Iannis Xenakis 

(1922–2001) was a Greek composer, music theorist, and architect-engineer. He is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers.

Iannis Xenakis is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers. Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models in music such as applications of set theory, stochastic processes and game theory and was also an important influence on the development of electronic music. He integrated music with architecture, designing music for pre-existing spaces, and designing spaces to be integrated with specific music compositions and performances.

Among his most important works are Metastaseis (1953–4) for orchestra, which introduced independent parts for every musician of the orchestra; percussion works such as Psappha (1975) and Pléïades (1979); compositions that introduced spatialization by dispersing musicians among the audience, such as Terretektorh (1966); electronic works created using Xenakis's UPIC system; and the massive multimedia performances Xenakis called polytopes. Among the numerous theoretical writings he authored, the book Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (1971) is regarded as one of his most important. As an architect, Xenakis is primarily known for his early work under Le Corbusier: the Sainte Marie de La Tourette, on which the two architects collaborated, and the Philips Pavilion at Expo 58, which Xenakis designed alone.


Source: Wikipedia



UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique de CEMAMu) was conceived by Xenakis (the composer and electronic music pioneer who died in 2001) in collaboration with engineers and computer scientists at CEMAMu, the Centre d’Etudes de Mathématique et Automatique Musicales, also in Paris (and equally fond of confusing acronyms). Very basically, the system is made of a drawing tablet, the size of a large sheet of paper, which allows the user to make a direct sound composition using graphic elements. The tablet has vertical and horizontal axes – the former representing the character of sound produced, the latter controlling duration (represented as a left-to-right timeline). With an electronic pen, the user can ‘draw’ lines onto the board which are then directly translated into sound. The pitch and texture, or timbre, of a given sound is controlled by both the type of mark made – a single line is typically ‘smooth’ sounding, whilst many marks on a given page tend to have a ‘rougher’ quality – and what aspect of a sound the vertical axis is set to control: envelope, waveform, pitch or timbre. The parameters of duration can be controlled – you can set the scale of the horizontal axis to anything from minutes to fractions of a second.


Xenakis originally envisaged the system to have far reaching pedagogical and democratic implications for the role of music in people’s lives. By utilizing simple drawing methods, UPIC would do away with the need for people to have technical knowledge of musical notation and scoring, and allow them to engage directly with the question of what constitutes sound and music. Xenakis, an architect by training (he famously worked as Le Corbusier’s assistant) and fascinated in science and mathematics, was interested in the point at which programmatic systems meet ‘chance’, or ‘stochastic’ variables in the creation of music; he wrote "mathematics gives structures that are too regular and that are inferior to the demands of the ear and the intelligence." "The great idea is to be able to introduce randomness in order to break up the periodicity of mathematical function … the hand stands between randomness and calculation. It is both an instrument of the mind – so close to the head – and an imperfect tool." Every house would have a UPIC machine and access to the means of creating complex new music – "anybody, even myself or you, or children, can draw lines or graphics." However, the first attempts to market the UPIC occurred at the same time as sampling technology emerged and caught people’s imaginations. Only seven machines were ever sold. (...)


A good deal of current electronic music – especially within an art context – is moribund. The age-long desire for some kind of integrated music and art Gesamkunstwerk persists, but invariably most projects fall somewhere nearthe basic levels of Scanner’s drearily workaday samplings or the crassly literal art and Pop relationships flagged up by artists such as Christian Marclay. Electronica seems to signal little more than a fetish-ization of contemporaneity, technology and dance music subculture. (from Seen and Heard by Dan Fox)


Source: Frieze Magazine



Iannis Xenakis, *****, partitur, software, natural science


Notation. Calculation and Form in the Arts (2008) is a comprehensive catalogue (in German) edited by Dieter Appelt, Hubertus von Amelunxen and Peter Weibel which accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the Academy of the Arts, Berlin and the ZKM | Karlsruhe. (ZKM)

Notations 21 (2009) by Theresa Sauer features illustrated musical scores from more than 100 international composers, all of whom are making amazing breakthroughs in the art of notation. Notations 21 is a celebration of innovations in musical notation, employing an appreciative aesthetic for both the aural and visual beauty of these creations. The musical scores in this edition were created by composers whose creativity could not be confined by the staff and clef of traditional western notation, but whose musical language can communicate with the contemporary audience in a uniquely powerful way. (Notations 21 Project)



Screenplay (2005) is one of Christian Marclay's visual scores, in which found materials are collated as a representation of a sound performance to be interpreted by musicians. It is Marclay's intention that his film be viewed by performers as a score. Screenplay is compiled from film footage that Marclay spliced into something of a narrative. In addition, he introduced simple, colorful digital animations of lines and waveforms and big, round dots on top of some of the footage. (disquiet)

Ryoichi Kurokawa (1978) composes time based sculpture with digital generated materials and field recorded sources, and the minimal and the complexities coexist there. Ryoichi Kurokawa accepts sound and imagery as a unit not as separately, and constructs very exquisite and precise computer based works with the audiovisual language. That shortens mutual distance, the reciprocity and the synchronization of sound and visual composition. (Ryoichi Kurokawa)

Visual Kitchen explores the semantics of live AV performance and video art from a background of VJ’ing and music video production. As designers of moving images, VK adapts any kind of (non-)narrative structure into dazzling trips of visual flux, combining rigorously structured loops with soft- or hardware-generated chaos. The output is very diverse and versatile, from analogue photographic to digital minimalism, exploring the parameters of the canvas. (Visual Kitchen)

Sons et Lumières (2004) – A History of Sound in the Art of the 20th Century (in French) by Marcella Lista and Sophie Duplaix published by the Centre Pompidou for the excellent Paris exhibition in September 2004 until January 2005.

Curated by the Pompidou’s Sophie Duplaix with the Louvre’s Marcella Lista, the show required a good three or four hours to absorb, with its bombardment of sensory and intellectual input, including painting, sound sculpture, sound/light automata, film and video, and room-size installations. (Frieze Magazine)

‘vE-”jA: Art + Technology of Live Audio-Video (2006) by Xarene Eskander is a global snapshot of an exploding genre of tech-art performance: VJing and live audio-video. The book covers 40 international artists with 400+ colour images and 50+ movies and clips on an accompanying DVD and web downloads. (VJ Book)