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Xenakis – “String Quartets” – [Mode Records]

A collection of string quartet compositions (performed by up and coming Jack Quartet) from this pioneer in musical theory and electronic experimentation with a background in architecture and engineering. These pieces explore the sonic capacity of traditional violin, viola, cello from a perspective that is completely nonlinear and multi-dimensional, weighing both formal and sonic relationships in music. Tetras ??balances traditional structure and visceral sonic destruction while exploring the possibilities held within sliding glissando techniques. The quartet here acts as a singular unit, producing ornately layered textures, oscillating timbral colorations that explode into pointillistic spatterings of pizzicato notes. Tetora??produces nervous contrapuntal themes with circular melodies sliced by flat, metallic attacks that use no glissando or vibrato. This piece is based on an intervallic configuration called “sieves” that do not repeat at the octave so that they produce different melodies and harmonies depending on octave and transposition. ST-4??is the culmination of a bunch of experimentation in computer modelling and wasn’t originally intended as a string piece. Here he uses algorithmic compositional techniques that combine basic axiomatic models of music with probability theories, a form he calls “stochastic music.” Here we have a dizzying balance of plucks, strikes, bows and scrapes anchored in bouts of silence. Ergma??is based on the abstract geometries of the Dutch artist. Thick sonority rich in harsh chromaticism and relentless dissonance. Stripped down to its barest form, abandoning all extended techniques and modalities, this piece isn’t as rich in variety of sound, but equally powerful. Xenakis had a unique style that was equally formal in its categorization of sonic chaos and abstract in its harnessing of traditional musical forms. This will redefine your definitions of string quartet music!

  • Reviewed by abacus on January 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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