Romanian-born French composer of Greek parentage. He evolved a method of ‘stochastic’ composition using the mathematics of chance and probability and also employing computers. Compositions such as Metastasis/After Change (1953–54) for 61 players apply stochastic principles – for example, describing particle motion in fluids – to the composition of densely textured effects in which change is perceived globally. Later works, including a setting of the Oresteia (1965–66) for choir and ensemble, drew on Greek mythology.
Xenakis was born at Braila, Romania. He studied music in Paris, France, 1947–51 while practising as an engineering draughtsman for French architect Le Corbusier. He studied with Honegger, Milhaud, and Messiaen. He published Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition in 1972. His ideas have exercised considerable influence on other composers.
WorksTheatre musicThe Bacchae (1993).
Orchestral and ensembleMetastasis for orchestra (1954), Pithoprakta for string orchestra (1956), Achorripsis for 21 instruments (1957), Polytope for small orchestra (1967), Synaphai for piano and orchestra (1969), Noomena for orchestra (1975), Keqrops for piano and orchestra (1986), Tracées for orchestra (1987), Tuorakemsu for orchestra (1990), Dox-Orkh for violin and 89 players (1991).
Electronic compositionsDiamorphosis (1958), Orient-Occident (1960); ballets Kraanerg for orchestra and tape (1969) and Antikhton (1971).
OtherMorsima-Amorsima (1) for four players (1956–62), (2) for ten players (1962).
Choral with orchestra or ensembleOresteia for chorus and chamber ensemble (1966), Chants des Soleils (1983), Idmen A for chorus and percussion quartet (1985), Idmen B for chorus and percussion sextet (1986), Knephas for unaccompanied chorus (1990).
ChamberSyrmos for 18 strings (1959), Akrata for 16 wind (1965), Atrées (1962), Anaktoria (1969), Auroura (1971), Phlegra (1975), Retours-Windungen (1976), Tetras for string quartet (1983), Thallein for 14 players (1984), Palimpsest for piano and ensemble (1982), Jalons for 15 players (1986), Akea piano quartet (1986), Waarg for 13 players (1988), Okho for 3 players (1989), Epicycle for cello and 12 players (1989), Akanthos for soprano and ensemble (1977).