Iannis Xenakis: composing with graphs
On Saturday 7th March the Barbican centre in London hosted a series of events and concerts based around the work of Iannis Xenakis. A timely complement to the current Le Corbusier exhibition at the Barbican art gallery, the evening concert included a performance of Metastaseis, the third movement of Anastenaria (1953). Based on ruled surfaces in the form of continuous glissandi, Xenakis’ composition was arrived at using drawings and graphs.
(Iannis Xenakis, ruled surfaces of sound in Metastasis, 1954)
Working in Corbusier’s office Xenakis had been responsible for amongst other things, the undulating glazed panels at La Tourette – based on proportions derived from Corbusier’s modulor.
See Robin Evans, The Projective Cast, (MIT Press, 1995), pp.295-301):
“The reason he had borrowed the Modulor was because.. it exploited a rare equivalence between a geometric series and an additive series. He was searching for some measure of unity in his musical notation, and was bothered by the irrelation between the geometric progression that defined the pitches of notes in the 12-tone scale, and the additive properties that conventionally pertain between note lengths and bar lengths. So he devised his own musical Fibonacci series to articulate the percussion and the string episodes in Metastasis.”
The concert, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in ‘Performance on 3’ (Tuesday 10 March 2009) is currently still available on the BBC iPlayer:
A graphical music creation tool called High C also offers some interesting examples: