Composition obsession and Xenakis.

I have a new obsession. It’s composition. I listen to Xenakis’ Okho, and I struggle to understand how one can produce something so senseless, so abstract and foreign but so compelling. Maybe it is the foreigness that is compelling. It is not the sound of randomness… it is something else.

Perhaps it is that Xenakis treads a very fine line between no-order (randomness) and order. He offers just enough order for the listener to hold on to, but then strips it away and the listener is left holding onto thin air. I think the ear *looks* for some form of order, trying to hold onto some semblance of recognition … sonic recognition … perhaps ‘source-identification’ (where the sound gives away the physical sounding object).

I wonder how Xenakis achieves this. I know he used statistical progressions extensively … but I am not convinced that it is these statistical projections that create that fine line between order and no order. I suspect that it is born more of an aesthetic intelligence, and that perhaps the statistical spreads formed a ground, a base-material that Xenakis then sculpted to his ends.

I’m not entirely sure, but I believe that Okho was composed in 1989. By Comparison, Xenakis composed Pithoprakta in the 1950’s. The statistical progressions are more evident, but so is the ‘sonic order’ (my term). You can hear some form of order in the work… and these orders are reminiscent of ‘worldly’ orders, such as group dynamics. That’s why Okho is so strange … I can hear no order in it which reminds me of a worldly order, yet it seems to convince that there is *some* form of order in there.

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