Iannis Xenakis

French Composer and Architect, of Greek origin (1922, Braila, Romania – 2001, Paris)

Iannis Xenakis was an unparalleled figure. During his lifetime he was an architect, composer and member of the Resistance. Musically he established his own innovative ideas on the periphery of the dominant Serialist movement.

Iannis Xeankis was 10 years old when his family moved to Athens. He completed his studies there. In 1940, when he was an engineering student, he joined the Communist Party and the Resistance movement to fight against the Nazi occupation. After the liberation he continued campaigning, now against imposed English martial rule. He soon became wounded, interned and sentenced, but managed to escape Greece in 1947. He settled in Paris and was hired by Le Corbusier with whom he collaborated until 1960. He helped to design and realise many of Le Corbusier’s projects, including the La Tourette monastery and the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels Universal Exhibition. 

He also studied music, taking lessons first from Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud, and then from Olivier Messiaen, at the Paris Conservatoire. He also studied with Hermann Scherchen. After exploring Bartok and Folk Music, Xenakis based his musical style on references to maths and physics, and soundscapes. His groundbreaking works Metastasis (1953-1954) and Pithoprakta (1955-1956) represented an alternative to Serialism. He invented the concept of stochastic music, and used the ideas of probability and Set theory to create his compositions. He took this further by using a computer to calculate and analyse musical forms. He composed “sound and light” shows, which he called polytopes, for the French Pavillion at the Montreal Exhibition (1967), the Persepolis show in Iran (1971), Cluny in Paris (1972), and the ruins of Mycenae in Greece (1978). He naturalised as French in 1965. That same year he founded the Centre d’Etudes de Mathématique et Automatique Musicales. He taught at Indiana University Bloomington from 1967 to 1972. He was a Researcher at CNRS (the National Centre of Scientific Research), and a Professor at the Sorbonne from 1972 to 1989. 

Six Key Works by Iannis Xenakis
 • Metastasis for Chamber Orchestra(1954)
 • Orient-Occident, electroacoustic music (1960)
 • Nuits, for Mixed a cappella choir (1967)
 • Erikhton, for Piano and Orchestra (1974)
 • Aïs, for baritone, solo percussionist and orchestra (1981)
 • O-mega, for Percussion and Orchestra (1997)

Xenakis en 6 dates :
 • 1947  : fled Greece for Paris ; started collaborating with Le Corbusier
 • 1959  : Finished the la Tourette monastery
 • 1960  : Stopped working with Le Corbusier
 • 1970  : Became a Researcher at the CNRS
 • 1982  : Was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur
 • 1997  : Was awarded the Kyoto Prize 

Official Website : http://www\.iannis\-xenakis\.org/