Iannis Xenakis Tribute - 91'st anniversary

11 experts quote about Iannis Xenakis for SpaceUnder.

By Nota Tsekoura, on 29th May, 2013 13:39



Tribute to IANNIS XENAKIS | composer + architect 



"Η μουσική που γράφω είναι αποτέλεσμα στιγμών σειράς ολόκληρης ζωής και σκέψεων, και γι' αυτό είναι δύσκολο να πω ότι αυτή η ιδέα ήρθε γι' αυτό το έργο, άλλη ιδέα ήρθε για άλλο έργο, ή τέτοιους κανόνες δημιούργησα για το τάδε. Είναι μια συνεχής πορεία, σαν σιδηρόδρομος δηλαδή που έχει διάφορα οχήματα, αλλά και που και που έρχονται και άλλα και μπαίνουνε μέσα ξαφνικά. Γι' αυτό είναι δύσκολο να πω πώς γίνεται βαθμό προς βαθμό ολόκληρη η εξέλιξη ενός έργου, αλλά πάντως αυτό που μπορώ να πω είναι το εξής, ότι όλα μαζί είναι συνδεδεμένα. Είναι σε αμάλγαμα, όπως η θεωρία, οι ιδέες οι θεωρητικές ή οι φιλοσοφικές, όπως ας πούμε η ιδέα του προσδιοριστέου του προσδιορισμένου ή του τυχαίο. Η διαφορά αυτή τι σχέση έχει στο φιλοσοφικό τομέα και πώς συμβαίνει και στις φυσικές επιστήμες ή ακόμα και στην κβαντική μηχανική παραδείγματος χάριν ή στη μουσική. Τι σημασία έχει και τη σχέση έχει με τον άνθρωπο, με τη λογική του, τη διαίσθηση του. Όλα αυτά μπαίνουνε τελικά σε ορισμένα πλαίσια,τύπους λογικούς,  καμιά φορά δεν ξέρω αν είναι λογικοί καν, πάντως μπαίνουν σε ορισμένους τύπους σκέψεως, κινήσεων που θα έλεγε και ο Πλάτωνας. Κινήσεων ψυχικών που μεταφράζονται σχεδόν αυτόματα σε ήχους οι οποίοι ήχοι είναι σύμβολα πια, σύμβολα πραγμάτων, γεγονότων τα οποία έχουν από πίσω τους ολόκληρες αυτές τις σκέψεις."  Ψηφιακό Αρχείο ΕΡΤ: 1 Ιανουαρίου 1983 "Μονόγραμμα Γιάννης Ξενάκης"


"The music that i write is the result of a series of lifetime moments and thoughts, and therefore it is difficult to say this idea came for this project, another idea came for another project, or that such rules I created for that piece. It is an ongoing process, a railroad even with several vehicles on it but where also more are coming in suddenly. So, it becomes difficult to say how a piece is developed step by step, but what I can say is that, everything is linked together. Is an amalgam, like theory, the theoretical or philosophical ideas, like the idea of the determinable or random; what is the relationship of this difference in the philosophical field, and that happens in the natural sciences or even in quantum mechanics for example or in music; what does it matter and what is the relationship that it has with the human, with his logic, his intuition. All this finally tuck in some contexts, types of logic, sometimes I do not even know if they are logic, but in any case they enter in some types of thought, or movements like Plato would say. Mental movements almost automatically translated into sounds, sounds that are symbols now, symbols of things, of facts that behind them they have these kind of complete thoughts. " Digital Archive ERT: January 1, 1983 "Monogram Yannis Xenakis"



To understand the work of Iannis Xenakis, you must have acoustic decency and depth in your soul. To measure the impact of Iannis Xenakis you just need to witness how far he extended our perspectives opening the way towards new research possibilities, inspiring new experimental approaches. 

Iannis Xenakis was born in 1922 from Greek parents of the diaspora in Romania,  moved to Greece in 1938 and studied in Athens. A British shell exploded almost on top of him while others were killed next to him during his involvement in street fighting against British tanks in December 1944. ["Xenakis survived the injury has been described as a miracle" (wikipedia)] he was sentenced to death due to his participation on the anti-fascist underground movement while he had escaped to Italy with a fake passport and then he fled to France where he lived the rest of his life and died on February 4 at the age of '78. 

"For years I was tormented by guilt at having left the country for which I'd fought. I left my friends—some were in prison, others were dead, some managed to escape. I felt I was in debt to them and that I had to repay that debt. And I felt I had a mission. I had to do something important to regain the right to live. It wasn't just a question of music—it was something much more significant." Iannis Xenakis - Varga 1996, 47 

His love for mathematics lead him to explore architecture, music, philosophy and art in a unique way. Until now Xenakis has influenced the professional as well as the academic way of thinking and keeps inspiring all shorts of artist, musicians, architects, and not only, around the globe. His work has generated paths for new practices and even new professions. His impact could have been bigger only If the world was larger!

"Sometimes musicians think that they have the truth in what they are doing and all the other people that are doing something different are out of the truth, they are liars. I think that is happening also with scientists." Iannis Xenakis - from interview with Volker Banfield Heinz Otto Peitgen


We asked a group of experts and respected musicians and architects to write a quote about Xenakis as tribute to his unique contribution to contemporary music, art and architecture.



Quotes on Iannis Xenakis from 11 experts around the world



"Σ`ένα κόσμο υπερανθρώπων η μουσική του Ξενάκη σίγουρα θα ήτανε η πιό διαδεδομένη…"  - "In a world of superhumans the music of Xenakis would be the most widespread ..." 05.2013

François-Bernard Mâche, French composer and performer of musique concrète and experimental music (France)
A member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts since 2002 and occupies the chair of the late Iannis Xenakis.



