Iannis Xenakis – Metastasis

Although an admittedly challenging work on first listen, the backstory of this composition, and the scientific principles that inspired it, is truly fascinating. Metastasis is an orchestral work by Iannis Xenakis, a Greek composer, architect and major figure in the postwar development of musical modernism worldwide. He is particularly remembered for the pioneering use of mathematical techniques in his compositions, including probability (Maxwell-Boltzmann kinetic theory of gases, minimal constraints, Gaussian distribution, Markov chains), game theory, group theory, Boolean algebra and Brownian motion. Metastasis was inspired by Einstein’s view of time (a function of matter & energy) and structured on mathematical ideas by Xenakis’s colleague Le Corbusier. The 1st and 3rd movements don’t have a melodic theme to hold them together, but rather depend on the strength of this conceptualization of time. The 2nd movement does have some sort of melodic element. A fragment of a 12-tone row is used, with durations based on the Fibonacci sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34…) The preliminary sketch for Metastasis was in graphic notation looking more like a blueprint than a musical score, showing graphs of mass motion and glissandi like structural beams of the piece, with sound frequencies on one axis and time on the other. Recording Notes: SWF Symphony Orchestra Hans Rosbaud, conductor Recorded, October 1955

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