Heavy Vanguard: Iannis Xenakis // Electronic Music [Compilation]

Avant-garde classical music took a huge leap forward in the 50s and 60s when a handful of composers (including John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, among others) began to play around with simply wild ideas in terms of composition, beyond anything that the likes of Schoenberg or Webern had done in the past. One of the minds essential to this period was one Iannis Xenakis, a Greek composer and architect who applied the same mathematical concepts he used to to make buildings to compose music, eventually coining the term “stochastic” music to refer to the mathematical, statistical, and physical principals being applied to music. While he’s perhaps not as well remembered as Cage or Stockhausen, Xenakis was nonetheless an important composer, and an early adopter of electronic music, with this compilation today being a collection of his earliest musique concrète compositions. (The term musique concrète was a French term coined by Pierre Schaefer, whose early experiments with tape recordings essentially laid the foundation for the future of electronic music.)

Electronic Music is not for the faint of heart; the pieces presented in this compilation can be incredibly difficult because of the melange of sounds involved and their presentation. For instance, the first track Metamorphoses contains a multitude of industrial sounds, such as train engines, but they are used in such a way and to such an effect that it must be listened without said demarcations (read: the sounds are from a train, but in this context they become something else.) (Concret PH, similarly, is created from the recorded sound of charcoal breaking, split over a two-minute period.)

While this is one of the more difficult albums we have gone over, it’s nonetheless an amazing listen, and can be extremely rewarding if you can keep your mind open.

Recommended Listening:

  • Karlheinz Stockhausen—Studie I
  • Various Artists—Adventures In Sound
  • Frank ZappaLumpy Gravy

This Week’s Episode:

This Week’s Album:

Please note that this video only covers a few tracks of the compilation; for a more detailed list, check Xenakis’s works page or the tracklisting for this compilation on Discogs.

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