6 percussions

Pléiades has all the force of an incantation. Hearing it transforms two thousand years of Westernization into something exotic, and listeners who encounter the sounds and measures of Ancient Greece and even Bali take part in a strange, “religiously secular” ceremony. Pléiades is perhaps the most substantial composition for percussion in the repertoire, and presents the most risks. The work’s title is ambiguous: it refers to plurality, to Atlas and Pleione’s seven daughters of Greek mythology and to astrology. Together the Titan Atlas and Pleione had seven daughters — the Pleiades. After his defeat against the Olympians, Atlas was forced to hold up the celestial sphere. His daughters were transformed into as many stars, a cluster known as “the Pleiades” within the Taurus constellation. Xenakis invented an instrument especially for this work called the “sixxen” (“six” percussionists and the “xen” of Xenakis). It consists of nineteen plates made of brass, steel and other metals, all tuned to irregular pitches. Xenakis constructed a striking new scale that resembles those of ancient Greece, the Middle East, and Indonesia.