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Q&A

Did Xenakis intend his gratingly dissonant music to express his personal hardships?

+1
−0

I enjoy, and have no problems with:

  1. Xenakis's pieces for Solo Instruments (esp. tonal pieces like Six chansons pour piano), Percussion (Ensemble), or String (Ensemble).

  2. no more than a handful of Xenakis's ensemble music like Jonchaies, Keqrops, Pithoprakta.

  3. most (Post)Modernist composers like The Second Viennese School, Ligeti, Messiaen, Penderecki.

I still hanker to like, and acquire taste for, Xenakis's Gratingly Dissonant Music (abbreviate GDM) excluded overhead, like [Metastaseis](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metastaseis_(Xenakis). I ask the titled question to know if it explains why his GDM give me a headache, after a year of listening. But I found clashing answers as follows:

###Yes to the Titled Question

  1. Tom Service, Apr. 23 2013 article:

A Greek man in his early 20s fights for his homeland as part of the Communist resistance at the end of the second world war. Shrapnel from a blast from a British tank causes a horrendous facial injury that means the permanent loss of sight in one eye. He is sentenced to death after his exile to Paris (a sentence that was later commuted to a prison term, with his conviction finally quashed with the end of the junta in 1974).

[...]

Xenakis has said that his war-time experience informed his desire to create his new kind of sound-experience. (He described the play of sirens, gunfire, and spotlights in Athens in the 1940s as like a "large-scale spectacle") Yet his music sounds, to me at least, to be purged – or perhaps to be a purging - of the sort of existential darkness that György Ligeti's music, say, never escapes. (Among the closest Xenakis comes to a direct emotional utterance is in his Nuits for chorus; music that sounds like a primordial cry, an impassioned scream.)

  1. Redditor 'scrumptiouscakes' answers 'yes':

Still, I think it's fair to say that Xenakis aimed to create particular kinds of disturbing, noisy music informed by his wartime experiences.

###No to the Titled Question

  1. Redditor 'gail_the_snaill':

I don't think he meant to disturb you except in a good way. It's like asking, about pepper in food, whether it's supposed to burn you: yes, and it's intended to be pleasurable.

So I would recommend trying other music, e.g. guided by a book on music history, and see what you think. Check out pieces by his teacher Messiaen and his rivalscontemporaries Stockhausen and Boulez.

  1. Redditor 'glow100':

Xenakis took an artillery shell in his face when he was young, but his innovative computer and math systems represent a very high concept which, to me, is far from disturbing. (I don't know any other detail of his personal life.) The actual music, like L'egend D'eer, does have an unsettling element to it, but it has a very high intelligence behind it (eg, stochastic micro sound structure) and is fascinating to listen to if you can get into it.

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