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The most exciting, comprehensible, analytically profound and conceptually lucid study to date, which, in addition, for the

first time incorporates the sketches in the discussion and thereby elucidates the basic
ideas underlying many of the works. (Fonoforum)

Constantin Floros is professor emeritus of Musicology at the University of Hamburg. Among his works are volumes on the origin
of Gregorian neumes, about Gustav Mahler, Anton Bruckner, Johannes
Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven and Alban Berg.
Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch is professor emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Indiana University. He has translated several books by
Constantin Floros.

265499_Floros_AK_A5HCk.indd 1


This study excels all previous monographs on the subject of Ligeti in

factual thoroughness and breadth of aesthetic horizon, in fineness of
intellectual portraiture and authority of musical analysis. (Lutz Lesle)

Constantin Floros Gyrgy

This monograph is an authoritative study of the oeuvre of one of the

most important composers of our time. For the first time, Ligetis key
works are presented in the context of their drafts and sketches. His personal and artistic development is set forth and illuminated, and his principal compositions are analyzed and reinterpreted, based on detailed
studies of the scores and drafts, as well as on personal conversations
with the composer. In addition, numerous questions concerning todays
composing are raised and discussed. Music does not have to be puristic:
Ligetis spheres of interest are close to universal, embracing history,
natural science, and visual arts, as well as music of diverse eras and ethnicities. This expanded world of the musical comprises not just tones
and sounds, speech and music, the vocal and the instrumental: Ligeti
conceives music as a cosmos of acoustic form.

Gyrgy Ligeti
Beyond Avant-garde and Postmodernism
Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch


ISBN 978-3-631-65499-6

18.09.14 12:29

Gyrgy Ligeti

For Dr. Vera Ligeti

with profound admiration
C. Fl.

Constantin Floros

Gyrgy Ligeti
Beyond Avant-garde and Postmodernism
Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Bibliographic Information published by the Deutsche

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available in the internet at
Cover illustration: Gyrgy Ligeti.
Courtesy of SCHOTT MUSIC GmbH & Co. KG, Mainz/Germany.
Revised and expanded version of the German original edition:
Gyrgy Ligeti. Jenseits von Avantgarde und Postmoderne by Constantin Floros.
by MUSIKZEIT Verlag Lafite, Vienna/Austria.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Floros, Constantin.
[Gyrgy Ligeti. English]
Gyrgy Ligeti : beyond avant-garde and postmodernism / Floros, Constantin ; translated
by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-3-631-65499-6
1. Ligeti, Gyrgy, 1923-2006--Criticism and interpretation. I. Bernhardt-Kabisch, Ernest,
1934- translator. II. Title.
ML410.L645F5613 2014
ISBN 978-3-631-65499-6 (Print)
E-ISBN 978-3-653-04783-7 (E-Book)
DOI 10.3726/ 978-3-653-04783-7
for the English edition: Peter Lang GmbH
Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften
Frankfurt am Main 2014
All rights reserved.
for all other languages: MUSIKZEIT Verlag Lafite, Vienna
PL Academic Research is an Imprint of Peter Lang GmbH.
Peter Lang Frankfurt am Main Bern Bruxelles New York
Oxford Warszawa Wien
All parts of this publication are protected by copyright. Any
utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without
the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to
prosecution. This applies in particular to reproductions,
translations, microfilming, and storage and processing in
electronic retrieval systems.
This publication has been peer reviewed.

Table of Contents
Preface ............................................................................................................................................. 1

Part One: Personality and Fundamental Aspects of the Work .................................... 5


Biographical Sketch ............................................................................................................. 9

Questions of Identity ......................................................................................................... 15
Towards an Intellectual Physiognomy ............................................................................ 18
A Non-Puristic Music.................................................................................................... 26
Metaphors, Allusions and Synaesthesias ......................................................................... 28
Innovativeness: Aspects of Compositional Technique................................................. 34
Motion Types, Tonal Gestures and Expressive Characters ......................................... 40
Time and Space. Imaginary Space ................................................................................... 44
New Sound Images New Semantemes.
Cystoscopy, Vacuum and Music of the Spheres ........................................................ 50
A Double-Bottomed Relation to Tradition ................................................................ 55
Diversity of Inspirational Sources. A Universalist Concept of Art and Music ........ 57
New Ways of Transcending the Tempered System ...................................................... 63
Backgrounds of Ligetis Popularity .................................................................................. 66

Part Two: Works ............................................................................................................... 71


