Vol. 31 Issue 3 Reviews

International Symposium: Iannis Xenakis—The Electroacoustic Work

Musikwissenschaftlichen Instituts, Universität zu Köln, Cologne, Germany, 11-14 October, 2006

Reviewed by Gerardo Scheige
Cologne, Germany

Five years after the death of Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001), the Musicological Institute of Cologne University, in cooperation with the Center for Composition of Music Iannis Xenakis (CCMIX), Romainville, France, and the Groupe de Recherches Musicales de l’Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (Ina-GRM), Paris, France, organized an international symposium, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Federal Cultural Foundation, and the Ernst von Siemens Foundation for Music. The symposium focussed on musicological reflections of the electroacoustic output of this influential Greek-French composer and architect. For the very first time, all of his electroacoustic pieces, some in audiovisual form, were successively presented in five accompanying concerts. The symposium aimed at developing multifaceted approaches to this special domain of Xenakis’ creative activity, which has until now met with only rudimentary research, and to define its relevance for the music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The grand opening began with greetings from Wolfram Steinbeck, acting director of the Cologne Musicological Institute, Gérard Pape (Romainville), director of CCMIX, and Daniel Teruggi (Paris), director of GRM. Afterwards, in his opening remarks, musicologist Christoph von Blumröder (Cologne) pointed out bright spots of present Xenakis research and affirmed the composer’s importance for contemporary music.

Over the following three days 22 scholars from ten countries illuminated Xenakis’ electroacoustic work as well as its theoretical and aesthetic premises from various viewpoints in the context of six thematically focussed sessions.

The first session, with lectures by James Harley (Guelph, Canada), Daniel Teruggi, and Anastasia Georgaki (Athens, Greece), delivered new insights into the continuities and changes in Xenakis’ electroacoustic music, the composer’s relationship with the GRM, and his influence on electroacoustic music in Greece. After that, Gérard Pape, Martha Brech (Berlin), Jan Simon Grintsch (Cologne), and Agostino Di Scipio (Naples, Italy) dealt with the interdependency between Xenakis’ philosophical concepts of time and synthesis and the compositional techniques in his early tape and computer music. Xenakis’ intermedial concepts, realized in electroacoustic film music, programmatic compositions, and the Polytopes, as well as their philosophical background, were the subjects of presentation by Ralph Paland (Cologne), Joris de Henau (Durham, UK), and Makis Solomos (Montpellier, France).

In the fourth session, Rudolf Frisius (Karlsruhe, Germany), Tobias Hünermann (Cologne), and Peter Hoffmann (Berlin, Germany) focussed on problems of analyzing Xenakis’ electroacoustic music, concentrating on Diamorphoses, Bohor, and Gendy3. The perspective of the fifth roundtable was on analytical discourse: Frank Hentschel (Berlin) discussed Xenakis’ connections to the discourses of high culture, whereas Wolfgang Gratzer (Salzburg, Austria), who himself was absent because of illness, presented in his manuscript the composer’s commentaries on his own works. In conclusion, Roman Brotbeck (Bern, Switzerland) and Simon Emmerson (Leicester, UK) reflected on aspects of the adoption, interpretation, and creative continuation of Xenakis’ music. Sharon Kanach (Thiouville, France), longtime assistant to Xenakis, concluded the series of lectures with a personally-colored insight into Xenakis’ compositional sketches and their characteristic nexus of visual, mathematical, and musical ideas.

Among the accompanying concerts (the sound direction alternated between Michael Schott, Gérard Pape, and Daniel Teruggi), which consistently attracted a considerable public, it is worth pointing out in particular the presentation of the film Orient-Occident (direction: Enrico Fulchignoni, music: Iannis Xenakis), the audiovisual performance of La légende d’Eer with a slideshow of Bruno Rastoin’s  photographs of the Diatope, and last but not least, a performance of this same work in the otherwise unknown eight-track spatialization, produced by Xenakis in Cologne using the facilities of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR).

The proceedings of this symposium are being published in the series Signale aus Köln (Lit-Verlag, Berlin)