The recent show of Iannis Xenakis at the Drawing Center showcases the artist/musician/architect's work which crosses the boundaries between mediums and uses the strengths of one medium to inform the experience of the others. Xenakis has taken mathematics and abstract line drawing as a way to score music via a different format of representation. Constructing parabolas from arrangements of straight lines, and similarly defined portions of forms gives both the information to render a score of music as well as generate material for the sweeping abstract surfaces to his architecture. These are combined with hand drawn curvilinear lines, amounting often to what look like quick sketches or doodles. Rendered across a graph of pitch vs time, these line drawings allow for continuous modulations of pitch to be played in time to the drawings. Xenakis seems to see the strength of the hand as a rendering tool as a means to create these musical pieces. The show includes a few examples of specific recordings of these pieces that accompany videos of the images. One notable example is the piece Mycenae Alpha, where hand drawn images are interpreted and played back via a program called UPIC which Xenakis developed for this purpose.
All of this creates interesting graphical images, which carry the weight of relaying a very specific kind of information, but also generates a kind of music that becomes very hard to listen to. It could be called experimental, conceptual, or possibly even algorithmic in some instances, but the sounds are hardly harmonic and fail to conform to any tenants of music theory. Still, there's something hypnotic about watching as hand drawn lines scroll along a page and knowing that the position of each mark is directly translating into something audible, something to engage both visually and aurally.