Composing in the Homeland ........................................................................................... 73

Going beyond Serialism .................................................................................................... 76
Apparitions and the Dream of the Web ........................................................................... 79
Atmosphres a Secret Requiem? ...................................................................................... 84
Micropolyphony ................................................................................................................. 89
Language and Music in the Requiem ................................................................................. 94
Lux aeterna ......................................................................................................................... 103
Continuum ........................................................................................................................... 106
New Conceptions of the Concertante: Notes on the Cello Concerto .......................... 110
On the Three Pieces for Two Pianos ............................................................................ 114
Mad World Theater: Le Grand Macabre.......................................................................... 117
The Turning Point ca. 1980 ............................................................................................ 140
pater lAvant-garde:
Retrospective and Forward-Looking Elements in the Horn Trio............................... 144
Notes on the Hlderlin Fantasies .................................................................................. 151
Construction and Imagination: Principles of the Piano Etudes ................................... 156
Quasi-Equidistance and Polyrhythm: Coordinates of the Piano Concerto............. 180
The Violin Concerto ........................................................................................................ 192
The Horn Concerto ......................................................................................................... 207


Afterword: Beyond Avantgarde and Postmodernism .......................................................... 211


Part Three: Appendix ...................................................................................................... 215


Abbreviations ................................................................................................................... 217

Notes ................................................................................................................................. 218
Register of Works ............................................................................................................ 231
Selected Bibliography ...................................................................................................... 236
Index of names ................................................................................................................. 249


From September 30 to October 4, 1962, the Society of Musical Research held
its International Musicological Convention in Kassel. I vividly recall the concluding session, on Problems of Structure in Contemporary Music, in
which Gyrgy Ligeti, in a captivating paper on electronic music, pleaded for a
conception of music capable of accommodating also the interstitial/intermediate areas of the musical. His path-breaking presentation made
such a powerful impression on me that I decided forthwith to concern myself
at closer range with the works of the then 39-years-old, still relatively littleknown composer.
After Ligetis appointment to the Hamburg Musikhochschule in 1973, I had repeated opportunities to be in contact with him and over the years got to
know him as an altogether unconventional, intensely curious individual of
profound wit and comprehensive knowledge and a warm-hearted friend. I
began to scrutinize his works, whose musical idiom had always fascinated me,
and to publish essays about them. It gave me particular pleasure to introduce
some of his compositions, at times even before their first performance, in articles that appeared in the Swedish journal Nutida Musik. In 1975, Ligeti was
awarded the noted Bach Prize in Hamburg, and I was chosen to present the
eulogy. From 1987 on, I gave lectures about his music not only in Hamburg
but in Vienna, in Graz, in Hitzacker, in Gtersloh and in the Rhine region.
In the spring of 1989, I told him of my intention to write a book about him.
On July 24, he wrote me:
I read your eulogy with great pleasure and thank you most cordially
for it. I think it is much too laudatory (but I can bear it ). I am also
delighted that you will be giving a seminar about my music at the Musicological Institute next semester, and am equally delighted that you
are writing a book about my music. If you need me, I am of course at
your disposal. I will spend the summer in Vienna, but if you want to
talk with me, Ms. Duchesneau will always know where to find me.

Of primary importance were the conversations I had with Ligeti in his Hamburg apartment. This book is initially based on these conversations and on an
intensive study of his numerous writings and the many interviews he has given. The first (introductory) part centers on questions of biography, art and
music theory, the psychology of creation and general aesthetics and concerns
basic traits of Ligetis personality and work, his intellectual physiognomy and
the phenomenology of his music. The more extensive second part comprises

