OK, so I’ve just been having a listen to Iannis Xenakis’s Orient Occident. It was actually engaging from beginning to end. When I first heard it, what struck me about this piece was the placement of sonic events (er, so basically it’s structure): to me, the distribution of each sound event is what engages the listener from beginning to end. The placement of each event is also almost narrative. So, I’m saying it’s more the structure that makes it engaging rather than the individual sounds themselves, although they’re interesting too. But, in a less interesting structure they might not get listened to as intently.
The second thing I notice is the sounds themselves: I find Xenakis’s timbral exploration in this piece enchanting. There’s something otherworldly about it. Yes, he’s using electronics so he can modify easier than if he were using acoustic instruments. The timbres also remind me of John Cage’s prepared piano pieces. I don’t know if this means Cage has done something more impressive having done it first and used only acoustic instruments? Well, his compositional structure doesn’t impress me as much as Xenakis’s in this instance.
Having researched the piece on the internet, I have found from a number of different sources that suggest Xenakis’ Orient Occident was originally written for a film. Actually, it does remind me of some early Doctor Who and Star Trek soundtracks.