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[P]
Composer Xenakis dead at age 78

By cybin in News
Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 10:22:16 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)
Music

The Greek composer Iannis Xenakis has died. Read his obituary from the New York Times here. Xenakis was instrumental in the formation of CEMAMU, an electronic music center in Paris. He also spent many years of his life involved with IRCAM, the world-wide hub of electronic art music. Most of his work involved computers as well as mathematical probability systems, and a technique called Granular Synthesis, recently popularized by composer Barry Truax.


Here is a short biography.

Also, a short history of electronic music (see 1967).

Xenakis was a fascinating figure. He received a late musical training and had originally planned on being an architect and engineer. He found in music many ways to convey the structures of math and architecture. Most of these are fascinating in and of themselves, and deserve a bit of reading.

I will admit i am a little sensitive to this subject, being the co-author of a granular synthesis program myself (for linux no less :). I hope at least a few people will see this and get turned on to his music -- it is truly amazing to listen to (and follow the score if you can find one!).

Recommended listening:

  • Mycenae-Alpha (composed with a piece of hardware resembling a drawing tablet that Xenakis built)
  • Concret PH (a piece composed entirely by recording and modifying the sounds of burning charcoal).
Reading:
  • Musiques Formelles by Xenakis.

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Poll
I have heard this living or recently deceased composer's name:
o Iannis Xenakis 1%
o Philip Glass 36%
o John Adams 2%
o Henryk Gorecki 4%
o Arvo Part 0%
o John Rutter 2%
o Karl Stockhausen 1%
o Some or All of these 52%

Votes: 75
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o here
o Granular Synthesis
o Barry Truax
o Here
o a short history of electronic music
o Also by cybin


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Composer Xenakis dead at age 78 | 23 comments (18 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting stuff... (4.00 / 1) (#1)
by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:51:24 AM EST

I'd never heard of this guy before, and am glad that rather than just saying "he died," you went into detail as to why it's relevant. The stuff about granular synthesis is pretty interesting (hence my +1 vote) - could you point me to your granular synthesis program? I've been looking for a decent way to compose music under Linux, and have gotten sick of rebooting into Windows to use Impulse Tracker, and I'm definitely not adverse to trying out completely different methodologies; this one sounds as good as any.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

amber linkage (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by cybin on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:18:26 AM EST

the program i wrote with my linux-runnin' C++-codin' girlfriend can be found at this link. BTW this was the result of a $3000 research grant from my university :) it works well, make sure you read the docs cos it's a little convoluted :) anyone who knows C++ is welcome to muck around with it! we are still badly in need of a GUI front end and a Mac port.

if you want to get into electronic music (that's distinctly NOT mod trackeresque :) check out the Computer Music Tutorial by Curtis Roads... it's our bible. and, go out and pick some CDs up, by Xenakis, Truax, my teacher Benjamin Broening (check amazon:), Stockhausen, Varese, etc.

[ Parent ]
Granular Synthesis (none / 0) (#9)
by inpHilltr8r on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 10:51:16 AM EST

Fascinating, sounds, err, reads like firing a particle emitter into soft-synth. Got any audio files? I'm curious as to the overall effect.

[ Parent ]
Another link (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by dave114 on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:33:46 AM EST

Sound & Midi Software for Linux
Seems to have a lot of stuff (Notation, encoders, guitar software, dj software, sound drivers, mixers, mod trackers/players

[ Parent ]
I go there all the time... (none / 0) (#12)
by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 11:48:39 AM EST

...and all of the stuff for creating music is woefully inadequate. :P
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

The poll, and knowledge (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by Aquarius on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:13:01 AM EST

At first, I thought that the question in the poll was offensive (rather a more-knowledgeable-than-thou snooty question, don't you think?) Then I saw the funny side and laughed. Then I was humbled by the fact that I only knew two composers (Glass and Stockhausen) from the list.[1]

Then again, when I saw the question, my immediate thought was "Joaquin Rodrigo!" and he was not on the list. He didn't write electronic music, really, though...

Aq.

[1] Well, possibly three[2], on the grounds that I *think* I've heard of Arvo Part, but I'm not sure.
[2] ...and if you'd just given me the list of names then I'd have also claimed to have heard of John Adams, but I think that I may have done because he was an American president at one point. :)

"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace" -- Ronin, Frank Miller
*grin* (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by cybin on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:24:52 AM EST

i almost put in a "None" option, but i thought that might be taken the wrong way :) people who haven't heard of any of them won't vote. clever, eh? :)

i'll admit it took me a minute to think of them, but i DO have a picture of Gorecki on my wall. he writes acoustic music though -- nice stuff.

john adams recently wrote a piece called Gnarly Buttons that has a synth patch in it that goes "mooo". the movement is called "Mad Cow".

rodrigo is great BTW ! i regret not including him :) he even has his own domain, joaquin-rodrigo.com.

i mostly posted this because i think it's a travesty that art music gets pushed aside by commercial radio -- i think geeks have the overwhelming ability to be accepting of this sort of music because of our eagerness for new technologies :) i couldn't let Xenakis' death go unnoticed.

