The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on October 17, 1992 · Page 47
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The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia · Page 47

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Issue Date:
Saturday, October 17, 1992
Page 47
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The Sydney Morning Herald Xenakis ... "a classical Greek living in the 20th century". Metaphors OVELISTS often seem to get to the heart of musical matters much better than musicians do. So it was, in their differ ent ways, with E.M. Forster and Thomas Mann on Beethoven, and so it was, I recently discovered with some delight, with Czech writer Milan Kundera (author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality ) on Romanian-born Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, whose music forms the centrepiece of this week's programs in Roger Woodward's third Sydney Spring Festival of New Music. Kundera notes that the chords and scales of traditional European classical music are far removed from the "rough sound of the outer world", creating a glorious world of sentiment which is a hallmark of European culture (homo sentimen-talis, Kundera calls it). "But," he continues, "a moment can come (in the life of one person or that of a whole civilisation) in which sentimentality is suddenly unmasked as the superstructure of brutality'. It was at such a moment Music seemed to me like the deafening noise of the emotions, whereas the world of noise in Xenakis's compositions became, for me, beauty: beauty with the affective filth washed away, beauty stripped of sentimental barbarism." Kundera calls Xenakis a "Prophet of Insensibility". Deafening noise of the emotions? Sentimental barbarism? These are hard, even painful words to hear spoken about the classical music one loves. Yet for Kundera and Xenakis, both of whose countries fell to barbaric totalitarianism during or after the war, the association of sentiment and the burden of culture with all that went wrong in Europe is perhaps understandable. I had not heard anyone describe so well and so simply the impulse towards post-war modernism in music, in which Xenakis, along with Boulez, Stockhausen and Berio, was a leading and totally original force. In its early stages, this style was marked by an almost obsessive concern for stylistic purity, from which all references IUITIS UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY For further information contact Ms Beate Buckenmaier on 330 2606 or Assoc. Professor Jim Parkin on 330 2638 ARTS 11 A highlight of the Sydney Spring Festival of New Music, the work of Greek composer Iannis Xenakis is an original force in 20th century music, writes peter McCALLUM. to the forms of "old culture" were rigorously purged. I found the Kundera quotation in the sleeve-note of the remarkable CD by Roger Woodward's Alpha Centauri Ensemble of Xenakis's ballet, Kraanerg. The translation was by Sydney musicologist Richard Toop. Since it was out of this ballet, and a memorable collaboration with Graeme Murphy and the Sydney Dance Company in 1988, that Woodward founded the ensemble, it seemed fitting that this year, in their third Sydney Spring -Festival, Xenakis should have pride of place on the programs. Indeed, he was also to have had pride of place in the auditoriums and in a series of forums, talking about his own music, but last-minute hospitalisation unfortunately prevented his being here in person. Woodward's connection with Xenakis spans his whole career. He made his name playing piano pieces such as Evryali and Epnta for piano and brass. More recently Xenakis has written music especially for Woodward, such as Mists, heard in the first Sydney Spring Festival and Keqrops, which he will play with Claudio Abbado at the opening concert of the Vienna Modern Festival. It is already sold out and they are selling tickets for rehearsals. Disappointingly, the ABC hasn't yet got around to programming it here. Xenakis turned 70 in May this year. Although he has resisted attempts to sensationalise his life, a recent biography by Nouritza Matossian (Kahn & Averill) revealed plenty to glamorise. He describes himself as FrenchGreek, becoming a French citizen in 1965. Born of Greek parents in Romania, he fought in the Greek Resistance against Mussolini, before being captured, sentenced to death, and later seriously injured ("the scars on my face are A 3 year, part-time course, specifically designed for engineers. Taught jointly by the Faculties of Engineering and Business, the course offers a sound grounding in professional management for those who intend to make a career in the management of engineers or an engineering organisation. You are invited to attend an Information Evening for the MEM course which will be held on Tuesday 27 October 1992 at 6.00pm In the Gallery Function Centre Level 6, Tower Building 15-73 Broadway Applications for admission are available now and should be returned before 30 November. of sp the result of my being wounded by a British tank," he told a recent interviewer). He studied in Paris with Milhaud, Honneger and Messiaen, then worked as a designer with the architect Le Corbusier for 1 1 years up until 1959. In 1958 he designed the Philips Pavilion for the Brussels World Fair, which became a famous icon of modernist architecture and music with a revolutionary hyperbolic paraboloid shape. Xenakis installed light and his own music in a fusion which was to be a model for later sound-light-space compositions called Poly topes in settings as far afield