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“Okho” by Iannis Xenakis


“Okho” by Iannis Xenakis

Performed by the Peabody Percussion Trio
Tomasz Kowalczyk, Kei Maeda & Georgi Videnov

Mallet Selection for this Piece:


Wooden Timpani Mallet (T5)

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Very hard. A special effects mallet.


Tim Genis Signature (GEN1)

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Produces a beautiful roll quality without attack in the stroke. Felt core.


Tom Gauger Signature (TG01)

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Perfect for all purpose playing. Articulate, but not too hard.


As a person who was condemned to death for his part in the Greek Resistance, Iannis Xenakis maintained a distance from political activity later in life; his thoughts and convictions were instead reflected in his music. Still, it was surely no accident that for a piece intended to celebrate the French Bicentennial in 1989, he would choose to write for a distinctively African instrumentation.

Okho is scored for three djembés, resonant drums from West Africa. Rhythmically, the piece is a study in repetition and the different ways in which irregularity can be introduced. Built in mosaic fashion from six blocks of material, the sections are distinguished by tempo and rhythmic texture. The opening features a steady pulse; a three-plus-two pattern established at the outset is subjected to various permutations as the players enter one after another. A less concentrated rhythmic texture is interleaved with the first one until, after much shifting, they give way to a third element. Xenakis designates six “tones” for each djembé; in this passage, he introduces one of his favorite gestures, the glissando — here achieved by sliding one hand across the head of the drum while striking it with the other. A fourth, faster section builds up momentum and intensity until the pulsating patterns start to dissipate. As the texture thins, the tempo drops and the fifth section begins. Here, polyrhythms make an appearance, and the dense, intricate cross-patterns recall Xenakis’ stochastic “attack clouds.” This material, which carries through to the end, is twice interleaved with what is essentially a canonic texture, in which the three players drum the same patterns but at slightly different tempi; Xenakis, in fact, uses this technique in a number of ensemble and orchestral pieces. Here it underscores the rich, quasi-melodic character of the djembés and underscores Xenakis’ ability to incorporate new sonorities into his strikingly personal aesthetic.

That these colonial African drums could be so powerfully marshaled in a moment of fervent French nationalism could only have provided food for thought after the musical resonances had died away. Okho, in any case, lives on.

~ James Harley, Rovi

A note from the performers:

We were not the ones to come up with the arrangement – it has been done before mostly because classical trained percussionists do not have the hand drum technique and the ability to get all the different sounds of the djembe that Xenakis asks for. Also, the music resembles the material he uses in his percussion set-up piece Rebonds composed the same year. Through the use of different mallets (and even chop sticks!) we hope to bring a fresh and vigorous performance of this wonderful trio.


Iannis Xenakis (May 29, 1922 – February 4, 2001) was an ethnic Greek, naturalized French composer, music theorist, and architect-engineer. He is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers.Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models such as applications of set theory, varied use of stochastic processes, game theory, etc., in music, and was also an important influence on the development of electronic music.

Among his most important works are Metastaseis (1953–4) for orchestra, which introduced independent parts for every musician of the orchestra; percussion works such as Psappha (1975) and Pléïades (1979); compositions that introduced spatialization by dispersing musicians among the audience, such as Terretektorh (1966); electronic works created using Xenakis’s UPIC system; and the massive multimedia performances Xenakis called polytopes. Among the numerous theoretical writings he authored, the book Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition(1971) is regarded as one of his most important. As an architect, Xenakis is primarily known for his early work under Le Corbusier: the Sainte Marie de La Tourette, on which the two architects collaborated, and the Philips Pavilion at Expo 58, which Xenakis designed alone.


The Peabody Percussion Trio was founded in September 2008, by three freshmen – Georgi Videnov, Tomasz Kowalczyk and Kei Maeda – percussion majors studying with Robert van Sice at thePeabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Since then, they have performed regularly at the Peabody Percussion Group Concerts and the Peabody Thursday Noon Recital Series among their several recitals in the Maryland area. They have been coached by Sō Percussion, Svet Stoyanov and David Skidmore. Their trio represented Peabody as a part of the Conservatory Project at the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, in February 2009, where they performed Rain Tree by Toru Takemitsu. The trio was featured in a recording that won the competition for a showcase concert at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis performing Paul Lansky’s percussion quartet Threads in November 2010. During their Junior year, they were selected as one of the Honors Ensembles at Peabody and premiered a new commissioned work by a student composer James Young.

Georgi Videnov is a young percussionist who specializes in solo and chamber music performance. Mr. Videnov has participated in a number of national and international competitions, both as a soloist and as a member of a chamber ensemble. Among his numerous awards, he has received First Prize several times at thePendim and Young Virtuosos competitions in Bulgaria, as well as the Competition for French Music Perfomance in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Mr. Videnov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and has begun percussion instruments lessons at the age of six. He has graduated from the National Musical School in Sofia, Bulgaria where he has studied with Maria Palieva, and, in 2012, he completed the Bachelor of Music Degree program studying with David Skidmore and the world-renowned contemporary musician, Robert van Sice at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD. Mr. Videnov was the recipient of the Zildjian Scholarship at Peabody established by the Avedis Zildjian Company.

