Conversation with Iannis Xenakis Author(s): Michael Zaplitny and Iannis Xenakis Source: Perspectives of New Music, Vol

. 14, No. 1, (Autumn - Winter, 1975), pp. 86-103 Published by: Perspectives of New Music Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/832544 Accessed: 08/05/2008 02:05
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Due to the high degree of technical and mathematical skill required to fully comprehend his treatise. Since the use of calculus and probability theory in music involves rare. Xenakis then demonstrates how a sound can be defined by a certain . More specifically. is to provide a relatively non-technical explanation of the book's basic concepts as a guide for music students and others interested in Xenakis' theories. The purpose of this brief introduction. An "event" can be a cloud of sounds with a particular density in sounds/seconds.. from zero until the first event).e. and other arts.. between successive discrete events in a continuous interval (i. Metastasis.g. In the first chapter of Formalized Music. Xenakis' reading public has necessarily been limited to a select few. philosophy. The interview with Xenakis which follows this introduction explores certain important points of his work in greater depth. and discusses at length the use of calculus and probability theory in music. random events. architecture.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS MICHAELZAPLITNY Prefatory Remarks Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition by Iannis Xenakis is probably the best available source for the complete understanding of this composer's original theories. or interval. and ideas about the interrelationship of music. methods. the more one tosses a coin the closer will the heads/tails ratio approach 1) the Poisson process is defined. formed the basis for his design of the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. providing the probability of discrete events in a discrete interval of time. in generalizing Bernoulli's law of large numbers (e. therefore. he calls it "free stochastic music". Applying the exponential formula (which is another function parent to the Gaussian distribution) yields the amount of time. Xenakis shows how his composition.

Also. or interact. This sequence of transition. Realizing that the computer is a valuable instrument for composition because of its iterative facility. The system can now quickly arrive at a final state of equilibrium known as the stationary distribution. subject to linear inequalities or constraints-and strict rules for the conductor. intensity. In applying stochastic mechanisms. is called a Markov chain. and density (d)-thereby decreasing the probability that the composition will rest in one particular state and increasing the probability that it will change states. e. The mathematical theory of games as applied by Xenakis in two specific compositions. forming a new MTP. etc. Each screen is then denoted by a symbol. for a higher degree of movement and variety in the composition.g. a transition occurs in going from one screen to another. or proceed to disequilibrium with the imposed aid of perturbations (P). from an MTP a state of stability can be calculated and a mean entropy defined. enables one to take advantage of some lighthearted diversion.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 87 number of "screens" (a grid defined by frequency and intensity). their conceptualization. enabling the composer to identify the degree of ataxy (order or disorder) with a set of screens. Duel and Strategie. represented by a table or matrix. Xenakis uses matrices of transition probabilities for three characteristics of sound-frequency (f). following a scheme of minimum . as a scheme or sequence of the partial mechanisms of screens. in which one player's gain is equal to the other's loss. allowing. frequency. intensity (g). is defined as a two-person zero-sum game. Each Matrix of Transition Probabilities (MTP)-or stochastic matrix-governs the change of states in the pure mathematical sense. and a collection of transitions forms a transformation. a screen is generated. based on moder science. Xenakis sets up a flow chart in a sequential series of reiterated operations. All three variables of the screen are then placed together. therefore. indicated by 0 and 1. Eventually a stochastic mechanism is derived in which alternative probabilities of various transformations (represented by a number between 0 and 1) replace the original probabilities of transition. or the specific order of screens. Although games are not new in music. so that the sum of the payoffs to all players (positive for winnings and negative for losses) is zero.. and can then be coupled with other matrices. Each game is developed through the use of qualitative matrices and linear programming-a method for determining unknowns so as to maximize or minimize a linear expression. so that if a sound is sliced at a given instant (t).

