Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Iannis Xenakis (Perf. by William Winant) - Psappha 7'' (Dolor Del Estamago, 1995)

Psappha is one of only a few solo percussion pieces (possibly only two?) devised by Iannis Xenakis. Although specific instruments are left up to the performer's discretion, Xenakis intended the piece for groups of wood, skin, and metal instruments. In lieu of standard notation, the score is divided amongst those intended timbres.

Score via iannis-xenakis.org

The piece relies largely on layered patterns that span the timbral range. The density of the patterns vary greatly and some sections call for great force from the performer. Much like Conlon Nancarrow's player piano pieces and maybe more aptly Stockhausen's Zylkus, the piece places significant demand on the performer. One particularly daunting section calls for 25 hits per second. There is a certain level of problem-solving required before the piece can even begin. San Francisco-based percussionist William Winant rises to the occasion in this 1995 recording. Winant has most admirably tackled pieces across the new music spectrum from the likes of Cage, Tenney, Reich, Stockhausen, and Feldman.


As if the technical demands weren't enough, there is also a groove and finesse to the piece. The following video is of another performance of Psappha courtesy of the excellent Steven Schick, whose torso fully embraces the piece's groove. Schick too has immersed himself deeply in Xenakis's percussion works.


  1. Cool. I hadn't heard of this one. Thanks.

  2. Happy to be of service. I've been on a bit of a percussion music kick as of late and this one really caught hold of me.

  3. recording from a concert in 1982!

  4. Xenakis 7" with nudie models....my week is complete