| Nov 23, 2009 |
The Drawing Center in New York announces exhibition of composer, architect, visionary Iannis Xenakis
Boh staff
By Staff

The Drawing Center announces a special exhibition of the work of Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary, from January 15 – April 8, 2010. The exhibition will explore the fundamental role of drawing in the work of avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001).

One of the most important figures in late twentieth-century music, Xenakis originally trained as an engineer and was also known as an architect, developing iconic designs while working with Le Corbusier in the 1950s. This premiere presentation of Xenakis’s visual work in North America will be comprised of samples of his pioneering graphic notation, architectural plans, compelling preparatory mathematical renderings, and pre-compositional sketches—in all, nearly 100 documents created between 1953 and 1984. Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary is cocurated by Xenakis scholar Sharon Kanach and critic Carey Lovelace and will travel to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (June 17 – October 17, 2010) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (November 2010 – February 2011).

The exhibition will be accompanied by an ambitious schedule of public programs, concerts, and symposia around New York in collaboration with Electronic Music Foundation (EMF), 92YTribeca, Brooklyn Experimental Media Center at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, The Cathedral School, Diapason Gallery, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the New York University Percussion Ensemble, the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, and The Morgan Library & Museum. Programs will include a virtual-reality recreation of the programming within the Philips Pavilion, taking place at the Judson Church; a month-long sound installation recreating several of his works; a three-day symposium exploring the composer/architect’s ongoing impact in music and design; performances of Xenakis’s compositions; and a film program. The exhibition will coincide with the 2010 launch of The Xenakis Project of the Americas, under the auspices of the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation within the Graduate Center of City University of New York.

One of the world’s most widely performed contemporary composers, Xenakis brought together architecture, sound, and advanced contemporary mathematics, moving away from traditional polyphony to create music comprised of masses of sound, shifting abstract aural gestures, linear permutation, and sonic pointillism. A groundbreaking interdisciplinary approach was also apparent in his architectural creations, such as the Philips Pavilion, an icon of twentieth-century architecture, which Xenakis created under Le Corbusier for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. The design of the Philips Pavilion’s volumetric structure was inspired by the glissandi—glides between pitches—that made up Xenakis’s groundbreaking orchestral work Metastaseis (1953–54). The meticulously rendered works on view in the exhibition burst with kinetic energy and palpable sonic qualities, providing a singular insight into this extraordinary innovator’s process of “thinking through the hand.” In addition, listening stations and preloaded iPods and will provide an intimate aural experience to accompany the works on view.

Iannis Xenakis was born in 1922 in Braïla, Romania, and died in 2001 in Paris, France. A Greek Resistance fighter in World War II, he fled to France as a political refugee in 1947. Having obtained an engineering degree from the Athens Polytechnic Institute, he collaborated with Le Corbusier in Paris from 1947–1959. From 1950–1953, while working with the noted architect, he studied composition at the Paris Conservatory under Olivier Messiaen. Xenakis’s collaboration with Le Corbusier as an engineer and architect yielded innovative projects such as the Couvent de La Tourette (1955) and the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair (1958). Xenakis was also a speculative thinker, the author of such books as Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition; Music and Architecture; and Arts/Sciences: Alloys. He was the founder (1965) and Director of the Center for Studies of Mathematical and Automated Music (CEMAMu) in Paris; Associate Professor, Electronic Music and founder and Director, Center for Mathematical and Automated Music (CMAM) at Indiana University in Bloomington (1967–72); researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris (1970); Gresham Professor of Music, City University London (1975); and Professor at the University of Paris (1972–89). Iannis Xenakis was awarded the Kyoto Prize in 1997, considered the Nobel Prize of Music, and the Polar Prize in 1999.

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