Metastasis (Xenakis)

Metastasis (Xenakis)

Metastasis (Xenakis)

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Metastasis, also Metastaseis, is an orchestral work for 61 musicians by Iannis Xenakis. His first major work, it was written in 1953-54 after his studies with Olivier Messiaen and is 8 minutes in length. The work was premiered at the 1955 Donaueschingen Festival with Hans Rosbaud conducting.

Metastasis was inspired by the combination of an Einsteinian view of time and Xenakis' memory of the sounds of warfare, and structured on mathematical ideas by Le Corbusier. Music usually consists of a set of sounds ordered in time; music played backwards is hardly recognizable. Messiaen's similar observations led to his noted uses of non-retrogradable rhythms; Xenakis wished to reconcile the linear perception of music with a relativistic view of time. In warfare, as Xenakis knew it through his musical ear, no individual bullet being fired could be distinguished among the cacophony, but taken as a whole the sound of "gunfire" was clearly identifiable. The particular sequence of shots was unimportant: the individual guns could have fired in a completely different pattern from the way they actually did, but the sound produced would still have been the same. These ideas combined to form the basis of Metastasis.

The work requires an orchestra of 61 players (12 wind, 3 percussionists playing 7 instruments, 46 strings) with no two performers playing the same part. It was written using a sound mass technique in which each player is responsible for completing glissandi at different pitch...
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