Iannis Xenakis, Persépolis

Portrait of one of the most famous contemporary composers in the 20th century

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Iannis Xenakis

Program notes

A fascinating and rare portrait of one of the 20th century's best known contemporary composers, Iannis Xenakis. The documentary focuses particularly on the premiere of Persepolis in 1971 at the Shiraz-Persépolis Arts Festival.

This documentary, directed by Pierre Andrégui, includes unique footage of the "Persepolis" world premiere in 1971. The documentary crew was the only one authorized to shoot the event. The film also includes a portrait of the composer at his home in Paris, and in Bloomington, Indiana (United States) where he teaches music. From his sheep farm in Corsica, Xénakis expounds on his conception of music, based on two elements: music's relationship to mathematics and physics, and the art of sonic plasticity.

A spectacle composed of sound and light, called "polytope" by Xenakis, Persepolis was composed in 1971 for the opening of the 5th Shiraz-Persépolis Arts Festival. Xenakis described the work in his own words: "Persepolis is neither a work of theater, nor a ballet, nor an event. It is visual symbolism, paralleled in sound, and in the end it is sound—music—that must prevail at all costs." With such a unique and clear vision, it becomes clear why this composer made his mark on the history of music, furthering his ideas despite being marginalized by mainstream serialism.

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