In 2002, I was involved in the production of a very modest Xenakis Festival in my hometown of Ensenada, Mexico. Among the guests there were percussionist Steve Schick (I still remember his remarkable version of Rebonds) and Mexican composer and former student of Xenakis’ Julio Estrada. The festival was a fantastic experience. I had been interested in Xenakis’ music for some years by then, but coming across live performances of his music in Mexico is, unfortunately, not easy. From then on, my interest in Xenakis’ work has kept on growing. For this festival, I asked a close friend of mine, Felipe Orensanz, an architect and an admirer of Xenakis himself, to prepare a small exhibit with a few representative Xenakian designs. He collected several significant images and put them together in four or five posters. The images were as powerful as the music. My friend wanted them to convey as much information as possible, so he gathered a few Xenakian quotes to complete the images. One of those quotes made strong impact on me. I’ll try an English translation here:
I’m a savage, and my works are spurts of savageness. The layer of civilization
is extremely faint in me. I am not a civilized man.
I found out years later that this was taken from one of Xenakis’ last interviews, made by Bruno Serrou in 1997 (B. Serrou. Iannis Xenakis. L’homme des défis. Paris: Cig’Art, 2003, p. 61). How did it end up in one of my friend’s posters, a year prior to its final publishing? I have no idea. But, as I mentioned, it made a strong impact on me. One can approach Xenakis’ music and thought in many ways. There are his humanistic and philosophical ideas. There are his relationships with mathematics and the natural sciences. However, to me, this didn’t fully explain the energy and uniqueness of his music. After I read this quote, I knew what he meant: Savageness as a raw product of nature. Now I could fully understand my interest in his music. Xenakis’ music is the only thing I know that, in spite of being produced by humans, can be perceived as a natural phenomenon. Now there was an aesthetic idea that I could completely identify with: Music as a force of nature. I became a savage too, and remain so to this day.