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Over the course of the 20th century, the art form of music has undergone a drastic period of change. Composers started to progressively challenge and reinterpret methods and categories of the established school of writing and performing music, approaching harmonic, melodic, tonal, rhythmic and structural aspects of music in new and non-traditional ways.

One of these pioneers was greek composer Iannis Xenakis, who incorporated concepts and techniques from architecture, mathematics and physics into the creation of his music. He would construct geometrical graphic scores as diagrammatic blueprints, before transcribing them to conventional sheet music notation – utilizing various mathematical principles: Boolean algebra, chaos theory, Markov chains, and stochastic distributions, among others.

For his piece Syrmos, written in 1959 for 18 or 36 string instruments, Xenakis used different stochastic transformations to create the underlying diagram of lines and crosses. While the straight lines are “sonorous surfaces” that echo Xenakis’ architectural work and translate into music in form of continuous variations of pitch (glissandi), the crosses are inspired by the kinetic theory of Brownian motion, translating into varyingly dense “clouds” of point-like sounds (pizzicati). The result is an ecstatic, seemingly arbitrary construct of tones and sounds whose underlying logic becomes intangibly apparent to the listener.

Today, the methodology of Iannis Xenakis marks an influential cornerstone for 20th century musical composition, which clearly carries the notion of Design and Computational Thinking.