e. its density (number of sounds per second). i. Steps foursix define the attack time. continuing with each increment (of pitches) until the total number of pitches for the sequence is reached. and the composition of the orchestra.g. * * * . e. i. The introduction of an elementary displacement creates a sieve that allows only certain elements of the continuum-in this case.88 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC constraints in composition.e. etc. Finally. timbre classes and instruments (conditioned by density) for each pitch.). enabling widespread exploration in the future with the aid of computers and modern technology. i. first of all. and its intensity. on the other hand. an outside-time structure that allows any series. Boolean algebra or the algebra of logic and (b) vector analysis. the computer is programmed to go back to step one and determine the characteristics for the second sequence. Set theory.. to be expressed mathematically in terms of logical functions. thereby ending the program.. and the stochastically conceived moments of occurrence that have a structure in-time. pitches-to pass through. At step ten. Vector analysis is used because it involves both a magnitude and a direction in space and can be considered simply as a directed line segment without any real physical significance. if this number has not been reached. its duration in seconds. The first three steps in the ST program determine the length of a sequence. the specific instrument from the range of instruments made available for this sequence. but is completely mechanizable. can easily demonstrate the existence of a stochastic correspondence between the components of outside-time structures such as pitch. and the pitch. since the total number of sequences desired has been specified. This procedure continues until the total number of sequences indicated by the original input data is reached. the computer is programmed to follow the next series of steps for each pitch that was calculated to be in the sequence an innate number of times.. Xenakis has also evolved what may be called "the sieve theory" which is. Finally. Xenakis also attempts to describe sonic events through the use of two unique branches of pure mathematics: (a) set theory. the ST program (FORTRAN IV). Given the preceding general characteristics of the sequence. stochastically conceived. Steps seven-nine determine whether a tone will be a glissando and what speed it will have.e. we return to step four (attack time of the second pitch. This technique not only lends itself to "total order". a scale or series of pitches.

For instance. straight lines." IX: Yes.. and right angles. Xenakis: The Man and His Music. my sole aim). or the tonality. or modal music. introduced in the beginning of the twentieth century. MZ: He also stated: "That probability theory can be used effectively to create music is thus a proven fact. on the contrary. but it's interesting to see that this white key structure is something independent of the melody. and so on. Then new proportionswere introduced -the game of proportions-utilizing light. in spite of all. stone. I think that he didn't understand what I mean by atemporal. MZ: In his book. in comparison with the nineteenth century which used bricks. or that they are obviously not needed. That music not so composed can be properly understood as possessingonly an atemporal combinatory content is less clear.. Le Corbusier. glass.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 89 An Afternoon with Xenakis MZ: In a critique on your book Formalized Music. opened my eyes to a new kind of architecture. and wood.. especially the play of light. I discovered points of common interest with music (which remained. either that he knows the mathematics too well so that it is not necessary to explain them. the scale of white keys on the piano has a structure of intervals. This was the cubic kind of architecture. one writer states: "The mathematics involved in the book seems often superfluousto the discussion. or serial music.. steel. There are many possible explanations. outside-of-time structures. but I can tell you the following. of course. Now you can produce good or bad music.. In modern architecture there are materials like concrete.. IX: I don't know what he means by that." I wonder what you think about that.." Could you explain what new kind of architecture you discovered to have common elements with music? IX: I think there is a mistake in the translation.. this structure is an outside-of-time structure. they are not relevant to the music itself.. Mario Bois quotes you as saying: "I knew a great deal about ancient architecture. I don't think he understood that. the . That's very important. The next important innovation of modern architecturewas the simplification of geometric elements like planes. in order to compensate for the lack of interest in the simplicity of design. This was a most important revelation. Instead of boring myself with more calculations. that is.

which sound material. the necessity. a theme. a machine to live in. The next thing is the macroscopic shaping of the building.90 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC use of light. the sound itself. the full dimension. a machine habitee. That means that you have to standardize them. the melodic patterns of sound material. so that a parallel search by Le Corbusier was for me very enlightening. The architecture of these microstructures. you see. In architecture. Now this is going from the detail to the large body. the full range. but directly from architecture into music. the composition itself on a larger scale. how to think of music.that is. that is. and so on. musicians are taught in the schools to start with cells. that is. melodic patterns. MZ: That was clear from the first chapter of your book. there is perhaps one factor. The other interesting thing was that the converse applied. it must be as Le Corbusierused to say. the type of light. When you have a house. I could design architecture. basic concepts? IX: No. IX: Absolutely. from my musical problems. MZ: Could you go one step further and give an example of something specific that you learned from architecture that you could apply. that is. that is. these were the problems that were plaguing me. and orchestralmanipulations. IX: Yes. or both ways simultaneously. you must first take the large body into considerationand only then go to details. However. you always have to think of the land. All polyphonic music and all serial music is based on a string of notes. in addition to that. IX: Yes. or were those discoveriesjust general. this is a rather basic parallel. and so on. not only from . Then they expand it by inversions and other polyphonic harmonic. the use. I was disturbed by problems in music composition. That perhaps is one of the most important examples of what architecturegave to me. MZ: It has to be functional. MZ: You must have a perspective of the total end result while you're working in the details. The third problem was the function of the structure. essentially a melodic theme. so that you don't waste time. and I was thinking about all these macrostructures. its use. It's an organic entity. How many steps must you make from the kitchen. You see.

