Iannis Xenakis | i |
last name: Xenakis
first name: Iannis
birthday: May 29, 1922
birth-place: Braila (Romania)
death date: February 4, 2001
died in: Paris (France)

Xenakis was one of the earliest pioneers of computer-generated music. He used certain rules or elements from mathematics as a base for his compositions just as the earliest pioneers of computer-generated graphics did in the case of visual art.

But Xenakis did it earlier. He not only rediscovered the hidden and neglected relationship between music and science, as it was described in the Pythagorean model [needs explanation or reference], but also reinvented the relationship between theory and practice. He raised bridges and practiced the tradition of the “continuum” between the past and the present, the occidental music with extra occidental cultures, the electronic through the orchestral sound, the orchestral with the electronic sound, the choros and chronos, the sound and the light, the microkosmos with the macrokosmos.

In contemporary computer music (history and creation), Iannis Xenakis stands as one of the most important pioneers in computer assisted composition. Other pioneers are Lejaren Hiller, Pierre Barbaud, M. G. Koenig. In the early 1960s he used the newborn computer like a natural continuum of his mathematical needs. As he had to generate his first piece (Metastaseis, 1955-56) mainly by brain, dealing with vast amounts of data, he started using computers as a necessity to assist his calculations for mainly instrumental compositions, producing the works ST/4, ST/10, and ST/48 in 1962 (a considerable rate of increase in his output). All these early pieces were constructed on an IBM 7090 computer for note sequencing, instrumentation, pitch, duration, and dynamics. The computer’s ability to calculate his ideas faster was a propelling force for many of his works.


interview 2nd part


1922-May 29 : Xenakis is born in Braïla, Rumania

1932-Xenakis leaves Rumania for Greece : his father enrolled him in an English-Greek academy on the island of Spetsai. In addition to learning to love mathematics and Greek and foreign literature, Xenakis also began to discover music there.

1938-Fall : Xenakis leaves for Athens where he enrolled in a prep school in order to prepare the competition for entering the Athens Polytechnic Institute.He begins composing and taking private lessons with Aristote Koundourov in analysis, harmony and counterpoint. He also realized a geometric transcription of some of Bach’s works.

1940-He succeeds in entering the Athens Polytechnic Institute, but the school is closed the first day of classes, October 28, since Mussolini’s troupes had just invaded Greece. The Institute is intermittently reopened and closed.

1941-Xenakis joins the Greek Resistance,the E.A.M.(Communist Party of Greece)

1944-December-He is losing his one eye from a bombshell during a demonstration

1947-January 16 : defends his final thesis on “Reinforced concrete”.

He escapes from a prisoner’s camp and stays in hiding for six months in an apartment in Athens.

September : his father manages to get him a falsified passport, and Iannis boards, under the name of Konstantin Kastrounis, a cargo en route for Italy. Intending to end up in the United States, Xenakis decides to visit Paris.

November 11 : thanks to the help of Italian communists, he illegally crosses the border at Vintimille.

In Greece, he is given the death sentence in absentia for political terrorism. His father and brother are put into prison.

December : Xenakis is hired by Le Corbusier’s as an engineer, having been recommended by a friend of the architect Georges Candilis.

1949-Xenakis attempts studying composition with various professors, none of which however, correspond to his personality

1951-Xenakis meets Messiaen and asks for advice. The latter invites him to audit his classes, which Xenakis does faithfully in 1952 and less regularly in 1953. There he met, among others, Karlheinz Stockhausen.

1953-At Le Corbusier’s request, Xenakis organizes a “spatialized concert” on the roof of the housing unit in Marseille for the CIAM (Congrès international d’architecture moderne). Three different types of music are played from three different points on the terrace (musique concrète, traditional music from India and Japan, and jazz).

1955-July : Xenakis publishes “La crise de la musique sérielle” (The crisis of serial music) in the first issue of the Gravesaner Blätter.

1956-May 16: birth of his daughter, Mâkhi Zyïa.

July : publication of his " Probability theory and musical composition" in the Gravesano Blätter, n° 6, which is later reprinted in his book, Musiques Formelles (La Revue Musicale, n° 253-254, Richard-Masse, Paris, as well as in the English translations, Formalized Music cf. under Works, then Books). There, Xenakis explains the stochastic laws used in Pithoprakta, which he was composing at the time.

1957-Xenakis receives a grant from the European Cultural Foundation, whose jury was presided by Nicolas Nabokov.
March 8 : Pithoprakta is premièred at the Festival Musica Viva in Munich by the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, conducted by Hermann Scherchen.

1963-April 24 : first performance of a work by Xenakis at the Domaine Musical (Paris) : Herma, played by the pianist Georges Pludermacher, given with Schoenberg’s Opus 11 and 23, Amy’s Inventions, Constellations by Boulez, and Trio by Kotonski.

1967-January : publication of “Vers une métamusique” (Towards a metamusic) in the periodical La Nef, n° 29. In it, Xenakis analyzes scales from ancient Greek and Byzantine music and makes a detailed presentation of his “sieve” theory.

1968-Xenakis publishes “Vers une philosophy de la musique” (Towards a philosophy of music) in the Revue d’esthétique, vol. 21 n° 2-3-4 (a first version of this text was published in 1966 in the Gravesaner Blätter). In this essay, he again discusses the differentiation between outside-time and in-time and explains how he applied rotating cubes in his composition of Nomos Alpha.

1970-Osaka World Fair : presentation of Hibiki Hana Ma, an eight-track electroacoustic piece, within a performance including laser beams.

1973-March – April : Xenakis teaches at the University of Montreal as an invited Eminent Professor.

Xenakis receives the Beethoven Prize from the city of Bonn; and in Paris, is awarded the Grand Prize from the Charles-Cros Recording Academy.

July 13 : Taurhiphanie is premièred in the amphitheatre of Arles (France), as part of the Radio-France International Festival based in Montpellier.

Xenakis completes his GENDY computer program that introduces a stochastic algorithm in the sound synthesis process called “dynamic stochastic synthesis”.

February 4 : Xenakis is awarded the Kyoto Prize in Japan.

Xenakis dies at home 5 in the morning after many health problems

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