A few weeks ago at the Saronic Chamber Music Festival in Poros, Greece I heard Psappha, a work for solo percussion by Iannis Xenakis. The impact of this music, brilliantly realized by the virtuosic young Greek percussionist Alexandros Giovanos under the night sky of its native land, was quite literally stunning. I have since done a bit of reading about the piece, struggling without success to understand the complex mathematical processes that underlie it. One of many things I admire about Xenakis and his music is this: though his compositions were frequently the result of extremely complex formal and mathematical techniques the result is anything but aridly intellectual. His music is sensual, visceral and often overwhelming in its raw power. The man was truly a genius of modern music, and that night at the Syggrou Amphitheatre an unforgettable musical epiphany. Mπράβο Aλέξανδρο! Mπράβο Ξενάκη!

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3 Responses to “Psappha”

  1. That sounds incredible. I completely agree with your comments on his music, and I’ve also struggled to grasp the ‘stochastic’ method involved in some of his composition. If you haven’t already come across it, the book on him by Nouritza Matossian is supposed to be the most accessible way into all that, although I confess I’ve not read it.

  2. Dylan Thomas Hayden Says:

    Thanks for the interesting comment and the book tip. I was thinking a bit about this again yesterday. It’s rather like nature: one feels the majesty of a mountain without usually thinking of the particles the mountain is made of nor their mathematical expression, though to do so can provoke a different sort of wonder. Does this mean Xenakis is God?

  3. Ha, well by extension it means any act of creativity is a godlike act, no? Although if the level of Godhead depends on the output, then Xenakis is certainly pretty high in the pantheon.

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