Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Iannis Xenakis - Electronic Music (1997 compi of works 1957-1992)

Can't believe I haven't posted this yet.  The title of this compilation says 'Electronic'; the first major LP release of this material (pic below) called it 'Electro-Acoustic'; but rather than get bogged down in the distinctions, just enjoy some of the most forward-looking composed & manipulated sounds of the mid-20th century.
In 1955, Xenakis connected with Pierre Schaeffer's Groupe des Recherches Musicales, based around the latter's Radio France studio, and started work on the first three tracks here.  Like Schaeffer's material of the era, also expertly manipulated from mechnical sounds, the sense I get from listening to Diamorphoses, Orient-Occident and Concret PH is similar to what it must be like for a Clapton or Hendrix fan listening to Robert Johnson on a crackly 78: the sound is lo-fi but the elemental inspiration is otherworldly.

By 1962, when the 20-minute Bohor was completed, Xenakis' tightly-wound, creaking and clattering percussive electronic stew was reaching new heights of sophistication and well on the way to the sound of Persepolis.  Bohor is the definite highlight here for me; fellow audio nerds might enjoy this little ancedote about the challenges of squeezing this kind of music into vinyl. 

That's not all we get on the CD here, though: Hibiki-Hana-Ma (reverberation flower interval), composed for the Osaka Expo in 1970 and broadcast there on 800 loudspeakers, is a fascinating start-stop melange designed as cross-cultural celebration.  Lastly, Xenakis' constant progress in mathematical compostion and computer programming threw up the utterly bizarre S.709 (1992-1994), sounding like Aphex Twin somehow managing to capture the sound of a released helium balloon flying around the studio.



  1. Alan - this is unrelated - but - are u familiar with "Intercontinental" by Joe Pass? Wonderful album with Eberhard Weber playing straight ahead upright bass - from 1970 before his custom bass was made. Good stuff.

    1. Thanks Chico, don't know that one - thanks for the tip!