Between playfulness and chaos

1st concert in the Tischlerei

Maths in music: from Bach to Xenakis





Iannis Xenakis was a composer and architect, a visionary and a force for renewal. Instead of creating melodies and harmonies in a traditional sense, he designed entirely new processes for producing sounds and compositions.

These processes were founded on his own experimentation with mathematical and physical laws with a view to developing theories of order, density and symmetry in music and laying down acoustic parameters such as frequency and rhythm. He was quick to establish computer science as a key factor in these compositional processes. The fugue, the imitation of a leading melody in accordance with strict rules, is arguably located at the opposite end of the spectrum to the musical version of chaos theory and computer-generated “chance music”.

No other work embodies this compositional principle better than Bach’s “The Art of the Fugue”. A mathematician steeped in the science of music guides us through the concert, explaining mathematical theories and laws with the help of contrasting musical examples.


Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992)
„Piece“ for piano and string quartet
„Le merle noir“ for flute and piano

Iannis Xenakis (1922 – 2001)
„Dikhtas“ for violin and piano
„rebonds B“ for percussion solo

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
„Die Kunst der Fuge“ BWV 1080 adaptet for string quartet and wind quartet

Presented by taz.die tageszeitung