Iannis Ksinakis’ sports music at the Elbphilharmonie | NDR.de – Culture

Status: 05/08/2022 09:13 AM

100 years ago Iannis Ksinakis was born. The composer with Greek roots used mathematics to write his music. On May 9, the Christian Benning Percussion Group will perform at the Elbphilharmonie.

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by Francesca Stork

“While Beethoven was using the musical notes, Xenakis usually made his drawings on graph paper. He studied geometry, he was an architect, and he really found ways to turn formulas and mathematical forms into music,” says percussionist Christian Benning. It seems chaotic at first when Xenakis turns math into music for six percussionists who have very different drums, xylophones, vibraphones, and drums like in a rock band. However, there is a system behind it: “We are each a player that looks like a cogwheel of different sizes and moves at different speeds — as in a clock or as an engine driving a variety of shafts and wheels,” says Benning.

Multi percussion with six percussion instruments

Composer Iannis Xenakis in his studio 1970 © Michèle Daniel Photo: Michèle Daniel

Composer Iannis Xenakis in his studio in 1970. He managed to turn mathematical formulas and forms into music.

Iannis Xenakis loves numbers and fractions. With him, the two-thirds interval looks like this: one musician plays two notes, the other musician plays three notes at the same time, so it’s a little faster. With six musicians and six different speeds, this is a real challenge. At first it seems chaotic, but sometimes all musicians come up with a common denominator in the truest sense of the word. Xenakis also assigned a different tool for each step. That’s why there is a sheet music legend that players must memorize first, says Benning: “For example, C is conga or low E is bass drum.”

Program of a special party on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Iannis Ksinakis

In the year of Xenakis, Christian Benning is preparing a special with five other percussion instruments. With plenty of percussion, they play pieces by Xenakis, but also by Johann Sebastian Bach or Ludwig van Beethoven, which have been rewritten for Marimba. The instrument looks like a xylophone, it is only made of wood and much larger – sometimes players use six mallets.

In the concert one can relive Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and hear how Xenakis imagined the sound of planets revolving on large ellipses. For him, the planets are tympanic shapes in different orbits: “There will always be moments when they are completely opposite or perhaps going parallel to each other for a brief moment,” Benning says.

Christian Benning’s percussion set on May 9 at the Elbphilharmonie

Christian Benning will give short interpretations of all the tracks, so that one can feel the effects of the aha when listening afterwards. Live cameras and a screen above the stage provide new perspectives so that “the audience can also follow this battle of material with 200 instruments on stage from our perspective or from a bird’s eye view,” Benning says. Even those who had nothing to do with Xenakis would be taken by the hand at the concert. Even if you don’t always like the sound: your eyes will listen and your eyes will be immersed.

additional information

Engineer and composer Iannis Xenakis interviewed in front of Big Tape Machines (1964)

4 minutes

At the computing center at TU in West Berlin, he creates a unique synthesis of “random music” and architecture. 4 minutes

Iannis Ksinakis’ sports music at the Elbphilharmonie

100 years ago Iannis Ksinakis was born. On May 9, the Christian Benning Percussion Group will exhibit his work in Hamburg.

He writes:

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, small hall
Fourth place in the German Unity
20457 Hamburg

from 45 EUR

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