Iannis Xenakis trained as an engineer in his native Greece, but also worked as an architect – notably in Le Corbusier’s atelier, where he contributed to the designs of several iconic buildings, including La Tourette and the Philips Pavilion.
Drawing was central to Xenakis’ working method as a designer of sound and space, and the meticulously hand-rendered scores and graphic studies, both architectural and musical, on view in the exhibition express a spatial understanding of the page as much as they do a palpable sonic quality.One of Xenakis’s signature innovations was to integrate advanced contemporary mathematics as a compositional tool. In particular, he crafted “stochastic” or apparently random instrumental works developed using probability theory and characterized by “sound masses”, and pioneered the genres of computer and electro-acoustic music.
Xenakis’ “Polytopes” are designed environments in which lighting, colour, and architecture overlap (from the Greek words poly meaning many and topos meaning place). The Polytope de Montréal, designed for the central space of the French pavilion at Expo 67, is one of Xenakis’s best known works of this type. Le Diatope (1978) is a more complex iteration of this work. Replacing the floor with glass and using 1600 flashbulbs and four lasers guided by four hundred adjustable mirrors, Le Diatope was a synthetic experience of light and sound in a pavilion outside the Centre Pompidou in Paris.