Iannis Xenakis

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Born May 29, 1922(1922-05-29)
Brăila, Romania
Died February 4, 2001(2001-02-04) (aged 78)
Paris, France
Philips pavilion at Expo 58, designed by Xenakis.

Iannis Xenakis (Ιάννης Ξενάκης, 1922–2001) was a Greek-French composer, music theorist, and architect-engineer.

Studied engineering in Athens; upon graduation, he joined the studio of Le Corbusier in Paris, and worked with him on architectural projects for 12 years, most importantly the Sainte Marie de La Tourette, on which the two architects collaborated, and the Philips Pavilion at Expo 58, which Xenakis designed alone. It was not until he was nearly 30 that he undertook serious musical studies; enrolled in the class of Messiaen, and also took lessons with Honegger and Milhaud. Bypassing Schoenbergian dodecaphony and Webernian serialism, he began writing music according to the mathematical theories of sets and calculus of probability. In 1962 Xenakis wrote two pieces for the IBM 7090 computer, Morsima-Amorsima (ST/4–2, 030762) [Stochastic Music for 4 Performers, No. 1] and ST/10–1, 080262 (FLAC, analysis); programmed the music specifying duration and density of "sound events", leaving the parameters of pitch, velocity, and dynamics to the computer; both pieces were performed at the Technological Institute of Athens on 16 December 1962, sponsored by Hatzidakis (see below) and conducted by Lukas Foss. Among his important works are Metastaseis (1953-54, score) for orchestra, which introduced independent parts for every musician of the orchestra; percussion works such as Psappha (1975) and Pléïades (1979); and compositions that introduced spatialization by dispersing musicians among the audience, such as Terretektorh (1966). In 1979, he perfected the Polyagogic Method (UPIC), through which computer graphic images converted into musical structures. In Polytopes, a work whose title refers to Euclidean geometry, music is combined with visual stimuli in space (video).


Writings, books and catalogues

Cover of Xenakis' Formalized Music, 1971, Log.