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“European music is based on the artificial sound of the note and the (tone) scale; it opposes the brutal and objective sonority of the world. As a result of an unbreakable convention European music is obliged from the beginning to express a subjectivity. It seems to fight the sonority of the outside world, like a sensitive being resisting the insensitivity of the universe. European civilization (such as it emerged around the year 1000 ) is one of the only civilizations accompanied by a huge and dazzling history of music. This civilization – with its adoration of the suffering of Jesus, its chivalrous love, its cult of the bourgeois family, its patriotic passions – fabricated the sentimental man. Music has played an integral and decisive part in the ongoing process of sentimentalization of man. But it can happen at a certain moment (in the life of a person or of a civilization) that sentimentality (previously considered as a humanizing force, softening the coldness of Reason) becomes unmasked as ‘the superstructure of brutality’.

It was at such a moment that music seemed to me like the deafening noise of the emotions, while the world of noise in Xenakis’ compositions became, for me, beauty; beauty purified of the dirt, purified of sentimental barbary. As a ‘prophet of insensibility’ Joyce could still remain a novelist; Xenakis on the other hand has had to go beyond music. […] Xenakis opposes the whole of the European history of music. His point of departure is elsewhere; not in an artificial sound isolated from nature in order to express a subjectivity, but in an ‘objective’ noise of the world, a sonorous mass which does not gush from the heart, but which approaches us from the outside, like raindrops or the voice of wind.”

– Milan Kundera, Prophète de l’Insensibilité, in M. Fleuret (ed.) Regards sur Iannis Xenakis, 1981, Paris.

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