there are things that you don't care to feel. traditional means of expressionchange very quickly.. is its abstract nature. if one of your aims is to feel things'and express them. which are all remote. the things start "living" and he's fighting with these things all the time. of the Greeks. think them and express them. at any rate in mine. What remains finally can be expressed in a much more abstract way because it's the result of this thought. you talk about sensibility in music: "Sensibilityhas no longer any conventions by which to express itself. This is what you finally understand through the ages. the Africans. he may think that he is composing with sensibility because he is attracted by some ideas or by some other things. MZ: You also stated: "What I'm aiming at is."Could you elaborate on composingwith or without sentiment? IX: Yes. to feel things. the problem of proportion.. Let's take a very simple example. It expresses itself by other means. that's all. because you have lost the immediate sensibility of that time. Even if you can't see the abstraction immediately-for instance. more complex theories. so the starting point of his feelings becomes very remote." Why did you choose a mathematical approach? In other words. MZ: A little further on in the same book. When the artist works.the Egyptians. with Renaissance paintings and all of the best paintings of mankind which you try to understand before extracting from them proportional relationships or colors. in the sense of the ratio of its proportions. besides. it's a kind of music of proportions.When you have two intervals of time. Finally. You cannot imagine them. For instance. It is for this reason that we can appreciate the Japanese or Chinese paintings of thousands of years ago . can you feel mathematics? IX: I think it is possible to feel mathematics. shapes and the relationships of these shapes.. You have to feel proportions-in music. changing them and being changed by them. a long and a short one. That might be the starting point sometimes. The proportion is something that you can feel. and it is sensible since it does so express itself. to the details. you may proportion them so that the long one may be double that of the short one. but converselyfrom the general things. just as fashion does. And the same is true for larger. What appears to me to be more important as regards music itself. in fact. What remains.. are these much more abstractconsidera- . but in the course of the work. in architecture. the solution of the second degree equation. Of course. its combinatoryaspect.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 91 the detail to the generality. that is the architecturalthings. in artwherever you use them or manipulate them.

many of the studies that they're doing today still derive from the past tradition. I remember in my classes when I was studying music. IX: Not only are they not natural. It's much more important to have a wider knowledge of these things than to be highly specialized. if he just studies the tempered scale. they are restrictive because they are only one of the possibilities.. and. by learning it as you learn everything that is needed. how can we get that knowledge? IX: By training. MZ: Could you give an example of one of those things? IX: Well.92 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC tions rather than the immediate magic of the thing itself. instead of studying the music itself. it is absolutely insane to ask a musician to sightsing with a high degree of accuracy because it takes up so much of his time and he finds that he ultimately may be deformed musically. third tones. Besides that. or improvising or composing freely. And what is today's environment? It's science. while talking about the use of computers. surprisingly. he's unable to hear quarter tones.. There are many things that musicians practice now that are without any useful value. mathematics.. etc. This is the meaning of what I said. you're saying that we are forcing ourselves to do things that are not really natural. you cite Poisson's law and several algebraic equations. then you cannot deal too much with each one. but I admit that it demands a knowledge that musicians do not ordinarily possess. People are blind to today's situation." Since the mathematical character of this music has frightened musicians and made the approach especially difficult. If you don't know how to use it. It's absolutely nonsense. and technology. MZ: In program notes for your concerts. you said: "If the listener doesn't understand any of it. you say: "This language of the machine is universal. MZ: In other words. it is first of all useful to show . MZ: A little further on. You can hold out your arm and touch it. you are like a man without arms and legs. it's not necessary to learn many of these things. When asked your reason for doing this. One must replace them with other. because you lose the natural aspect. in the sense that.. for instance. much more important things. If you want many possibilities. they asked me to do all sorts of exercises with harmony and counterpoint that were eighteenth century and were codified only by the scholars and not by the musicians themselves.

