Works performed by Earplay:

à R. (hommage à Maurice Ravel)

Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) was born into a Greek family residing in Braila, Romania. He studied civil engineering at the Athens Polytechnic, but the German invasion followed by the British occupation drew him into the Resistance, activities from which he would end up near fatally wounded, losing one eye, then later condemned to death. Forced to escape his country, Xenakis ended up in Paris, wanting to study music, but earning a living working as an engineering assistant for Le Corbusier.

His creative and intellectual intensity attracted the attention of both the renowned architect, who delegated architectural projects to him in spite of his lack of professional training, and the composer and pedagogue Olivier Messiaen, who saw in the music he was struggling to produce in isolation an originality deserving of encouragement.

Critical of other developments in contemporary music at the time, dominated by the serialists (Darmstadt school) such as Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Xenakis followed his own path, aided by his background in mathematics, engineering and design, and by his interest in complex sonic phenomena (rainstorms, street demonstrations, etc.). He incorporated probability theory into his compositional approach, as a means of generating and controlling large-scale events composed of massive numbers of individual elements. He also adopted the sonic entity (texture) as the primary material for the construction of musical form (rather than themes or pitch structures).

Iannis Xenakis was awarded the Kyoto Prize (Japan) in 1997, the UNESCO International Music Prize in 1998, and the Polar Prize (Sweden) in 1999. In December 2000, the world premiere of a couple of his very early works, from the Anasteria triptych based on an ancient Greek rite, took place in Germany, almost 50 years after they were composed (1952-53). He died on February 4, 2001, at age 78.

[from program for November 12, 2001 concert]