Concret PH – Iannis Xenakis

I am completely blown away by this work. Xenakis recorded burning charcoal and processed the sounds he gathered into this pointillist collage of sounds. Fun fact, it was played in the Philips Pavillion where Varese’s Poème électronique (mentioned in class) was also debuted as listeners entered and left the structure.

What I enjoy is how incredibly foreign and synthetic the work appears at first, at least to my ears. As I listen a bit more, the sounds ‘naturalize’ themselves and suddenly the piece does not sound so harsh and inhuman anymore. It becomes more organic. This is, perhaps, not too much of a stretch given the natural subject matter that formed the basis of the work. If I had to liken it to something, it would be the transformation from hundreds of shards of glass hitting a floor to the sounds of hundreds of crickets in a field at night.

I’ve always had a fondness for musique concrète, and this work in particular. I think it is successful because of it’s brief nature and the fact that it is one cohesive unit of sounds. It is not an aggregate of many types and colors of sounds, like many other similar works of the time. I find that this uniformity lends itself well to the ear, or at least to mine. If I had to suggest a way to improve the piece, I would perhaps like to see more layering of sounds so as to create sections denser textures interspersed throughout the work. However, this would mean the work would have to be longer as well.

– Jorge Padrón


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