as Paris, Iran and the Japanese Space Pavilion in Osaka in 1970. There are three aspects of Xenakis's thought which set him apart from other avant-garde composers of his generation. The first, nurtured by his experience with Le Corbusier, is his perception of the link between music and architecture: spatial metaphors spring to mind in describing Xenakis's music, intersecting slabs of sound of varying texture and density often invoking a sense of monu-mentality, awe and unharnessed energy (as in Kraanerg). The second component of his remarkable originality arises from the way he makes these slabs. Here his experience as an engineer also stood him in good stead. If one could use mathematics to determine the thickness of steel or concrete, why not also use it to determine the tensile strength of sound? Xenakis devised mathematical methods, based on the laws of probability, for controlling the density of the sounds he wanted. Each note became like the particles in a gas whose density rather than fixed position gives the sound its characteristic qualities. Xenakis called this stochastic music. His earliest successes in the 1950s, Metastae-seis and Pithoprakta, are marked by Master of Education Specialising in TESOL A coursework Masters program is available at the University of Wollongong for candidates interested in obtaining a qualification in the TESOL area. The course is recognised by AMES, TAFE, and the NSW Department of School Education. Subjects include: Foundations of TESOL; Second Language Literacy; Methodology and Programming in TESOL and Assessment in TESOL. Applicants for the Master of Saturday, October 17, 1992 47 Illustration by ROCCO FAZZARI 1C6 thick blocks of orchestral texture generated by stochastic methods. During this period, one almost feels he was trying to construct mathematical principles for creating something out of nothing like physicists and the Big Bang. After a lecture on this topic at the Institut de France, fellow composer Messiaen, a devout and passionate Catholic, commented that for such primeval creation there must surely have been a God. No, said Xenakis. Before that there was nothing, ep In 1961 he was granted "one hour on the computer 7090 for his studies" by IBM in Paris to help with the calculations needed in stochastic composition. This resulted in titles such as ST48 1.240162, which might seem quaint to today's computer-literate readers. Yet Xenakis rejects the notion that mathematics is anything more than a tool. In a recent interview in Le Monde after a festival of his music in France, he said: "I've never used mathematics in a systematic way. Certain moments in a composition can be worked out by calculations and not others. I may give the impression of erecting a wall of mathematical formulae around myself, but in fact I do what I want behind it." Perhaps it is the third aspect of his musical personality, however, which really tempers the technological exploration his grounding in classical Greek philosophy, poetry and drama. In Matossian's book he describes himself as "a classical Greek living in the 20th century". Listening to his music, one is much more likely to be struck by its austere primitive or mythical qualities than by any fetish with numbers. Xenakis read Plato as a boy and while in prison in Athens and admits, with some reluctance, that his music is concerned with the Platonic idea of beauty ("though I've got into the habit of replacing the word 'beautiful' by 'interesting'," he told Le Monde). Interesting he certainly is. The Sydney Spring Festival presents music by Xenakis at the Eugene Goosens Hall, ABC Ultimo Centre at 3 pm tomorrow and Sunday, October 25, and at the Opera House next Monday and Tuesday. Education would normally hold a degree with recognised teaching qualifications giving them four-year trained status. The course is usually studied part-time over two years. Closing Date: 31 October, 1992 Further information and application forms are available from: Graduate School of Education University of Wollongong Northfields Ave, Wollongong NSW 2522. Telephone: (042) 21 3316 &5 ! Jh.- JSs, '-s nMt w 1m H Mk. Mek Jib ..L Morse, John Gaden Ireland's triumphant production of AT LUGHNASA. Geraldine Turner and star of The Crucible, John Howard, Shakespeare's COHIOLANUS, while the modern European -,A . i . vi d ran Australian plays: David Williamson's fA5r BRILLIANT LIES, Stephen Sewell's THE GARDEN OF GRANDDAUGHTERS and Louis Nowra's SUMMER OF THE spiritSfSind voices 1 mMt--, ai cost ofaorS0!ii6ta;wlO play subscription will save up to $176 on a pair of tickets. 10 plays for $27 each, or as little as $17 for youth concessions. Please send me details of your 1993 Name Address please mail to : Sydney Theatre Company PO BOX 777, Millers Point, 2000 or phone: 250 1700 for a free brochure ''-i, - ' " -" The Olivier Award-vyinnmg; Play of the Year DEATH AND THE MAIDEN starring Helen and Frank Gallacher opens the season Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's fairytale musical INTO THE WOODS. The classics: masterpiece THE VISIT a. x . . j. . . i i, lunny, luuunmg r,ewKW of Garland, Bassey and Monroe are AMDFALL OF LITTLE maaMUfiglBton, ImS-C - i?s- - vJ i WlfcChUrchill's SiW Phone Postcode w, I. -mut,. .'.' '? "S iiS&A' " v ' 'S ' ' '' ' ""4 J followed by the Abbey Theatre of s " DANCING 4 5a 422? -o Philip Quast star in takes the title role in stars Judi Farr. Three : r 1 ALIENS starring Penny Cook. The PWIHMyjMU :-.-.:..;y.:v ana tnere dazzling TOP GIRLS. t O on the Season today ' 1 i ' " i

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