Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Iannis Xenakis - Persépolis (1971)

Xenakis might be my absolute favourite of all of the 20th century avant-garde composers that I've listened to in recent years; only Penderecki has produced works more mindblowing and invigorating (out of all the composers I've heard so far - plenty still to discover!).  Xenakis' ouevre covers orchestral, chamber, solo and choral music, as well as towering masterpieces of brain-melting electroacoustic racket like this one.

Persépolis was the soundtrack to a massive light spectacle devised by Xenakis for the 1971 Shiraz Arts Festival in Iran, set in the ruins of a Persian temple.  It was the grandest in scale of all of his polytopes - works for sound and architecture, the full immersive effect of which we can now only guess at.

What we're left with as the audio document of this event is a stereo mix of around 50 minutes of crashing and creaking percussion and processed electronics.  This still has an overwhelming effect at full volume - the only way to listen to it, trust me.  There's a handful of different mixes available - this one was realised by German sound artist Daniel Teige, who would go on to direct a 'tribute' performance of the work in Los Angeles in 2010.

We bear the light of the earth

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