You can't expect people with a limited backgroundto be able to accept it. They are linked together. maybe important.or disorder. Entropy measures the rate of ataxy. But it's better to know the reasons behind something than ignore them. but it's just a detail. And this will become a generalized practice in a few years. This means that when ataxy-in the sense of something . for instance.. especially with information theory. ataxy describes the degree of order. cybernetics. but perhaps the way I said it was a little crude." Isn't that attitude self-defeating in its arrogance?Doesn't that create more obstacles to the understanding and acceptance of your music? And doesn't it really depend on your perspective. a natural machine. It was not an arrogant thing that I did. But today.the new technology. the knowledge of probabilitytheory became rather widespread. But it will come to that.. or is there a clear distinction between the two? IX: No. MZ: Could you brieflyelaborate on why probabilitytheory is more serious than merely tossing coins? IX: Tossing coins is a machine. meaning the listeners' perspective? In other words. So with my ignorance. Now probabilitytheory is commonly taught in colleges and universities which is fine but this is not yet true in the high schools.Twenty years ago when I was studying and searching out the tools I needed for my music. MZ: Isn't it also true that the tossing of coins is only one small part of probability theory. It's just one detail. and that you are more involved with the overall problems posed by it? IX: Yes. machines which can create a random base.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 93 him to himself as ignorant. uncivilized. I'm sure. and the use of probabilities in so many other fields. or I assume the ignorance and say I don't care. either I want to get rid of it by learning. To be unwilling to know them is. when it works of course. background becomes extremely important-cultural. MZ: Are "degree of ataxy" and "entropy"terms which are interchangeable. social and intellectual environment. IX: Yes. But very rapidly. orderliness. that's true. but they are not equivalent. But probability theory deals with all sorts of machines which are more or less abstract. that is what I meant. It leaves you with the responsibility. they have started teaching probabilitytheory in high school. it was very difficult to learn probability theory because it was so specialized.

that is. stochastic behavior having a unity of a superior order. Brownian movements) and to try to simplify it. Let's put it this way: with Fourier analysis you try to explain or to create very complicated things by an accumulation of very simple elements like the periodic sound waves. the entropy also increases. MZ: Could you briefly describe Fourier synthesis. run the risk of becoming as rigorously structural as serial music tends to be today? IX: No. . but just a proposal for a new approach to the concept of music. which is trigonometric. you can translate this identity of form into a problem containing input data and compute it. The Fourier series enables you to analyze any such curve or variation of the sound and of the sound pressure on your ear into a series of additions of elementary periodical wave forms which can be described by a mathematical trigonometric function: cosine or sine.This is why there is a link and sometimesconfusion. This process was generalized even in the case of impulses. But it's very difficult to reproduce or synthesize these forms even with a computer. It's not a ready-made thing. I think. a stochastic approach-then you have unexpected results each time. MZ: Can a sonic scheme defined by a "vector-matrix" representing a compositional attitude. that is. where each impulse can be expanded into a series. Formalized Music. the failure of this theory. which is in disorder-increases. It has to be worked out and proved and dealt with. that is. It becomes much more complicated when you go into simple noise type sounds-which applies to most of the instruments in today's music and to electroacoustic music. On the larger scale. and the eventual freeing of computers and digital-to-analog converters to define what you have termed their "true position"? IX: Fourier's synthesis was an attempt to describe any curve of sound pressure that hits our ear and that we hear most of the time as a sound except when the vibrations are very low or very dense. The path I propose in the last chapter of my book. which enables you to change the output. what I propose is to start with a very complicated pattern (for example. is.94 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC which is not proper. because it is first of all theoretical and requires a lot of computer time. For instance. mutual works. the Fourier series. but only in the detail. original. if you use probabilityfunctions. Perhaps the best way to escape from that is to take another path. you have an identity of form. you have created a kind of family of possible. pieces.or laws-that is. the skeleton is the same. but the program is the same. or distributions. in addition to trigonometric wave forms or variations of pressure that are smooth.

CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 95 MZ: You use the ST program for more than one composition. MZ: I want to go back for a minute to the idea of the structure. It's much more difficult and important to produce a family of music. Your freedom will only be limited by the macroformof the fugue. So locally the composition can be unpredictable when you consider the details that you have not seen before. no music would stand simple white noise. are you saying that there is no end to the kind of program you could set up and that each program gives you many possibilitiesso that there is no end to the possibilities? IX: Yes. Then you are absorbed by things that you recognize and things that seem to be unexpected. not to be confined. That is. After several repeated auditions. it seems to you that everything is the same. Once you set up the program. you start knowing the piece better. can you vary that program or would that involve changing the entire program? What I think one wants is freedom. you can predict what will happen. But. and that one has to strive to avoid? IX: First of all. MZ: There's another consideration that comes in here and that's the possibility of the music becoming predictable. that it. Can we say that predictability is something which condemns the quality of the music? I think such a suggestion is absolutely wrong. Therefore. in fact. IX: If the serialists use probability theory. Doesn't that limit you? In other words. new fugues. We have progressedconsiderably over the years. predictability is something very relative. say. Is this a problem that can arise. then they are not in the orthodox realm of serial music. . resorting to serialism? After all. we've gone a far way from 12-tone music to serialism today. one can do that. When you hear music that you don't know. for it's something not very clear in your mind. If the serialists expand by using the other domains especially stochastic domains. Can you really do that? IX: Oh yes. then they have approached the position that I took against serial music twenty years ago. use probability or dice throwing or things like that. that's true of the last question. The difficulty is to do something that is really interesting enough. rather than individual musical pieces which could be interesting. you don't predict. It is like inventing new forms. MZ: Do you think that using this approach allows for greater possibilities than. for example.

You pick up elements which are outside-of-time and you say.it is a finite thing. The relationship of the notes in the twelve-tone scale is one of the simplest outside-of-time structures because you are repeating exactly the same chromatic interval creating the twelve tones. When you take these notes which are outside-oftime and. in spite of the theoreticianswho would like to say that no. Whenever you use finite stuff. serial music has brought something new. That's a false presumption that stems from the absolute variation of the Viennese school and that tendency. by ordering all twelve tones without priority (just the order). tonal music is richer because its structure is much more outside-of-time.which means it's more complicated than the twelve-tone series which is always the same repetition. you are in the predictable domain. The interest of the music is not linked to unpredictability. While serial music. So unpredictability is very relative. as an identifiable example of an outside-of-time category. It's the same thing that happens in classical tonal or any other music when you use the whole gamut of the scale-let's say the white keys. That's not true. you are doing a time ordering. you have differences. It's a time choice.96 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC MZ: If by a repeated hearing of a composition you can understand it better in the sense you described. When you take the white keys. MZ: In other words. let's say the major scale. you are putting them in-time. I'll put them in this time order. When you start with 12-tone music. This is where tonal music and serial music are so closely related. put them in a bag or pick them up in a certain order. can one use a serial combination of notes as you would a major or minor scale? IX: Serial music is a typical in-time structure. has lost much of the wealth of tonal music and has replaced it by manipulations of this in-time structure. you make choices-you don't need to use all seven notes. while in the case of tonal music. isn't it also true that the more you hear something the less predictable it becomes because you have already heard it? IX: Certainly. . That's very important. So any serial string of notes is something which is in-time. you're saying that the possibilitiesare much greater in the major-minorsystem. not outside-of-time. so to speak. The difference is that in serial music you take all twelve notes. even by the standardsof today's serialists. and it's a kind of forced sophism. tonal and serial music are very close. you see. yes. in other words. MZ: Could you briefly summarize your sieve theory and elaborate on whether one can gain a better understanding of serialism through it. The melodic pattern operates in exactly the same way in both cases.