discussions of his most representative works, with special emphasis on the

processes of creation. For the first time, Ligetis drafts will be an object of
scholarly investigation in this book. I was particularly concerned to elucidate
the genesis of his works, to outline the technical problems of composition
that occupied him, to explore the relation between imagination and construction, and likewise to elucidate the extra-musical associations accompanying
the compositional process.
A focal point of this study is the discernment that it is Ligetis synaesthetic
endowment that opens up a deeper understanding of his music, a music that
requires an analogous synaesthetic perception on the part of the listener. Synaesthetic aspects will therefore be continually considered in the analysis and
interpretation of the works.
It goes without saying that this study, too, would not have come off without
the support of dear friends and numerous amiable colleagues. My principal
thanks are owed posthumously to Gyrgy Ligeti for his patience in answering
my questions and his permission to inspect the drafts and particelli of his
works. Dr. Louise Duchesneau stood tirelessly by me throughout the writing
of the original version. She got hold of books, scores, and recordings for me
and advised me on numerous questions. My colleagues Prof. Peter Petersen
and professor Albrecht Schneider kindly put recordings of radio interviews at
my disposal. Mr. Pter Hlasz and Ms. Edit Spielmann helped me in rendering the Hungarian texts in Ligetis drafts. From conversations with the composers Wolfgang von Schweinitz, Professor Manfred Stahnke and Professor
Altug nl I derived valuable information about Ligeti as a teacher. The Universal Edition of Vienna, B. Schotts Sons in Mainz and the Henry Litolff /
C.F. Peters Publishing House in Frankfurt let me have important music material. My gratitude goes to all of them.
The present English translation of the book differs from the original German
version by some substantial additions. Dr. Vera Ligeti kindly put some hitherto unknown portraits of her husband at my disposal. My friend Professor Dr.
Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch of Indiana University once again provided a translation of uttermost scrupulosity and raised numerous questions, which we
were able to clarify in our correspondence. My most cordial thanks go to him.
I am also much obliged to Professor Dr. Altug nl for the formatting of the
volume, and to Michael Rcker and Andrea Kolb of the Peter Lang Publishing House for their generous editorial advice.
Hamburg, May 2014
Constantin Floros

Contacts over many years: letters of Ligeti to the author (top)

and to the editor of the sterreichische Musikzeitschrift (bottom)

1 Part One:
Personality and Fundamental Aspects of the Work

1.1 Biographical Sketch

Cest la musique qui est ma seule passion.1
Work and workaday life somehow flow together for me.2
The affairs of daily life are regulated in such a way that there
remains sufficient time for work.3
I want to be able to work more and faster. Hence the necessary changeover to telegram style in all matters of life, so
that enough time remains for composing.4

From 1973 to 1988, Gyrgy Ligeti served as professor of composition at the

Music Academy in Hamburg. When he was asked whether his retirement signified a turning-point in his life, he firmly denied it, saying that his appointment in Hamburg had not seemed a caesura to him either, since he had previously taught also in Sweden and in the United States (at Stanford University). He was thus alluding to a continuity in his life, which had always centered
on composing and teaching. Even so, it would be an exaggeration to say that
there had been no incisive events in his life. One such event, for example, was
his flight from Hungary to the West in December of 1956.
The first thing one wants to learn from the biography of a creative person is
how he came to be what he is. To answer this question, one has to look into
an entire complex of matters such as his/her socialization, training and development, the influences to which s/he was exposed, the historical circumstances under which s/he worked and so on. In Ligetis case that means that
one has to search for explanations of his talent, his originality, his ability to
implement the musically imagined, his openness to all things of the intellect,
his strong scholarly and musico-ethnological interests, etc. These aspects will
therefore be at the center of the following chapters.
Gyrgy Ligeti was born on May 28, 1923 as the son of Jewish Hungarians, in
Dicsszentmrton, a small Transylvanian town that was part of Romania but
whose inhabitants spoke Hungarian. His parents, the bank clerk Alexander
Ligeti and the ophthalmologist Ilona Somogy, were from Budapest; both
were music lovers. In a conversation with Reinhard Oehlschlgel, Ligeti told
that even as a small, three- or four-year old child he got in the habit of imagining music5 a habit he retained all his life. One begins to get a sense of
what these imaginings were like once one has taken a look at the masters
sketches. They synaesthetically relate a rich musical vocabulary to literary impressions, visual sensations and psychic states.