"Iannis Xenakis is one of the most original creators of the 20th century. Musical works such as Metastaseis, Concret PH, Terretektorh, Psappha or Horos opened a totally new sound universe. His thinking, both musical as well as theoretical, about the art of sounds and its relationship to the world, overturned all previous convictions. His relationship to the sciences and technology defined new artistic concepts and practices. His interdisciplinary artistic practice made him one of the foremost pioneers in multimedia art. It is why his work opens up a golden path for the arts of today and tomorrow." 05.2013

Makis Solomos, musicologist, specialist of Xenakis' music, University Paris 8 (Greece, France)
author of : Iannis Xenakis, Mercues | published a detailed commented bibliography of writings of/on Xenakis | co-organizes international symposiums on Iannis Xenakis [Paris, Athens]



"In the current era we are newly recognizing how we dissect time, space and shape from each other, none necessarily preexistent or overtly universal, perhaps merging into an equivalence of indiscernibles. This exploration is already opened in the work of Iannis Xenakis, wherein forms illuminate themselves to a vast array of perspectives, uniting disciplines in deep investigations of being." 05.2013

David Rosenboomcomposer, performer, author and educator(USA)
among his works: "Xenakis ensemble room discussions", documented conversations with Xenakis on music and music learning during Xenakis's residency at Mills College, Oakland, CA.



The work of Iannis Xenakis is a crucial link for “The Architectonics of Music,” an architecture studio I have taught at Columbia University for several years. His musical inventions shine light on possible future architectures.” 05.2013

Steven Hollarchitect, principal at Steven Holl Architects, tenured Professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture and Planning (USA) 
Taught “The Architectonics of Music" at GSAPP.



“Xenakis’s music and writings shattered the boundaries I had placed around sound, architecture, philosophy, technology, and politics, and showed how these fields interact—not only in his work—but in the various environments in which we all live.” 05.2013

Ron Squibbsassociate professor of music theory, university of Connecticut (USA)
wrote numerous articles and conferences on iannis Xenakis like: Xenakis in Miniature: Style and Structure | Time-Span and Pitch-Space Analysis as a Model of Perception in Two Works by Xenakis.



"Xenakis made a brave and largely successful attempt to escape the suffocating modernist confines of ‘new’ music in the west in the middle of the 20th century by reaching outside of the box, across time into the ancient past, across space into other musical cultures, and across disciplines into architecture and the parallel paradigms of contemporary science - a weaver of sounds on a cosmic loom, mirroring the harmonies of the universe." 05.2013

Kevin JonesEmeritus Professor of Music, Kingston University, London (UK)
made conferences on Xenakis like:  a comparison of the musical and scientific thinking of Xenakis with that of ancient china: the architecture of scales and the notion of Lu.




"I didn't know that Xenakis was born on May 29, the anniversary of the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps.  But it makes sense somehow, like Le Sacre his musical life both ruptured connections to the past and reinforced them.  What was ruptured was the weak link of nostalgia -- it was replaced with the rawness of the new.  But what was maintained was equally important -- a deep sense that the music we make today is linked to where we come from. Xenakis was both the most modern revolutionary and an ancient Greek exiled in the future.  What brilliance, what electricity, what passion came from that conflict!" 05.2013

Steven Schick, Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego and a Consulting Artist in Percussion at the Manhattan School of Music (USA)
One of the preeminent interpreters of Xenakis's music that has presented several of Xenakis exploratory pieces. 



"The music of Xenakis evokes something of the violence of humanity as well as the striving of our creative impulses to understand and express the thoughts and impulses that swirl about our rational and unconscious selves, but equally, his music echoes the primal forces of nature, the wonders of the cosmos." 05.2013

James Harley, D.Mus.Associate Professor, Music -School of Fine Art and Music, University of Guelph (Canada)
author of the book : "Xenakis: his life in music" and of papers like : " the creative compositional legacy of Iannis Xenakis" 



"what excites me about xenakis' work is the visual relationship between the scores and the actual music, similar to the visual relationship of the scores to architecture - xenakis, in his graphic scores seems much more to be building than composing - at least in the idea that building is about form and space, while composition is more about narrative." 06.2013
Steve Roden,sound and visual artist (USA)

his works are focused on visuals, sound and space. He has participated with his work in exhibitions and events inspired by Xenakis like: "Polytopes: The Architecture of Soundscapes". He is a co author of  the book "Site of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear". 




"It’s assumed that once artists become established, they usually stick to their winning formulae and stop exploring. This is generally accepted and forgiven. In contrast, Xenakis kept experimenting right into his 70s, when he learnt a new programming language to create GENDYN by himself.

This leads to the other remarkable thing about Xenakis. There are many examples of great music created without the use of formalised systems. There are also many examples of interesting systems that create terrible music. Xenakis often succeeded in both: creating great music with the use of interesting systems, and without assigning the former to the ‘composer’ and the latter to the ‘assistant’. This is what I have learnt from him: the importance of both aspects in experimental art." 05.2013

Ryo Ikeshiroelectronic and acoustic musician, PhD Candidate in composition, Department of Music and Department of Computing (UK
author of : "GENDYN and Merzbow:a noise theory critique of Xenakis’s dynamic stochastic synthesis and its relevance on noise music today" 



 "Yannis Xenakis' graphic scores are works of art, introducing us to code writing aesthetics in today's algorithmic design." 05.2013

Dimitris Papalexopoulosarchitect, Professor at the School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens (Greece) his work refers also to the integration of space, information technology and algorithmic design.



We express our sincere gratitude to all the important musicians, architects, professors and artists above for being able to participate in this tribute by writing  their own personal quote about Xenakis.



learn more about Iannis Xenakis