Iannis Xenakis 1922 - 2001
Polytope (Mycenes Alpha) - Hybrid Cinema (1978)
Directed by Fotis Psichramis
Mycenae-Alpha is an electroacoustic work that Xenakis composed in 1978 as part of an installation of lights,
movement and music that took place at Mycenae Acropolis in Greece.
The massive multimedia performances Xenakis called polytopes
Mycenae-Alpha is also the first work to
be composed entirely on the UPIC system. The UPIC is a tool for the graphic composition of electroacoustic
music which was first developed in the late 1970s by Xenakis and his staff at the Center for Studies in
Mathematical and Automated Music in Paris.
Xenakis created the music using the UPIC which makes sound based on drawings that Xenakis made.
The work has become a classic of computer-generated music. By taking the shapes and movements of natural phenomena, such as molecules in a gas, Xenakis developed a method of digitally mapping those images into the computer and using them to trigger sound events of similar aural shapes.
Completely fascinating stuff. The film seems to be an exploration of Greek mythology and history, or rather, in this way represents those ideas that are at the heart of Xenakis' massive multimedia event called "Polytope de Mycenes", of which the main part of the film is an audio-visual document, interspersed with images of, for instance, the Greek fight for liberation or ancient artefacts. The music is not just that short electronic composition called "Mycenae Alpha", but makes use of choirs, orchestra and a lot of percussion. The event and the music present Xenakis at his most ritualistic, and at the same time most accessible. Archaic and visionary at the same time, and simply great. I really envy the people who saw this 'live' in 1978, but even in this filmed way it's pretty entrancing. And as there's no cd recording available, this fine-sounding recording also helps to fill an important gap in anyone's Xenakis collection.