Iannis Xenakis - Persepolis (1972), 8/10

A commissioned piece for the 1971 Shiraz-Persepolis Arts Festival, this recording is a very surreal and otherworldly exploration of extremes. Xenakis’ music is always an experience but Persepolis is one of a kind, especially considering its original form presentation through fifty-nine speakers and the surrounding atmosphere practically echoing its ethos. The progression of the recording continues to evolve and become more daring, more crowded, and more spiritual, highlighting the divine yet surveying its own humanity. There is not a suppressed sound from beginning to end, resulting in a very colorful, perceptible experience whose atmosphere is impressively tactile sounding. Xenakis labeled Persepolis “visual symbolism, paralleled in sound” also stating “in the end it is sound –music—that must prevail at all costs”. This reveals much of the composer’s aim but also his artistic ideals, explaining the entirely effective weight and power of the product. This is a piece of music that requires attention, even resolute attention, but can sincerely change one’s perception of sound and space. The progression of sound is poetic, not just in its growth, but in its potential for interpretation. While its original intent is apparent, Persepolis can mean anything depending upon the subject, depending on your perspective. A harsh but radiant combination of sounds are best experienced loud. The collage of noise vibrates and intensifies, reaching a boiling point of complexity and overwhelming excitement, and stays there. Xenakis’ own claim that the work is not a simple event, but a visual work of art tells us all we need to know. The recording’s abrasiveness is unabashed and its compositional mastery clear, the waves of suspense and chaos can feel cold or molten. The sounds will guide you and paint a beautifully damning picture, whatever it manifests as for its audience says just as much about them as it does Xenakis as a composer. A beautiful piece of history and a nightmarish asylum for the adventurous.