Hyperion Records

Knephas (‘Darkness’, 1990) is a vast and angry lament, without words. Based on a phonetic text, it integrates many of the elements of a musical language which has come to be identified with Xenakis over the years, who maintains: ‘I want to get away from myself, as if I had come to this world like an alien. I think the powerful things are without sentiment.’ His need for Verfremdung is warranted by his resolve to express fearful and threatening experiences which were ‘unspeakable’.

At first, with fixed pitches spread fan-like across the register, assertive women’s voices sustain their position supported by blocks of massed male chanting. A thinned texture revolving around small intervals leads gradually again to multiple, broad, almost orchestral strokes in which small changes in pitch or articulated vowels cause the sustained sounds to shimmer, to take on instrumental colours. As the forces of the choir alternate in supporting or interrupting roles, the work gradually unfolds towards a dense group polyphony, finally to come to rest slowly in a cavernous, only slightly decorated, sustained mass recitative.

Knephas was commissioned by the Almeida Festival for James Wood and the New London Chamber Choir and was first performed by them in June 1990. It is dedicated to Marc Dondey and James Wood.

from notes by Nouritza Matossian © 1998

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA66980 track 4
Recording date
25 July 1997
Recording venue
St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Gary Cole
Recording engineer
Gary Cole
Hyperion usage
  1. Xenakis: Choral Music (CDA66980)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: February 1998
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