Updated page Summer 2004





The PHILIPS Pavilion on the WORLD EXPO 58 in Brussels was built in an architectural style, unusual and new for that time: the hyperbolic parabola was designed by the Greek composer Iannis XENAKIS, originally a young architect and engineer working for LE CORBUSIER in those days.

For this special occasion, the American composer Edgar VARÈSE has composed a new POÈME ELECTRONIQUE (1957) that was performed by 425 (!) loudspeakers during the exposition days, while at the same time one could look at a movie by Charles Le Corbusier. The work was a combination of musique concrète and electronic sounds. Images and photographs were projected onto the walls with no attempt at synchronization with the sound.

I remember that it was very difficult to look at the stage and to follow what was going on: there were so many people about. I was a boy of eight but during my visit at the PHILIPS Pavilion I saw, heared and felt something very special was taking place.


Xenakis' contribution was not only as an assistant to the architect Le Corbusier but also working as a composer. Interpolated between 2 tracks of Poème electronique was his Concret PH ("PH" for Hyberbolic Paraboloids, a characteristic of the Pavilion). Using a recording of crackling embers, he took snippets of the source and put them together using a variety of densities each time it was used again. This approach is often referred to as "clouds of sound," a concept he explored in his music of the time.


Listen to a short sound excerpt from Poème Electronique. Click here >mp3
















Source "Le Poème Electronique" Le Corbusier/Xenakis/Varèse (Edition de Minuit, Paris, 1958).



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