I enjoy, and have no problems with:

So this question's about only Xenakis's cacophonously dissonant music (abbreviate CDM).

Jan Swafford, M.M.A. D.M.A. (Yale). Slate article, 2011 July 11:

Aesthetic brutalism actually has a long ancestry. One precedent is Iannis Xenakis, the leading Greek avant-gardist of the 1950s through the '70s. Here's Xenakis' solo percussion piece Psappha, which features earsplitting explosions on a bass drum. In this piece the composer does not aspire to move you; he wants to hurt you.

The titled question is based on the bolded sentence.

  • This makes sense to me, but it's a struggle to explain why... – Chris Sunami supports Monica Dec 15 '17 at 14:33
  • Because that's what he wanted. Simple as that. There's not any more that needs to be known about the topic. Not every composer composes with the exact same goals in mind. – Dom Dec 15 '17 at 18:19

I'm a bit suspicious of Swafford's thesis. For one thing, while brutalism is often taken as art meant to "brutalize" or hurt the audience, a quick web search reveals that it's actually art inspired by the (putative) beauty of raw concrete (beton brut). For another, I don't personally find the referenced track unpleasant to listen to or necessarily hostile (although it certainly might have a different "impact" live). It's further worth noting, that the referenced performance receives a sustained ovation from a clearly moved audience, and that many of the comments on the video reference the piece's "lyricism" and "passion."

With that said, artists seek a wide variety of reactions from their audience members. Particularly in modern times, many artists' primary goal is to affect their audience, and not necessarily to charm or enchant them. It doesn't strike me as odd at all that causing pain to an audience --not physical, perhaps, but emotional or purely aesthetic pain --might well be a legitimate goal for an artist to seek. From this point of view, Swafford's contention that the artist doesn't seek to "move" you but to "hurt" you may well be a false dichotomy.

It wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, of course, but not every artistic experience needs to be for every audience member.


As being a composer myself I can tell you that there is no intention to "hurt" our listeners rather than express our feelings etc with music. In some cases that the result of a project may sound unpleasant to some listeners, some others may like it. Everyone has their opinion & taste, right? Electronic music has a very broad spectrum so there is a lot of room for creativity & trials. :-)

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