you're trying to define your own structure as raw material to work with. you have to do some structuring. or later in time. or anything you want. or a comma. In this way. 102-103. So serial music compensated by all sorts of polyphonic manipulations that tonal music did not need because it was enriched by harmonic things. or to structure the elements of the set.yes. until you arrive at continuity. You can create continuity because in the sieves you hit the natural number first. In a straight line you have a continuity of points. then this set. When you deal with such a set. Whenever you can do this with all the elements of the set. or any other more or less complicated scale. This process represents a very general way of structuring an ordered set. can be designed this way because it is an ordered set. from the sensations. 1 See Appendix II.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 97 IX: In the outside-of-time structure. the degree of order or disorder. and other characteristics of sound.1 This gives you the formal construction starting from the sensationsof a simple sieve. in the sieve we don't. below. then you hit the rational numbers. smaller. What the sieve theory enables you to do is to choose in a totally ordered set. given three elements of one set. But you don't need that in music. This ordered set depends on an elementary displacement. intensity. A sieve structure is nothing more than the basic axiomatics starting with the sensations. this is what happens in the major scale. Even the time. You start from the other end. and so on. larger. your complete range. that is. This is the best definition. the white key scale. as described more fully in footnote number 14 of Formalized Music. is an ordered set. density. you can obtain a kind of reconstruction of all number theory. which is the equivalent of the chromatic well-tempered scale. What does a totally ordered structure mean? IX: It means that. you can say. It has a totally ordered structure because you can arrange all the elements into a room full of the other elements. you are able to put one of them in between the other two. MZ: Could you elaborate on your sieve theory? IX: Well. discontinuity. the sieve theory can be applied not only to pitch but also to any other structure like time. it could be a quarter tone. pp. Now the next step is a problem of choosing points. for instance. . and finally you can also deal with the irrational numbers. MZ: In other words. or use some comparative adjective: bigger. You have an element that you repeat indefinitely and you thus create the elements of your set. By comparison. You can say that the set is higher in pitch.otherwise you are as restrictedas the serialists.

MZ: Pierre Boulez discussesat length in his book.as a dimension of sound which is fully capable of being explored through total serialism. and intensity-then what you have suggested is now true. not in the structure itself. that is. IX: When this combinatoryelement is used. I mean the chromatic structureitself. Boulez on Music Today. one-to-one. realistically speaking. Also. you can classify them.Secondly. Then you can do all sorts of combinationswith those notes. Aren't you both really talking about the same thing. time. I have used the three-dimensional . MZ: And you're talking about a specific structure outside-of-time? IX: Yes. serialism does not deal at all with the outside-of-time structureof its sets. serialism has gone beyond just the ordering of twelve tones. with the natural numbers. I think that representsa failure because just using one set they are less rich than those having a free choice of structure. an index of distribution. I have not read the book. For instance. IX: Absolutely. if the space has three dimensions which are pitch. of notes. MZ: Then you can do it in conjunction with other things that have their own structure. You then end up with a denumerable infinity. it is in-time.of "space". a specific choice of pitches. that is. in-time. is there a place in the future. because they have all of the twelve tones.98 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC because they have just one set. that is. the set of rational numbers is denumerable because you can put them into correspondence. You cannot do that with irrationalnumbers. where serialists-even including Milton Babbitt's all-combinatorial set approach-can come to terms. then this sieve behaves like a scale and you pick notes out of this scale. If you take a sieve. you can count or put them into correspondencewith all natural numbers. in terms of "space"?In other words. MZ: However. the structure itself. Some are using a more combinatorial approach which possessesan inner structurewithin the order of the twelve tones. You can put all these things into correspondence. all the notes that you pick are related to each other according to the sieve that you have originated yourself. but if this is a precise interpretation-that is. Therefore. he's talking about serializingthree-dimensionalspace. to meet or converge with probabilityin order to broaden its base? IX: First of all.

