Spatialization in Selected Works of Iannis Xenakis

The intersection between music and architecture in the work of Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001) is practically inseparable due to his training as an architect, engineer, and composer. His music is unique and exciting because of the use of mathematics and logic in his compositional approach. In the 1960s, Xenakis began composing music that included spatial aspects—music in which movement is an integral part of the work. In this thesis, three of these early works, Eonta (1963–64), Terretektorh (1965–66), and Persephassa (1969), are considered for their spatial characteristics.

Spatial sound refers to how we localize sound sources and perceive their movement in space. There are many factors that influence this perception, including dynamics, density, and timbre. Xenakis manipulates these musical parameters in order to write music that seems to move. In his compositions, there are two types of movement, physical and apparent. In Eonta, the brass players actually walk around on stage and modify the position of their instruments to create spatial effects. In Terretektorh and Persephassa, Xenakis creates the impression of movement by transferring musical material between groups of musicians using techniques developed from musique concrète. These works are further innovative because of the unique seating arrangements in which the space for the performers and audience are superimposed.

In this thesis, graphical analyses of the three works under consideration are presented, demonstrating Xenakis’s early approach to spatial composition. The thesis builds on the work of other scholars and provides more insight as to how these fascinating pieces work.