes, reeds" I'm also reminded of the out-Lutoslawski-ing in the opening modal sieve moving from the highest registers down to the subbasement.Harley also dwells on the connection between the pitch sieve and the pelog scale of interlocking fourths (C-G, B-F#) detecting an Indonesian flavor in the work because of a similar lack of certian intervals in the Jonchaies sieve, to which I ask, is he listening to the same piece. There is nothing, repeat, nothing gamelan in this work. I think the idea of the sieve is not to create scales but rather in fact to pick out parts of a glissandi contour for harmonic purposes. Harley seems to be hearing what he wants in this piece. He speaks of Xenakis "emulating such a sonority" He also hears the winds rushing through the reeds, I think rather it i ironic, after all this torture of sound we are left with the desolation of the wind rushing through reeds - symbolized with the high piccolos.

Ikhoor (1978): String trio that seems to take all of the Xenakis ideas and put them in as if he is freely compsoing with them. In this way Xenakis is an experiementor - building up his bag of tricks and then with his language compsing. I think there is an effective use of the pelog scale with the Lutoslawski heterophony. But overall I don't think its all that compeling of a piece, though I imagine the physical act of seeing all these players sawing away would be rather interesting. "Ikhoor" is what runs through the veins of the Gods. Opening consists of a rite of spring-esque chord that quickly falls into challenging rhythmic strata. Unfortunately the melodic material doesn't really match with the tension generatred from the rhythms.

Dikhthas (1979): Violin and Piano - arborescences in both parts enlived at times with stochastic texture - there is a particularly memorable moment in th epiano part which is well nigh unplayable and that basically gives the sense of one throwing one's fingers around the keyboard. It is interesting to see how the various techniques are coming together in the pieces, in this case the specifically violin textures from Mikka and Mikka "S" along with the arborescences. I think sme of the most effective moments are when things stp completely and we have just a single note, in this case an open D that is sounded thoughout the piano and then violin - getting dirtier through the addition of surrounding tones, what is a simple thing for a composer to do when they are shot on ideas becomes a great idea when put in this context. The wave motion of the violin throughout its range can become a bit too much and one can see how it could be a hackneyed crutch.

Pleiades (1978): I listened to this over the course of two days. It seems to me that this is a piece that ayone writing or percussion ensemble needs to reckon with. Four sections each devoted to a specific sonority and each exploiting the characteristics of that sonority. In all the movements there seems to be a dichotomy between highly structured rhythms and "Clouds" of sound - the highly organized random sounds that evoke distant rumbles and explosions with the drums, an island of church bells with the metals (beautiful by the way) and so forth. The movement for pitched percussion (vibes, etc) seems at times to fall into the academic statemtn of arpeggios in the Jonchaies scale, but also fals into lovely clouds of sine-like pitches. I had the realization while looking at the extremely complex score, both of how one might go about learning the rhythms with its multiple tempo modulations happening at the same time and how those rhythms are in a way related completely to the gridlike scaffolding that controls scores of the new complexity period. In some ways Xenakis can take the characteristics and outward appearances of these schools of music and reflect them in a quasi-scientific way of thinking. So the rhythmic bonds of complexity become rhythmic sieves, a liking of African polyrhythm is similarly reinterpreted and, pelog scales become pitch sieves.

Palimpsest (1979): This is a work for larger ensemble: oboe, cl, bsn, hn, pno, perc, and string quintet. Mainly filled with arborescences, which sometimes seem to fall into Czerny style. For some time these are drawn upon one another - as I see the palimpsest of the title- and filtered through rhythmic sieves to create polyrhythms. The work ends with a spectacular passage in which tempered tones become untempered by their layout. see m.106 on. I wonder if this is a function of the recording - the otherwise abyssmal Ianissimo II album, I believe - or is actualy in the music itself. Nonetheless it is amazing, it seems almost that Xenakis is oneupping the spectralists.

Ais (1979): Ritualistic enactment of fragments from Homer and Sappho pertaining to death for baritone and orchestra. Striking work with its rich use of percussion in Xenakis style - the percussion is relatively regualr and provides an air of authenticity. Also "authentic" is the free use of the falsetto register for the baritone soloist. The opening is quite beautiful the brass on C above middle C in an antiphonal texture leading into the baritone's main gesture a tritone descent from soprano F to B on I-U-A-I with a Monteverdi trill coming as it does aftera long scatter of "Gu" This stylized horse-like wailing recurs continually throughout the piece especially at the end after the bones are ripped from the body and brought to Hades. The entire chromatic space is saturated the percussion goes wild and the stylized cry comes out. One can only think here of Xenakis the romantic as this is a particularly lovely and wellused but romantic gesture. Perhaps this is why this music speaks to me so much, There is a good deal of emotion and it seems to me that the emotional content becomes subsumed in the prevailing mathematical dialogue that was so important for composers at the time. Xenakis needed to couch his romanticism in math for him to be accepted. In this way he was good at marketing. He also is keen to play with our connections. Modal melodies are used at tender moments and these become couched in sieves. (Harley says the cry comes from a Corsican seabird)

Embellie (1981): Solo viola - "the calm in the storm" Said to be more freely composed - as if the other pieces aren't - one o his least satisfying solo works. Quasi-modal flavor which I think must be related to the "rustic"-ness of the viola. Falls into runs of the pelog sieve halfway thoghuout and then gestures reminiscent of Kottos. Ends with a harmonic gliss, perhaps its best moment. Disappointing. But then again, the other solo string works, with the exception of Kottos (Mikka, Mikka S, Theraps for instance) are also rather dull. Studies for larger works perhaps, or pointing toward limitations of the techniques when applied to solo instruments.

Mists (1981): Piano solo - rather disappointing. Here we have some random walks in arborescent fields coupled with some more random cloud-like structures, the "mists" of the title. These use a new technique for Xenakis - basically setting out a grid of sixteenth notes with the pitch rhythms spread out apart from the structure - this alows for a freer rhythmic sense and likely contributes to the effect Xenakis is looking for. I feel that this piece is an overall effect and the details are not quite well thought out - harmonically its dull. I almost get the feeling of a dull "Open Music" composed score that hasn't been adequately polsihed off.

Komboi (1981): Harpsichord and Percussion, Greek word for "knots" Formulaic (that's a word I would rarely use for Xenakis, but here it seems appropriate) piece it seems. There is some of the random note approach involved as well as some of the more rhythmic moments. There is also a much better integration of the scale (it sounds like the Jonchaies scale, but Harley says it is different) than in parts of Pleides - it is used harmonically. I find ever much that the use of harmony is so imprtnat for a work to not feel random and when it is eschewed it is becuase Xenais is trying to acheive the efect of randomness. Now, I'm torn as to whether or not random-ness is to be desired in a piece of music, and as to what the difference between something like randomness and somehting like arbitrariness is. I will think on this and save it for later.

Serment (1981): Choral work, written for of al tings, a cardio-vascular congress and setting parts of the Hippocratic Oath "Serment" = "oath" Begins with a setting out of a scale similar to the Jonchaies scale - which by now starts to sound more Javanese especially when presented melodically. Some formulaic use of the scale alternating with moments of brilliance - the piercing cries and use of Monteverdi trills. At the end of the work some heavy breathing alternating with glissandi, finally ending with what looks like Xenakis having some fun with Augenmusik - chords that build up and sustain with time intervals between pich entries at something like the thirty-second note. I remain deeply impressed with Xenakis' idiomatic, yet non-traditional use of the choir as ritual body perhaps. This likely developing from the notion of choir as in a Greek tragedy.

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