which is not space anymore. and the part which uses renewals or periodicity. because while it may be rich in its own way." Is this still true today.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 99 space approach also-but it is one way of thinking.Some characteristics can perhaps be sieved through the approach of topology. Combinatorial analysis is a tool of probability theory. Total dissymmetryis a question of organization. of periodicity. causalities and rules. For instance. but I think it's not the only one. a description. by introducing probabilities. But if you have large combinatorial numbers. and duration. and in what ways or areas have you expanded this idea? IX: No. For instance. and so on. There are sounds which have io pitch. and the answer to it is that it could be. your capacity to deal with them. Probabilitytheory is based on a combinatorial analysis. an infinite asymmetryor dissymmetry. is gone. and so on. or have so many pitches that you are lost in them. There are other problems concerning the inner structure and their characteristics. combinations of sets. Now as for what you said about combinatorialserialism. MZ: In your book you state that your basic aim is to: "Attain the greatest possible asymmetry (in the etymological sense) and the minimum of constraints. then of course it's evident that you don't have too much dissymmetryor asymmetry. But you have to deal with it and also the problems of determinism. that is. this corresponds to only a few of the chapters. And besides that. the part which is more or less well-organized. only it's much larger. or irregularity. and so on. symmetry is not defined by the name in itself. but are so varying that it's impossible to give them an account. or sounds which do not have one intensity. in the section on symbolic music which deals with the use of sets. This has to do with Fourier analysis.that is. but properties of continuity and discontinuity. you see. up to a point. But there is much to be done to the part which is not totally unrelated. it is still only one approach. I think that when you deal with combinatorial problems in very small quantities. then your attention. But this is the most elementary approach to space which is not the most central issue.and the way to get to it is by the use of probability theories. by me as well. This is probably why Boulez says musical space is three-dimensional. It's an interesting approach which has been used by many people. of connectedness. you can deny the fact that one sound is made of pitch. MZ: And you also think it's narrow. that is. then you can play games with them. intensity. which is not the only one. IX: Yes. You can only deal with large combinatorialnumbersin a statistical way. That means that you repeat .

Gmeeoorh. which was performed in Tully Hall. an organ piece. Where can you take this material? IX: Essentially there are two directions. but which are in continuous change. Finally. That is. is Evryali for piano. outside-of-time or in-time. MZ: Could it be describedas a shape in continuum? IX: Yes. You can also effect more complicated transformationsby using the complex numbers. and you can treat it by logic. like a bush. which was commissioned by the organ festival at . One lies in instrumental music. you don't have just one melodic line. That is. but something which is much more complex. because the change is in-time already. In order to change it constantly.Erikhthon. This produces a new type of generalization because it can happen with serial music or tonal music. you don't have one little pattern. So this is one main direction and there are several representativeworks. MZ: Are there any compositions that you have recently published or written that you are particularly proud of or that explore new territory? In other words. and then you can modify it with all these transformations. and there is another one for large orchestra. a form which can be changed. you have to propose something. but the diversity comes from the confrontation of different types of repetitions. for instance group theory for Nomos alpha or Nomos gamma-for cello or large orchestra-which is based on something which is repetitive. in my book I discuss several techniques. you have to define it first. you create bushes or tree arborescences of melodic patterns. called Noomena. MZ: Can you name them? IX: The first work with arborescences. by taking into considerationa kind of generalizationof the melodic pattern of the melody and the manipulations that are possible. I would like to know what you have done since the writing of Formalized Music and where the potential lies today and in the future. with tree-like shapes. by expanding it or by moving or rotating it as an object in itself. Therefore what you have is a kind of bush of such melodic patterns which are intermingled. Now this bush or arborescence of melodic patterns can be considered as an object. which I have done also. There are many things that can be done. which was conducted by Solti last year.100 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC the same operations. because the rotations are continuous. There is one for piano and orchestra. that is. and. but a complex of melodic patterns that are not melodies in the old sense. even more importantly.

