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Patricia Zuber and Gregory Zuber

Musical performance on flute and percussion of Dmaathen by Iannis Xenakis and Le Merle Noir by Olivier Messiaen

2015 Season

Patricia and Gregory Zuber performed for the opening of José Oubrerie’s exhibition, The Ex of IN House.


…Flautist Patricia Zuber and percussionist Greg Zuber gave stunning performances of Le Merle Noir, by Olivier Messiaen, and a composition by Iannis Xenakis entitled Dmaathen. Xenakis launched his career not as a composer but as an architect, and, like Oubrerie, collaborated with Le Corbusier. While Xenakis was practicing architecture, he also studied music, though it was difficult for him to find teachers sympathetic to his experiments with counterpoint and harmony. Finally, he approached Messiaen, who advised him to jettison music as traditionally understood and apply to composition all that he had learned—and discovered—about mathematics and architectural structure. The performance of pieces by Messiaen and Xenakis invoked the affinity between music and architecture, presided over in this instance, by the tutelary figure of Le Corbusier.

— Carter Ratcliff, 2015

Olivier Messiaen’s (b. 1908, Avignon) father was a scholar of English literature while his mother was the poet Cecile Sauvage. While pregnant with Olivier she wrote a book of poetry named L’âme en bourgeon (The soul in Bud). In this work she wrote of the growing child inside of her:

The anguish of the mysteries of the arts will be dispersed and here is the Orion who sings in my being—with his bluebirds and his golden butterflies. I suffer from an unknown distant music.

Messiaen was a prodigy. He taught himself to play the piano by age seven. By age eleven his family had moved to Paris where he attended the Paris Conservatory. He discovered he could hear musical scores just by reading them. He requested scores for Christmas instead of toys.

Throughout his life he would have vast and varied interests including painting, literature, the orient, theatre, food. He was a mystic Catholic. He studied Indian and Greek modes and rhythms, some of which he employed in his music. He had a medical condition called synesthesia, a disturbance of the optic and auditory nerves causing him to see colors when he heard music.

His most famous work, Quartet for the End of Time, was composed and first performed while he was a POW during World War II.

Ultimately he became an authoritative ornithologist, employing birdsong in his compositions. The composition Le Merle Noir (The Blackbird) was his first composition to employ birdsong primarily. It was written for the Paris Conservatory in 1950 as a competition piece. Flutist Alexander Murray won the Premier Prix for his performance of this piece and performed its first performance. He was later the flute teacher of Patricia Zuber.

Iannis Xenakis (b. 1922, Greece) fought in the Greek resistance suffering severe injuries which nearly took his life and left him permanently disfigured. In 1947, fleeing political persecution he fled to France. Although an illegal immigrant, Xenakis found work in Paris as an engineer and architect in Le Corbusier’s architecture studio. There, Xenakis designed the Phillips pavilion for Expo 58. In addition to being a brilliant engineer, mathematician, and architect, Xenakis was also deeply interested in composing music. Upon the advice of Le Corbusier, Xenakis met and studied composition with Olivier Messiaen, who Le Corbusier felt was France’s pre-eminent composer of the day.

Messiaen recalled, “I understood straight away that he was not someone like the others. […] He is of superior intelligence. […] I did something horrible which I should do with no other student, for I think one should study harmony and counterpoint. But this was a man so much out of the ordinary that I said… No, you are almost thirty, you have the good fortune of being Greek, of being an architect and having studied special mathematics. Take advantage of these things. Do them in your music.”

(Xenakis, Nouritza Matossian, 1986, p48)

Xenakis took this advice to heart utilizing set theory, stochastic processes, and game theory in his works and exploring electronic and computer music techniques.

The title of the work “Dmaathen” means “they were crushed.”

(Music, Society and Imagination in Contemporary France, 1993 by François Bernard Mâche, p.210)


Flutist, Patricia Zuber, performs with many orchestras in the New York City area, including the American Symphony Orchestra and the orchestra for the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, and has appeared with the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and on tour in Japan. She also performs on Broadway, having performed in the productions of Beauty and the Beast, Candide, Swan Lake, Jekyll and Hyde, Ragtime, and La Boheme. She is piccoloist with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, with which she has appeared as a concerto soloist.

Ms. Zuber is an avid recitalist, performing solo recitals as well as chamber music. She performs regularly in a flute/percussion duo with her husband, percussionist Gregory Zuber.

Gregory Zuber is Principal Percussionist of the MET Orchestra and has been a member of the orchestra since 1986. He appeared with the orchestra as concerto soloist in Carnegie Hall in 2002 and performs regularly with the Met Chamber Ensemble. Mr. Zuber has been a coach at the Verbier Music Festival since 2000, where he also appears in recital and chamber music concerts. He has taught at The Juilliard School since 1993. Born in Boston, he grew up in Chicago. After two summers at The National Music Camp at Interlochen, he attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, then University of Illinois, and Temple University. Before joining the Met, he was Principal Percussionist with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. His teachers include Tom Siwe (University of Illinois), James Ross (Chicago Symphony) and Alan Abel (Philadelphia Orchestra). Mr. Zuber often performs concerts with his wife, flutist Patricia Zuber.

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