XENAKIS IANNIS – Persephassa

Creation : 09/09/1969, Persepolis, Iran
Music and conception : Iannis Xenakis
Sponsor : Ministère de la Culture (Direction de la Musique) et Festival de Persepolis
Number of musicians : 6 percussionnists
Duration : 35′
Publisher : Salabert

Persephassa is a piece for six percussionists composed by Iannis Xenakis in 1969. The piece was commissioned for the first-ever Shiraz Festival (organized by the Empress of Iran), held at the historic desert site of Persepolis. The title refers to the goddess Persephone, “the personification of telluric forces and of transmutations of life.”

Persephassa gains much of its effect from having the six percussionists distributed around the audience. The treatment of space as a musical parameter is one of the most important preoccupations of Xenakis’ music, particularly in his works of the mid-to-late 1960s. The dramatic impact of utilizing the performance space in this manner is evident many passages throughout the piece in which accents or imitative rhythms are passed around the ensemble.

The percussionists use a wide range of instruments and sound effects during the piece, including sirens, maracas, and pebbles, along with an arsenal of drums, wood blocks, cymbals, and gongs.