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This paper presents a comparative recording analysis of the seminal work for solo percussion Rebonds (Iannis Xenakis, 1989), in order to demonstrate how performances of a musical work can reveal—or even create—aspects of musical structure that score-centered analysis cannot illuminate. In doing so I engage with the following questions. What does a pluralistic, dynamic conception of structure look like for Rebonds? How do interpretive decisions recast performers as agents of musical structure? When performances diverge from the score in the omission of notes, the softening of accents, the insertion of dramatic tempo changes, or the altering of entire passages, do conventions that arise out of those performance practices become part of the structural fabric of the work? Are these conventions thus part of the Rebonds “text”?
I analyze ten recordings of Rebonds across multiple parameters: tempo, instrument choice and tuning (pitch), accent interpretation, and grouping. I also focus on passages where faithful adherence to the score is, while technically possible, rarely undertaken. Kanach (2010) characterizes the performance of Xenakis’s music in terms of a “negotiation” between his immensely challenging scores and their interpreters. Such negotiations appeal to an analytical approach that foregrounds interpretations as agents in actualizing the “structural affordances” (Cook 2013) of Xenakis’s compositions. The analyses presented in this paper reveal that for Rebonds, the score is the arena in which negotiations between composer and performer take place; negotiations through which a pluralistic conception of structure is created.
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