Iannis Xenakis

Dmaathen, for oboe & percussion

    Description by James Harley

    By the time Iannis Xenakis composed Dmaathen, for oboe and percussion (1976), he had written a great deal of music for percussion, but only one other chamber work that features a woodwind instrument, (Charisma [1971] for clarinet and cello). At ten minutes in length, Dmaathen is a relatively substantial piece, and is certainly challenging for the players.

    There is very little timbral connection between oboe and percussion; accordingly, Xenakis makes no attempt to integrate the sounds of the two instruments. Instead, he creates material for each that proceeds more or less independently (though the instruments remain temporally coordinated throughout). The oboe alternates between sustained passages and short flurries of fast melodic material; long-held sonorities explore a range of extended techniques and effects including multiphonics, timbral trills, squealing tones achieved by biting the reed with the teeth, and so on. The percussionist moves between drums and the vibraphone and marimba. Rhythmic patterns often determine shifts in tempo, and there are many instances in which one distinct layer is superimposed on another. The mallet percussion instruments often join in with the oboe to create dense "arborescences," (contrapuntal textures that proliferate outward from a central note or line).

    Given the nature of the instruments involved, one might expect to hear resonances of the Greek folk music Xenakis loved in his youth. Dmaathen, however, is more clearly a study of extended techniques and rhythmic structures: the flavor of its poetry is decidedly abstract. This work was written for the American duo of Nora Post and Jan Williams.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2009 GM Recordings 2077
    2006 Mode Records MODE 171173
    2004 Naïve 782173
    1996 Berlin Classics 0011722