Review Summary: We're meteorites.
My best Persepolis
listening experiences sit uncomfortably between misophonia and ASMR. On the couch, head tilted back, pressure on the neck, pulses of red in the peripherals. It’s a bit Jacob’s Ladder-esque, as though the music coerces you to relive traumatic life experiences, warped and sinister, most of which may not have ever happened. It’s self-induced terror at worst, lip-biting discomfort often, and an audial feast always. As a reissue, this piece feels like psychological excavation. Fitting, as the original 70s version was performed amidst the ruins of the great city itself, properly excavated decades prior, in the Temple of Darius. Here, we lie in the shadow of a shadow of a shadow. No, this isn’t pseudo-spiritual woo; the likes of Xenakis, Luigi Nono, Schoenberg, and Stockhausen had a stoically scientific bent, and Xenakis in particular used mathematically techniques in his sound design (he also had experience in engineering and architecture). Most of us will never know the full scope of Xenakis’ Polytopes
: live performances blending sound, like, structure, and colors. So, we’re left to wonder.
As we wonder, our thoughts don’t evade the onslaught. This isn’t electroacoustic at its most sparse, as these nine pieces are relentless and dense. There are few nooks or crannies - every space is turned out and its contents flung. The This Heat
fan in me can’t help but see the record’s opening minutes in the atmosphere in their 1979 debut. Or, if Art Bears
’ Hope and Fears
came under siege and collapsed, maybe it’d resemble “Persepolis #6”. Though meant to be a free-flowing suite, much changes throughout, as though it’s a time lapse soundtrack to the then-recent history of Iran. (Unfortunate side note: the incoming theocracy of the Iranian Revolution led to the cancellation of the Shiraz Arts Festival, where this was originally performed. Other performers included John Cage, Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and more.) “Persepolis #8” creaks monolithically, like a decrepit skyscraper, whose thousands of metal beams are bending and twisting. It’s in contrast to a section like “Persepolis #2”, which disorients and stings like desert wind before bumbling through a noisy rigmarole in “Persepolis #3”.
In his book Formalized Music
, Xenakis flexed his mathematical knowledge with mentions (and applications) of Poisson’s Law, Paul Lévy, Markov chains, and analysis of Stochastic music. More importantly - and maybe more relevant to us - he explained how causality constricted music, and how his ethos was to transcend the serialist music of the time. On page one, his mission statement is to take concrete sounds and convert them to their spiritual essence. In the process, we navigate through fixations, finding ourselves in a state of bliss and realization, even if it lasts merely a second. A “tremendous truth” beyond music, a religion without dogma. Listening to Persepolis
, on the couch, head tilted back, I know it’s here somewhere.