In 1929, shortly before the boy turned six, the family moved to Cluj, the second-largest Romanian city of between 120,000 and 150,000 inhabitants and a
center of culture. Here Ligeti attended elementary school and then the Gymnasium (secondary or prep school), and here he saw his first operas, Mussorgskys Boris Godunov and Verdis La Traviata, a work that put him in a regular
trance. At the age of eight, he had his first concert experiences and began to
listen intensively to music on the radio a habit he was to retain for many
years. He took particular delight in comparing the transmissions from Budapest with those from Bucharest.
The story of how he came to be a musician is a curious one.6 His father, who
was unhappy in his profession and would have liked to be a free-lance writer
(he authored several books), envisioned an academic career for his son, preferably as a natural scientist. Since he regarded him as overly playful, he for
some time ignored the boys wish to learn to play an instrument (the violin).
Then a lucky coincidence came to Ligetis aid. A violin teacher discovered
that Gyrgys younger brother, Gabor, had perfect pitch and prevailed upon
Alexander Ligeti to let the boy take violin lessons; whereupon the fourteenyear-old Gyrgy was able to insist on receiving piano lessons. Since there was
no piano in the house, he had to practice at his piano teachers.
He made rapid progress on the instrument and within weeks began to compose. His first attempt was a waltz in A minor in the manner of Edvard
Grieg. At fifteen, he wrote a string quartet, and when he was sixteen, he embarked on the composition of a symphony one complete with a cannon
shot and gunpowder explosion! Around this time he also immersed himself in
the study of classical masterpieces and began to learn to play the timpani. For
two years he performed in an amateur orchestra as a percussionist.
Meanwhile the political situation in central Europe had deteriorated markedly.
From 1933 on, a Nazi movement began to grow in Romania. Jewish students
were discriminated against in the schools and often beaten up. Ligeti, too, suffered the effects of such discrimination. Having brilliantly passed his abitur in
May of 1941, he wanted the study mathematics and physics at Cluj University
but learned that university study was denied to Jews. In the vain hope that the
situation would soon change, he registered for courses in mathematics and
physics at a kind of ersatz university of necessity improvised for Jews. At the
same time he studied harmony and counterpoint with Ferenc Farkas at the
Cluj Conservatory in order to acquire the needed technical expertise, and
learned to play the cello and the organ. In the summers of 1942 and 1943, he
took private lessons in composition with Pal Kdosa in Budapest. An event
of decisive force was his encountering the music of Bla Bartk in the winter

of 1941/42, an experience that very likely hastened his resolution to give up

the study of mathematics, hopeless in any case, and to become a musician.
After the end of the war, still in 1945, Ligeti settled in Budapest. Here he
studied at the Music Academy, initially counterpoint and fugue with Sandor
Veress, who was regarded as the most important Hungarian composer after
Bartk and Kodly, and then instrumentation and free composition again
with Ferenc Farkas, who had meanwhile transferred to the renowned Budapest academy. He also completed studies in strict composition (strenger Satz,
Palestrina-style), to which many years later he ascribed particular relevance also for his own compositional work. What, incidentally, he thought of his
teachers we learn from an essay he published in 1949. He regarded Sandor
Veresss often barely accessible music as terrific, full of hidden beauties,
which the listener had to seek out. Pl Kadosa he lauded as the boldest harmonist, as a composer whose works offered a whole range of interesting
formal problems, exciting metric and technical bravuras. And Ferenc Farkas
he praised as a master of vocal music, as the creator of the eminent lyrical
cantata Sankt-Johannes-Brunnen (St. Johns Well) and as a composer of innovative lieder.7
Having passed his final examination at the Music Academy in 1949, Ligeti
went on an extended trip through Romania, in order, following the example
of Bartk and Kdaly, to research folk music. He collected and evaluated several hundred Transylvanian (Hungarian) folk songs during this journey. He also composed an exhaustive treatise on the improvised polyphony of Romanian folk music and its harmonic principles. This preoccupation bore abundant
fruit. Ligeti began to adapt Hungarian and Romanian folk songs to all manner
of instrumentations: piano, voice and piano, as well as chamber orchestra and
chorus; he even wrote an orchestra piece entitled Romanian Concerto. By
1951 at the latest, however, the realization matured in him that he should distance himself from folklorism and differentiate himself from the Bartk succession. He began to search for new ways as a composer.
From 1950 to 1956, Ligeti served as instructor of harmony, counterpoint and
formal analysis at Budapests Music Academy. During this time he wrote two
excellent textbooks on the classical theory of harmony. He did not have to
teach composition luckily, he thought, as he vehemently balked at the aesthetic maxims of socialist realism, the prevailing doctrine at the time. His
compositions during those years avant-garde music influenced primarily by
Bartk and Stravinsky, in part also by Alban Berg defied these maxims and
as result were destined for the drawer: there was virtually no chance of a performance for them. Thus Ligetis First String Quartet of 1953/54 was premi11

