Iannis Xenakis Centenary 29 May 2022

29 May 2021

BCMG and PRiSM Join Forces to Celebrate Xenakis Centenary

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) and PRiSM will join forces on 29 May 2022 to mark the event of 100 years since the birth of the composer Iannis Xenakis (29 May 1922 – 4 February 2001).

Xenakis created a revolutionary synergy between the arts and maths by applying his first knowledge of engineering and formula to composition and sound. From this unique approach Xenakis created sounds never before heard. He encouraged all communities to be part of his process, using technology to transform drawings into new soundscapes and allowing everyone to experience the beauty of music. This interdisciplinary ethos is close to the heart of the teams at PRiSM and BCMG.

“I see an exciting synergy between Xenakis and PRiSM – with music drawing on mathematics, statistics, and physics, and the algorithms of computer-aided composition. So this is not just a retrospective but also a direction of travel, and a glimpse of what PRiSM can achieve through collaboration.” David De Roure PRiSM Technical Director, Professor of e-Research at the University of Oxford.

The development of a series of geometry-inspired orchestral works has been central to PRiSM Director, Emily Howard’s work over the past five years (see the PRiSM Blog article Orchestral Geometries).

“Why am I so drawn to the music of Iannis Xenakis? The sheer energy and wild beauty is a catalyst for my imagination. Often disrupted, always deeply considered, these abstract mathematical shapes and processes filtered through unique human experiences give rise to some of the most exhilarating encounters with sound that I know of.”  Emily Howard Composer and Director PRiSM

Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy describes his personal connection with the music of Xenakis:

“Mathematics and music have always been close partners, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a synthesis of the two subjects until I’d heard Xenakis’s work. The anniversary of his birth gives us a wonderful opportunity to explore his ideas and music and to understand their impact on contemporary practice. The exciting thing for me is that not only is he still influencing musical creativity, but his ideas have recently been a catalyst for new mathematical ideas that I am exploring. This is truly a two-way dialogue.” Marcus du Sautoy Co-Director PRiSM, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford

This collaboration between PRiSM and BCMG builds on a growing partnership, established in 2020 with the BCMG commission speak, sing… in partnership with PRiSM, which featured fourth-year undergraduate student José del Avellanal Carreño (RNCM School of Composition) and BCMG clarinetist, Oliver Janes, using the software PRiSM SampleRNN in the compositional process.

“Searching for a universal musical language remains an inspiration to musicians, audiences, and composers today. By utilising technology and combining maths, music and audience engagement, this exciting joint project will result in new experiences to inspire as Xenakis has done and continues to do.” Stephan Meier, Artistic Director BCMG 

Header image: Study for Terretoktorh c. 1965 – 1966, Iannis Xenakis Archives, Bibliotheque nationale de France

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