Xenakis Metastaseis (B) programme note
Xenakis Metastaseis (B) (1954)
(Meta= after + stasis="fixed" state = dialetic transformation)
Dedicated to Maurice le Roux, scored for 61 instrumentalists, written in 1953-54 and first performed in 1955 at the Donaueschingen Festival, conducted by Hands Rosbaud, the Metastasis is a turning-point between classical music (including serial music) and 'Formalised Music' which the author has himself been obliged to inaugurate in musical composition. Here are some new conceptions introduced by this work:
1. The normal orchestra is divided in the extreme: 61 instrumentalists play 61 different parts.
2. Systematic use of individual glissandi from the whole mass of strings of an orchestra; glissandi, the angles of which are calculated individually. These glissandi create sounds spaces which continually evolve, comparable to regulated surfaces and volumes. It is precisely these glissandi which led the author, a few years later, to his design for the architecture of the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels Exposition, undertaken for Le Corbusier (cf. 'Le Poème Electronique'm Editions de Minuit, Revue Technique Philips, Vol. 20 (1958-590)).
3. The structures of intervals, the length of dynamics and tones are combined, using geometric progressions, particularly the golden section, ideas analogous to those applied by the author in designing the facade of the Couvent de la Tourette near Lyons (cf. Modulor 2, Le Corbusier, Editions Architecture d'Aujourd'hui).
4. Correlation of the sound events 'in rows', the first stage towards the calculations of probabilities.
5. It was also an attempt to prove at the time that the human orchestra was capable of outclassing, in new sounds and finesse, the new electro-magnetic devices which claimed to render it obsolete.