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Cellular automata in Xenakis's music. Theory and Practice

Abstract : Cellular automata are developed since some decades, belonging to the field of abstract automata. In the beginning of the 1980s, they were popularized in relationship with the study of dynamic systems and chaos theories. They were also applied for modelling the evolution of natural systems (for instance biological ones), especially in relationship with the idea of auto-organization. From the end of the 1980s since nowadays, several composers begin to use cellular automata. Xenakis must have been one of the first (or the first), as he used them, probably for the first time, in Horos (1986), so as to produce harmonic progressions and new timbre combinations. His use of cellular automata seems to be limited. This paper has three aims: 1. To try to understand the reasons why Xenakis used cellular automata. This will mean a discussion of the idea of "automaton", characterized as a model of autonomy (as opposed to the model of the "command"); 2. To analyze three instances of musical implementations of cellular automata in Horos; 3. To discuss the notion of "theory" specific to Xenakis. Based on the analysis of scores and of sketches (Archives Xenakis, Bibliothèque nationale de France), the analysis of musical implementations of cellular automata in Horos will show that Xenakis acts as he is always acting when he is appealing to one or another form of formalization: he uses them to produce a result, allowing himself bricolage (either in the construction of the tool itself, either in the results produced by the tool). In other terms, his use of cellular automata is mediated through manual interventions.
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  • HAL Id : hal-00770141, version 1

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Makis Solomos. Cellular automata in Xenakis's music. Theory and Practice. International Symposium Iannis Xenakis (Athens, May 2005), 2005, Greece. 11 p. ⟨hal-00770141⟩

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