Iannis Xenakis revolutionized post-war music more forcefully than any other 20th-century composer. A Resistance leader in World War II, he escaped from Greece to Paris under sentence of death. He became one of Le Corbusier’s chief architects, and a pioneer of the computer age in music and the arts. Milan Kundera called him ‘the prophet of insensibility’.
Xenakis harnessed chaos theory and invented ‘stochastic music’. He freed the sound spectrum from western scales and based music on natural principles. He combined architecture, light and sound in a radical new art form to create a boundless aesthetic in music. Shunned by contemporaries, this influential thinker created over 150 vast compositions imbued with elemental passion, and brilliantly reinvented the landscape of music forever.
Since it was first published in 1981, Nouritza Matossian’s perceptive book on Xenakis has helped students, musicians and audiences appreciate his music. She shares his Greek culture and interest in philosophy, and has chronicled vital discoveries in his work. A reserved man, he spoke frankly to her about his mysterious methods of composition, and his relationships with Varèse, Messiaen, Le Corbusier and Boulez.
Xenakis’ prophecy that computers, science and art would converge makes this book essential reading for understanding the digital revolution of our time. Matossian’s well-researched biography is an unrivalled classic on modern music. This new edition includes an unpublished interview and essays, and is illustrated with musical and architectural sketches, scores and recently released archival photos.
The New Yorker • An intelligent book.
The Independent • Even those inclined to question this composer’s musicality are likely to be caught up in this account of his participation in the post-war Greek Resistance, his architectural work with Le Corbusier and his struggles to gain a musical technique and hearing. With its many documents and diagrams, this is a revealing contribution to the history of the post-war avant-garde.
Perspectives of New Music • How refreshing, exciting and how rare to find a biographical study that captures the essence of its subject, as if Nouritza Matossian took the cue for her writing style from the composer himself. It presents a penetrating and sensitive examination of one of the most fascinating, creative and controversial figures in music today. Xenakis is a work that has a truly wide range of appeal and would be an asset to any library’s collection on contemporary music.
Le Nouvel Observateur • Very rich in powerful emotions.
Le Monde • A biography accessible to everyone. It’s no small achievement to say that after reading this book no one will ever be able to say again that Xenakis is a cerebral, inhuman artist. The very first account of the composer’s youth, experiences in architecture, early musical career are thoroughly treated. In addition a large number of Xenakis’ compositional techniques are explained in such as way as to make this book an excellent introduction to a universe which suddenly becomes more friendly than it ever seemed before.
Music and Musicians • Nouritza Matossian’s account of the life and music of Xenakis is elegantly written from close personal knowledge and is an ideal introduction to the restless innovations of this brave and isolated pioneer, who emerges as an original many-sided genius.
Harmonie • Not content with analysing in detail certain capital works, she also examines in depth his philosophical and mathematical thinking, his work in architecture and its connections with music. The biography and portrait of the man are of priceless importance. It must be said without hesitation that we have here a book bursting with information – warm, alive and thrilling.
Journal de Génève • Nouritza Matossian has published a study which she only completed after taming the savage inventor of stochastic music. With exceptional craft she integrates her materials into an intelligent analytic biography.At times it reads like a novel!