ered only in 1958 in Vienna. Of his progressive works, only five of his Six
Bagatelles for Wind Quintet were performed at a small music festival for contemporary Hungarian music in the fall of 1956, three weeks before the uprising the sixth was omitted because of its notorious dissonances.
Since the year 1948, Hungary had been totally cut off from the West, not only
politically and economically, but also culturally. Everything that ranged under
New Music in the West was simply taboo in Hungary. But Ligeti took a vivid
interest in just this New Music; he was avidly seeking to know it and therefore
listened attentively to the night programs of the German radio stations. By
this means he first encountered Messiaens Turangalla Symphony and electronic
music by Herbert Eimert. After the political opening in the spring of 1956, it
became possible to obtain records and music from the Western countries. Ligeti was happy to be able to acquire, for the first time, string quartets by
Schnberg, Berg and Webern. He established contacts with Herbert Eimert,
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Otto Tomek and Hanns Jelinek, who supplied him
with music and essays. It was a great shock for me perhaps the most beautiful of my life, he told later, to suddenly be able to study, read and listen to
what until then I had only vaguely guessed at, only secretly intercepted in
snatches at night on the radio it was like a liberation. I was in the middle of
the most intensive compositional work on Vzik, writing down, in this piece,
the results of years of solitary experimentation with new musical possibilities,
and now acquired intelligence of the New Music in the West. It strongly confirmed me in my own path!8
In the above-mentioned conversations with Reinhard Oehlschlger, Ligeti described in vivid colors the dramatic events after the suppression of the Budapest uprising: how the initial confident mood the hope of liberation abruptly changed into anxiety and panic after the invasion of the Soviet troops
on November 4, 1956; how, on November 7 he was all alone in his apartment
all the other occupants hid in the cellar, afraid of being hit by flying bullets
and for the first time heard Stockhausens Gesang der Jnglinge (Song of the
Youths) and Kontra-Punkte on the radio, and how, after the street battles and
the mass arrests, he resolved to flee to the West, because he did not want to
live under a dictatorship. On December 10, he boarded a train going west
and, under cover of night, crossed illicitly into Austria.
He was accompanied by his girlfriend, Vera Spitz, whom he married in 1957,
and who later became one of the most prominent representatives of Freudian
psychology. On October 15, 1944, the Arrow Cross, the Hungarian Fascist
party, had celebrated its coming to power with the shooting of ten thousand
Jews. Vera Spitz, who was fourteen years old at the time, had escaped certain

death only at the last moment. She had then and there resolved to choose a
profession that would best enable her to understand human beings, their
compulsions and abysses.
Arrived in Vienna, Ligeti met Friedrich Cerha and Hanns Jelinek. Yet he evidently did not at first intend to reside` in Vienna, as he promptly turned to
Eimert and Stockhausen, the founders of the noted Studio for Electronic
Music in Cologne. Both invited him to Cologne to work with them on the
Studio. Through the efforts of Eimert, he obtained a stipend for four months,
which, frugal as he was, enabled him to remain in Cologne for a year and a
half. Stockhausen took him in for six weeks, a period filled with intensive
conversations about the New Music. Ligetis long-cherished wish to be able
to hear and study the music of Schnberg, Berg and Webern, works of Pierre
Boulez, Stockhausen and others could finally be satisfied.
In his Stockhausen book of 1963, Karl H. Wrner tells a story of how upon
his arrival in Cologne Ligeti collapsed in total exhaustion and slept for more
than 24 hours in Stockhausens apartment, refusing any and all food, and
how, after finally waking up, he promptly launched into a nearly four-hours
long discussion about the New Music and electronic music, only to then sink
back into another 24-hour sleep.9 The story does not seem to be correct in
every detail, but it conveys a sense of Ligetis passionate concerns, at the time,
about the New Music.
Looking back, Ligeti professed that the eighteen months he spent in Cologne
were important ones for him. He got to know the Cologne music scene at
close quarters, became familiar with the aims of the periods avant-garde, obtained valuable experiences in the Studio for Electronic Music, where he
worked above all with Gottfried Michael Koenig, produced his first electronic
compositions (Glissandi and Articulation), and above all was able to firmly establish his own artistic point of view. As strongly impressed as he was with
the consistency of Stockhausens way of thinking, as little was he persuaded
by the rigidity of serialisms principles.
In 1957, Ligeti was able for the first time to visit the International Summer
Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. There he met Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono and Henri Pousseur. From 1959 on, he repeatedly served as a lecturer at
the Summer Courses. He offered seminars on Problems of Form and Structure in Webern, as well as an analysis of Weberns first cantata. Gradually he
got to know nearly all the representatives of the times avant-garde. He became close friends with the early deceased Bruno Maderna (d. 1973) an
angelic being, whose gift as a conductor he continued to praise to the skies.

