Iannis Xenakis and Sieve Theory: An Analysis of the Late Music (1984-1993)

Exarchos, Dimitris. 2008. Iannis Xenakis and Sieve Theory: An Analysis of the Late Music (1984-1993). Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is divided in three parts, the first two of which are theoretical and the third
analytical. Part I is an investigation of Iannis Xenakis’s general theory of composition,
the theory of outside-time musical structures. This theory appears in many of Xenakis’s
writings, sometimes quite idiosyncratically. The aim of this part is to reveal the function
of the non-temporal in Xenakis’s musical structures, by means of a historical approach
through his writings. This exploration serves to unveil certain aspects discussed more
thoroughly through a deconstructive approach. The deconstructive is demonstrated in the
classification of musical structures and aims partly at showing the nature of Time in
Xenakis’s theory.

Part II is preoccupied with Xenakis’s Sieve Theory. In the earlier writings on
Sieve Theory he presented a slightly different approach than in the later, where he also
provided an analytical algorithm that he developed gradually from the mid 1980s until
1990. The rationale of this algorithm and the pitch-sieves of 1980-1993 guides Part III,
which is preoccupied with a methodology of sieve analysis, its application, and an
exploration of the employment of sieves in some of Xenakis’s compositions of the 1980s.
When possible, the analysis takes in consideration the pre-compositional sketches,
available at the Archives Xenakis, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The sketches reveal
aspects of the application of Sieve Theory, not included in Xenakis’s theoretical writings.
3As with the application of other theories, Xenakis progressed to less formalised
processes. However, this does not mean that Sieve Theory ceased to inform the process
of scale-construction. As the conclusion of this dissertation indicates, he employed Sieve
Theory in order to achieve structures that conform to his general aesthetic principles, that
relate to various degrees of symmetry and periodicity.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Contemporary Music Research Unit



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Mar 2016 19:23

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:11



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