Iannis Xenakis

(1922 - 2001)

Photo of Iannis Xenakis
Friends of Xenakis, 1970

Composer, architect, and civil engineer Iannis Xenakis was born on May 29, 1922 in Braïla (Romania). Resisting during World War II, then sentenced to death, he became a political refugee in France in 1947 and was naturalized French in 1965.


Of Greek origin, he studied at the Polytechnic Institute of Athens before undertaking musical composition studies at Gravesano with Hermann Scherchen, then at the National Conservatory of Music in Paris with Olivier Messiaen. From 1947 to 1960, he worked with Le Corbusier as an engineer and architect.

Inventor of the concepts of musical masses, stochastic music, symbolic music; having introduced the calculus of probabilities and the theory of sets in the composition of instrumental music, he was one of the first to use the computer for the calculation of musical form. A pioneer also in the field of electro-acoustics, author of more than a hundred works for all formations, he appears today as one of the most radical figures of the avant-garde, having invented most of the compositional techniques characteristic of post-1945 music, but also one of the rare creators whose vitality has never wavered, and who has, moreover, conquered a large audience.

Architect of the Philips Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition of Brussels in 1958 as well as other architectural achievements such as the Couvent de La Tourette (1955), he composed Polytopes - shows, sounds and lights - for the French Pavilion of the Montreal Expo (1967).