that is. Vol. and it will be able to be reproducedin France. 2. they each had all sorts of configurationswith mirrorsinterspaced. In the future it will be movable. There were twelve loudspeakers. that is. produced the way I indicated. of course. MZ: Can you apply these theories to more than one medium? IX: Oh yes. . and time consuming. even in so far as the movement of the sound in the space. but is sound which is noiselike-the zero degree approach of what I am proposing. if there is any demand for it. Another possible direction is the topological approach to shapes in music.. Dealing with computers represents the third direction-the work that I'm doing with computers (to continue the last chapter of my book) is the exploration of this microsynthesis with probability. and all this was determined by a light score. pp.an eight-track tape recorder.CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 101 Hartford. This light score program was produced onto a tape of binary commands or instructions that was then read from a tape drive which dispatched all the commands to all these things. to structures on a larger scale. which is correct. or abroad. it's very expensive. But the point is that when you have different white sounds made out of different probabilitydistributions. the use of many complicated manipulations of equations and so on. In PERSPECTIVES2 a criticism appeared in connection with this last chapter of my book. For instance. 269-277. Even in this case you have noises which are put together in such a way that each takes its personalityfrom the probabilitydistributionand in this sense it's a very interestingexperiment. Essentially this approach is for instrumental music because it's much easier to deal with and much more economical. in micro-scales. And so you have a kind of music which is not the colored sound. one year ago we ended a spectacle at the Museum of Cluny in Paris with laser beams and electronic flashesabout 600 electronic flashes and three laser beams. May 1975 Paris. When you have to deal with computers. that is the inverse direction of the traditional sound synthesis with D/A converters. No. absolutely. Connecticut. the essence of which was that when a university did an energy spectrum of a sound. electronic flashesand sound. how to use them. or even in the States.. and how to conduct them. they found that the energy correspondsto the energy of the white sound. 11. with lasers. So it was a completely automated spectacle. France 2 Spring-Summer1973. and each one of the flashes was operated individually. independently from the others. then these white sounds are different among themselves. even more complex than at Cluny. that is. and the composition lasted about 24 minutes. difficult.

displacements or steps in a specific domain Q will belong to set A.T. The Compleat Strategyst.From the first assumption characteristics will belong to various specific domains 2. We are able to repeat.Paris: Gauthier-Villarset Cie..). P. concatenations or iterations of elements of A form a . Xenakis Ashby. 3. which can be described as the movement. Music: Sound and Sensation. E. 4. Feller. John E.. Paris: GauthierVillars. Freund. W. Appendix II Footnote from Formalized Music. Introduction to Cybernetics. Formalization. The basic assumptionsabove engender three fundamental sets: 0. There are two orientations in the iterationsmore iterations. The Technology of Computer Music. or the step from one discrete characteristic to another. D. 1956. respectively. J. Paris: Gauthier-Villars.Theorie des evenements en chaine dans le cas d'un nombre fini d'etats possibles. tr. From the third. Press. M. The sensations create discrete characteristics. F. 1965. London: Chapman and Hall. 1925. 1966. An Introduction to Probability Theory and its Applications. Sensations plus comparisons of them create differences between the above characteristicsor points. -.) New York: John Wiley and Sons. the displacement. which is independent of Q. Winckel. page 267: 14. New York: Dover Publications. 1. stops (pitches. Mathews. 1952. William. Basic Assumptions. A. Borel. Ross. Methode des fonctions arbitraires. 2. 1947. intensities. The following is a new axiomatization of the sieves. which can be represented as points.I. Levy.. 1969. Max V. instants. New York: Prentice-Hall.fewer iterations. (Two vols. Calcul des probabilites. concatenate the above steps.. 1967. VI and VII. more natural than the one in Chaps. Principes et formules classiques du calcul des probabilites.102 PERSPECTIVES OF NEW MUSIC Appendix I A Selected BibliographyRecommended by I.values. Sets. Cambridge: M. 1954. From the second. Elements of the Theory of Probability. New York: McGraw-Hill. Frechet. Williams. from one point to another. E. iterate.

). b. VI and VII) in order to generate an Equally Tempered Chromatic Gamut (defined as an ETCHG sieve). We can easily identify E as the set N of natural numbers plus zero. the fourth basic assumption leads directly to the definition of the set of integers Z from E. has a group structure.g. We have thus bypassed the direct use of Peano axiomatics (introduced in Chaps. A X E < A (a displacement combined with an iteration or a concatenation produces a displacement).CONVERSATION WITH IANNIS XENAKIS 103 set E. Q X A 0 (a pitch-point combined with a displacement produces a pitch-point). Moreover. a. on the other hand. Product Sets. . Set A (set of melodic intervals. e. Indeed it is sufficient to choose any displacement ELD belonging to set A and form the product {ELD} X Z. The two orientationsin the fourth assumptioncan be representedby + and -.

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