In the summer of 2012, Mr. Videnov attended the New Music Workshop and the Chamber Music Session, at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in Norfolk, CT. He was coached by Robert van Sice, composers Martin Bresnick and James Wood, pianist Lisa Moore, violinist Syoko Aki, and bassoonist Frank Morelli. Mr. Videnov participated in live-broadcasted performances of Wood’s Cloud Polyphonies, Bresnick’s Caprichios Enfaticos, five new student composer’s quartets commissioned by the festival, Francaix’s chamber opera The Devil Upon Two Sticks and Handel’s Royal Fireworks.

As an orchestral player, Mr. Videnov recently joined the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra for their 2012/ 13 season conducted by Yutaka Sado in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. Mr. Videnov has taken part in three concert seasons with the New Symphony Orchestra in Sofia, Bulgaria under the baton of Rosen Milanov and Petko Dimitrov. He has also performed with theSofia Festival Orchestra conducted by Emil Tabakov. In the summer of 2009, Mr. Videnov toured as a timpanist/ percussionist with the Sofia Festival Orchestra for series of concerts conducted by Justus Frantz and Martin Panteleev at the Music: Landschaft Westfalen Festival in Germany. During his years at Peabody he attended the Brevard Music Festival and the Pacific Music Festival. He appears on recordings and broadcasts by the Bulgarian National Radio and Television and Peabody Conservatory.  In the fall of 2013, Mr. Videnov will be continuing his studies as a Master’s student at the Yale School of Music.

Tomasz Kowalczyk is a young and upcoming percussionist devoted to representing the art of percussion as a fresh, exciting, and distinctive part of contemporary classical music. When he was in fourth grade, performing in a plastic recorder ensemble, a music teacher discovered his musical talent. In 2006, he won first prize in the European Music Prize for the Youth International Marimba Competition in Münster, Germany and at the final concert, performed Keiko Abe’s “Prism Rhapsody” with the Symphonic Orchestra of Münstert. In February 2010 he won second prize in the Yale Gordon concerto competition in Baltimore. In 2010 he was a winner of the PAS (Percussive Arts Society) International Percussion Ensemble Competition as a member of the Peabody Percussion Group. In 2011 he was the second prize winner at the PAS International Solo Competition. He has presented solo recitals in his native Poland as well as in Europe and the United States.
Mr. Kowalczyk performs as a member of the Peabody Percussion Trio. Other chamber music performances include collaborations with the Mobtown Modern New Music Series presented by the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, with the Great Noise Ensemble in Washington, DC, and alongside members of eighth blackbird in Philadelphia, PA. He has also worked with the legendary pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher in performances of Gyorgy Ligeti’s chamber operas “Aventures” and ”Nouvelles Aventures.” An experienced orchestral musician, he has performed in the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra, the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, and with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, playing under many world renowned conductors, including Simon Rattle, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Fabio Luisi, Peter Eötvös, Pablo Heras-Casado and Robert Spano.
Interested in expanding the percussion repertoire, Mr. Kowalczyk frequently commissions and works with composers, premiering their new works. He participated in many masterclasses conducted by renowned artists such as Keiko Abe, Eric Sammut, Katarzyna Mycka, Linda Maxey, Robert van Sice, Tom Freer, Jim Atwood, Cynthia Yeh, Eduardo Leandro, Michael Burritt and So Percussion Group. He is currently a Diploma Program student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA, studying with Alan Abel, Don Liuzzi, and Robert van Sice. He received a Bachelor of Music Degree from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore as a student of Robert van Sice and David Skidmore.

Kei Maeda is a young percussionist who was born in Kagoshima, Japan in 1989. He began playing percussion at the age of seven under the tutelage of Takako Nakama. When he was a high school student, Mr. Maeda won the prize in the South Japan Music Competition in both 2005 and 2006. In the summer of 2010, Mr. Maeda attended the Brevard Music Festival where he took lessons and master classes with Charles Ross and Conrad Alexander and played under the batons of Keith Lockhart and Joann Falletta.

A participant in many master classes, he has had private lessons with renowned teachers such as Tom Freer, Shoichi Kubo, Svet Stoyanov, David Skidmore, Cynthia Yeh, Eriko Daimo, Eduardo Leandro and Tim Genis. He has also participated in coachings with the So Percussion quartet. Mr. Maeda graduated from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University completing the Bachelor of Music program in 2012, where he studied with Robert van Sice and David Skidmore.

Currently, Mr Maeda resides in Tokyo and in the spring of 2013 he will be attending the Tokyo College of Music.

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