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KUNIKO - Xenakis: IX - PS Audio


22 April 2015
PS Audio
Lawrence Schenbeck

IX: Iannis Xenakis. Kuniko, percussion (Linn CKD 495; SACD and download). I don't understand why Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) never became quite as famous (notorious?) as his peers in the late-20th-century avant-garde-characters like Berio, Stockhausen, Boulez, and Cage. On the surface he seemed just as nutty: fanatical, self-serious (unlike Cage, who could be maddeningly un-self-serious), and teeming with mathematical and quasi-scientific justifications for every note (unlike Cage, who carefully, maddeningly hid his careful calculations from the public). Trained as an engineer and architect, Xenakis nevertheless created music that pulsed with life. Like Stravinsky, he thought of music as architecture, but that hardly kept his works from functioning as glowing, complex organisms with forms always informed by their utter fluidity.

Having tackled music of Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt in previous releases for Linn, Kuniko (like Madonna and Björk, she's only got the one name) now brings us her take on two major Xenakis works, Pléïades and Rebonds. Via multitracking she becomes her own percussion ensemble, creating cascades of sound from the drums and mallet instruments at her disposal. She also writes-and writes well-about this music; it's actually useful to read what she has to say about these pieces. (The booklet notes include the composer's own commentaries too.) In Claviers, third movement of Pléïades, one can hear the influence of Asian gamelan, of various algorithms applied to canonic textures, or of Impressionistic echo effects. It's beautifully elastic-loopy, in every sense of the word-and it may make you smile. (For me it briefly brought to mind the wonderful Groucho-Harpo "mirror scene" in Duck Soup.)


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