Photo: Malthe Folke Ivarsson

Ancestral Modernism: Xenakis, Mythology & Architecture

Den Kongelige Opera

10/6 2023, 16:00

Ekvipagemestervej 10, 1438 København K



This year, Copenhagen has been officially designated as World Capital of Architecture. There is hardly a better occasion to perform one of composer, architect, mathematician, music theorist, and computer music pioneer Iannis Xenakis' most architectural works: The trail blazing and rarely performed percussion work Persephassa (1969), which is hereby performed for the first time in Copenhagen. And there is hardly a better place to do it than in the foyer of Henning Larsen's iconic, neo-futuristic Opera House. Here, the Taiwanese percussion virtuoso Ying-Hsueh Chen, who is the founder of the Ancestral Modernism concert series, and percussionists from the Royal Theater will perform Xenakis's work – a work, which, by bridging the worlds of architecture and music, becomes something of a gesamtkunstwerk.

Since 2014, Ancestral Modernism has introduced audiences to musicians for whom the primordial power of rhythm is a source of existential epiphanies; musicians with their feet firmly planted in the present, but with a deep awareness of their indebtedness to ancient traditions. Ancestral Modernism finds a primordial universality in both the avant-garde and in ancestral heritage. In that way, Ancestral Modernism is a concept that is entirely in the spirit of Xenakis: a composer who always, at the same time, had his eye on the future and on the mythologies of bygone eras. Persephassa is an excellent example: the title refers to the goddess Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld, and the work was originally performed in the ruins of Persepolis. At the same time, it is a deeply modern and experimental work, wherein the audience sits surrounded by the percussionists and are transformed into bodily receptors for Xenakis's sound architecture.


Iannis Xenakis: Persephassa (Persephone)

The Percussionists:
Ying-Hsueh Chen

Hsiao-Tung Yuan

The Percussion Group of the Royal Chapel:
Mads Drewsen
Mathias Friis-Hansen
Marcus Wall
Jonathan Jakshøj

Supported by:
Dansk Komponistforening
Knud Højgaards Fond
William Demant Fonden
Wilhelm Hansen Fonden
København Kommune
Louis Hansen Fonden

The Concert is presented in collaboration with CPH Architecture Festival.


Ying-Hsueh Chen

Iannis Xenakis