[ Parent ]
guitly admission (none / 0) (#6)
by h2odragon on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 04:50:44 AM EST

I've only heard of Philip Glass on the "South Park Christmas Special"... Perhaps I should try to reduce the amount of ignorance in my life a little, eh? :)

Pärt (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by madams on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:03:08 AM EST

Arvo Pärt mentioned in a K5 poll? It's just too good to be true (gush) (btw, I answered "some of the above").

But if anyone is interested in a budding free software digital music project, GNU Octal is worth a look.

--
Mark Adams
"But pay no attention to anonymous charges, for they are a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age." - Trajan's reply to Pliny the Younger, 112 A.D.

No it's not (none / 0) (#11)
by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 11:47:21 AM EST

Octal almost never seems to be worked on or updated, and every time there is a release, they say, "Well, the mixing engine works perfectly! Only there's no GUI, and sound is currently disabled. But the mixing engine works great! Honest!" Doesn't really do any good. :P

The only working and usable tracker for Linux right now is SoundTracker, and it's buggy enough and has such a lousy interface that I currently find it easier to just reboot into Windows and use Impulse Tracker. Gyar. There's plenty of tracker projects for Linux, but no actual trackers (by "tracker" I mean "something where you can successfully put together a song based on more than a measure's worth of notes").
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Those who can... (none / 0) (#16)
by sec on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 07:55:07 PM EST

Those who can, do.

Those who can't, offer bug reports and constructive criticism.

Those who can't handle that, wait patiently while others move things forward.

Those degraded wretches who can't even handle that, bitch, moan, and whine.



[ Parent ]

Ah, but you see... (none / 0) (#18)
by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:32:00 PM EST

I whine, bitch and moan because although I do have the capability to write a tracker, I don't have the patience to, as I am busy with quite a few other projects at any given moment, and although I have been waiting patiently for many years for a single viable tracker to emerge on the UNIX platform, so far not a single viable tracker has emerged, and frankly, my patience has worn quite thin. As I understand it, Impulse Tracker (for DOS) was mostly written over the course of a few months (in pure Assembler, no less); why can't there be anything even remotely similar after many years for Linux?

I would honestly pay good money to anyone who can provide a usable, working music production system for Linux. As an example, I donated $50 to Pulse for his work on Impulse Tracker simply because it was such a relatively high-quality piece of software (if I just wanted to write out stereo .WAVs, there would have been far cheaper ways to do that); I would personally donate at least that much to anyone who can help to liberate me from Windows, and I'm sure many other musicians would do the same.

Seriously, if I had the time and patience to do so, I would write it myself. I have several ideas for (what I think are) new (evolutionary, not revolutionary) ideas in music production which would make for something quite usable and flexible, but my plate's currently full with other stuff.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

You know... (none / 0) (#20)
by sec on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 05:16:05 PM EST

Here's a place you might like. I've noticed that many people there seem to think it's cool to bitch and whine about the status of some open-source project while not lifting a finger to help out. You'd fit right in.



[ Parent ]

How bout Wendy Carlos... and more (none / 0) (#17)
by driph on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:03:57 PM EST

You may have heard her before.. She wrote the soundtracks for Tron and A Clockwork Orange.

Along the lines of Concret PH, another interesting musical experiment is the LHPO, a "MIDI controlled, propane powered explosion organ." Songs here.

And of course, there is always the theramin.

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave

smiles (none / 0) (#19)
by cybin on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 12:42:09 PM EST

wendy carlos always makes me grin, because we (who learn about these sorts of things in school) know she used to be Walter Carlos. :)

and yes, the theremin is a great instrument... i own one:)

there is a new piece by Stockhausen (1996 or so) for string quartet where each member of the quartet is on a helicopter. cool, huh? :)

[ Parent ]
wo(man) and theramin (none / 0) (#21)
by driph on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 07:40:47 PM EST

wendy carlos always makes me grin, because we (who learn about these sorts of things in school) know she used to be Walter Carlos. :)

Hah! Can't say I didn't learn anything this week.

and yes, the theremin is a great instrument... i own one

Did you buy a complete theramin, or build it from a kit? What kind did you go with?

I've got a list of things I want to do when I am insanely rich and eccentric. One of them is to build a 100 foot tall completely accurate set of cricket legs. The other is to design a theramin room, where movements and position adjust the pitch, volume, etc... Imagine being able to hear what kind of music dance would make, as opposed to the other way around... or making love, or playing chess..



--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]
brilliant! (none / 0) (#22)
by cybin on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 10:58:46 PM EST

i bought the theremin kit from bigbriar.com and soldered it myself... it's pretty easy, and easily modifiable for your theremin room idea. john cage did something similar with dancers, he hung theremin antennae from the cieling of the stage and amplified the sound into the audience... :)

you may want to consider using a MIDI-based theremin and then piping the ensuing data into MAX/MSP, which is a great program for making computers do things with sound you wouldn't think of :)

[ Parent ]
So it goes... (none / 0) (#23)
by keyeto on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:25:56 PM EST

I really enjoyed Xenakis in my teens. It was the first "high art" music I ever appreciated. It wan't long before I was working through the likes of Berio, and the like. And he dies only a short while after my favourite composer, Conlan Nancarrow. Although, it's hard to call his music electronic, even if most of his pieces could only be performed by player pianos.


--
"This is the Space Age, and we are Here To Go"
William S. Burroughs
Composer Xenakis dead at age 78 | 23 comments (18 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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