Metastasis – Iannis Xenakis



Metastasis by Iannis Xenakis is a very interesting and intriguing music piece by this famous Greek composer.

Greek music has a lot of representatives in the world, among whom some truly remarkable composers and artists, such as Iannis Xenakis. The Greek composer is notorious for his particular, bizarre and even eccentric way of composing.

Metastasis, also known as  Metastaseis, is an orchestral work for 61 musicians; It is Xenakis’ first major work,  written in 1953-54 after his studies with Olivier Messiaen . This instrumental song is approximately 8 minutes in length.  What is so special about it, and why was Iannis Xenakis named an international music genius because of this work?

Metastasis and mathematics

Metastasis was inspired by the combination of Einstein’s view of time and Xenakis’ memory of the sounds of warfare, structured on mathematical ideas by Le Corbusier. His music used Le Corbusier’s Modulor system of proportions, and his design work used rhythmic principles.

These links are found in the structure of his first mature work, Metastasis, which is based on the design for the surfaces of the Philips pavilion built for the Expo 1958 in Brussels. Xenakis’s obsession with mathematics reflected a credo expressed by Le Corbusier: Mathematics is the majestic structure conceived by man to grant him comprehension of the universe.

The preliminary sketch for Metastasis was in graphic notation looking more like a blueprint than a musical score, showing graphs of mass motion and  structural beams of the piece, with sound frequencies on one axis and time on the other. In this video the creator tried to display this by presenting the frequency spectrum (0-20.000Hz) of the piece and how Xenakis actually “drew” music.

Xenakis pioneered electronic, computer music, the application of mathematics, statistics, and physics to music and music theory, and the integration of sound and architecture

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