Messiaen and Xenakis - Oiseaux Exotiques

This photo shows Olivier Messiaen pinning the award of Chevalier de la légion d'honneur on Iannis Xenakis in his Paris apartment in 1977. Xenakis was a pupil of Messiaen and I will be playing music by both of them on my Future Radio programme on Sunday April 13 at 5.00pm UK time (repeated 12.50am April 14).

The programme opens with Xenakis' Komboi and closes with another award winner, Angelin Chang, John McLaughlin Williams and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's Grammy winning recording of Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques. The two works are separated by music from a composer who shared Messiaen's deep Catholic faith. Hildegard of Bingen is the earliest composer with a detailed biography and her music drama Ordo Virtutum is considered to be the prototype of the art form that became opera and eight centuries later came full circle in Messiaen's massively underrated Saint François d'Assise which only had its U.S. premiere in 2002. I will be playing the instrumental lament and Scene 3 from Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum performed by Sequentia directed by Barbara Thornton and Benjamin Bagby on Sunday.

Now here's a little quiz. Which famous musician said this after hearing tapes of Xenakis' Mists and Synaphaï?

'This is the first time I've heard any music by Xenakis; it's completely bowled me over, even though I'm not sure I've really understood it (or not understood it). Intuition? But can one always trust it? ... It seems to me that this, in fact, is what I'd call real 'new' music.'

To finish some quick visual arts trivia. Olivier Messiaen died on April 27, 1992 and the figurative painter Francis Bacon, whose masterpiece is the disturbing Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, died the following day. Staying with the visual arts remember Iannis Xenakis also composed in glass.
Photo credit Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Pliable said…
A reader in Germany has emailed in to suggest the famous musician speaking about Xenakis' music was Itzhak Perlman.

An interesting answer, but wrong I'm afraid.

I'll add other answers as and when they come in, and will only comment further when the right answer is posted.
Pliable said…
Oh come on, that's cheating ...

From the server log - (Cern Routed Backbone) [Label IP Address]

Geneve, Geneva, Switzerland, 3 returning visits

Date Time WebPage
11th April 2008 13:11:55 is the first time I%27ve heard any music by Xenakis%3B it%27s completely bowled me over%2C even though I%27m no

And the funny thing is it won't give you the right answer!
Eurydice said…
Such a touching photo! Thanks for sharing that. I've loved Xenakis ever since hearing his harpsichord pieces.
Pliable said…
An awful lot of lurkers but no takers for the source of that quote.

But a reader in Europe has added to the repository of trivia by reminding us that Françoise Xenakis, the widow of the composer, is a respected author and journalist:
Garth Trinkl said…
She or he was born on a bay.
Pliable said…
Garth, I take it you didn't mean they were born on a horse of a moderate reddish-brown color?

In which case I can tell you, he or she was actually born in a city that is around 180 miles inland.

And if anyone is going to get it, it's you.

To give everyone else a chance check Garth's blog -
Garth Trinkl said…

The perils of near certainty ... Last week, I was almost certain the quote was by I.S., who was born on the golf of Finland, near Saint Petersburg. I thought that the quote was from the end of the Donald Mitchell's Language of Modern Music book ... which it wasn't, when I checked this weekend. I.S., in fact, apparently had unkind things to say about Xenakis, Boulez, Britten, and [one other].

The fact that it was by S.R. is very fascinating to me, though I do believe that I may have read that quote somewhere and sometime!

Thanks for not waiting two or more weeks to announce the answer!


Happy and rewarding spring travels to you and your wife, S.


[Like S.R., my wife and step-son were both born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine.]

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