The years 1960 and 1961 marked a turning-point in his life, inasmuch as the
highly successful premieres of Apparitions and Atmosphres brought him an instant international breakthrough. The premiere of Apparitions on June 19,
1960, at the World Music Festival of the International Society for New Music
in Cologne, was a sensation, and that of Atmosphres on October 22, 1961, at
the Donauseschinger Musiktage (Donaueschingen Music Festival) was no less
successful. With these and the following works Ligeti advanced to the forefront of contemporary composers, though he did not obtain a firm appointment until 1973. In the sixties, he lived mostly in Vienna (in 1967 he acquired
Austrian citizenship), but he also traveled around numerous European countries. He taught as a guest professor at the Music Academy in Stockholm and
offered courses in composition in Madrid, in Dutch Bilthoven, at the Folkwang School in Essen, Germany, and in Jyvskyl, Finland. From 1969 to
1973, he lived predominantly in Berlin. In 1972, he spent half a year as composer-in-residence at Stanford University in California.
His appointment as professor of composition at the State Academy of Music
in Hamburg in 1973 brought some stability into his restless life, though he
continued to teach courses in composition at the Berkshire Music Center in
Tanglewood, Massachusetts, at the Academy Chigiana in Siena, Italy, in Aixen-Provence and elsewhere. His international renown drew many gifted
young composers to the Hamburg Music Academy. His pupils, among them
Hans-Christian von Dadelsen, Babette Koblenz, Wolfgang von Schweinitz,
Wolfgang Andreas-Schultz, Manfred Stahnke, Detlef Mller-Siemens, Altug
nl, to name only a few, had the feeling of belonging to an elite. Students of
mine at Hamburg University who also attended Ligetis courses at the Music
Academy were fascinated by the way he analyzed chamber music works by
Franz Schubert.
Ligeti has been overwhelmed with honors like few other composers of his
generation. Many of his works earned prizes. He was given the highest awards
available in our cultural world. As the bearer of the Great Austrian State Prize
or the Praemium Imperiale of Tokyo, as member of the Order Pour le Mrite,
honorary doctor of Hamburg University, honorary senator of the Hamburg
Music Academy, and member of several academies and artistic institutions,
such as the League of Austrian Composers (sterreichischer Komponistenbund), he
enjoyed high prestige all over the world. One indication of his world-wide
recognition is the fact that for many years festivals featuring his music have
been held in many countries. It is also typical of him that he engaged himself
energetically in behalf of composers whom he valued. Thus he championed
the Mexian Conlon Nancarrow and the Romanian Stefan Nicolescu.

After his retirement in 1989, and until his death in 2006, Ligeti lived alternately in Hamburg and in Vienna, continuing to work intensively in Hamburg
while seeking recreation in Austria. To the end, he remained attached to his
Hamburg apartment as the site of many years of creativity, though at one
point he had thought of moving to Paris.

Austrias great tribute of 1990

1.2 Questions of Identity

If I am asked who I am, I say: I am a Transylvanian-born
Hungarian of Jewish descent and a citizen, originally of Romania, then of Hungary and finally of Austria. I belong to no
place: I belong to European intelligentsia and culture.

No one familiar with Ligeti and his lifes story will miss the cosmopolitan
bent of his personality. Born in Transylvania and raised in Hungary, he lived
and worked in many European countries as well as in the U.S.A. He was polyglot, spoke several languages and felt at home as much in Vienna as in Hamburg or Paris. His pupils and friends included members of many nations, and
his reputation was international.
He was, he once remarked, opposed to all nationalist movements. As a child
in Romania and Hungary, he said, he always led a twofold existence, and he
defined his identity tellingly in these words:
My native language is Hungarian, but I am not a genuine Hungarian,
because I am a Jew. At the same time, I am not a member of a Jewish


religious community, so I am an assimilated Jew. But I am not completely assimilated, either, because I am not baptized. Now, as an
adult, I live in Austria and in Germany, and have for a long time been
an Austrian citizen. Yet I am not a real Austrian, either, only a Johnnie-come-lately, and my German speech will always retain a Hungarian coloration.10

Ligeti was forced to leave Hungary and was able to exist outside of his homeland. Yet a feeling of nostalgia, of a yearning for his home remained alive in
him. In September of 1993, he told me he felt himself to be Hungarian and
belonging to Hungarian culture. He said he loved Hungarian literature and retained a strong tie to his native language with its concise images and rhythmic
structures. That was his explanation, in any case, why in 1983 he had set the
Magyar Etdk, poems of the major Hungarian poet Sndor Weres, to music.
Already in his youth he had composed nostalgic poems. The following choral
song, written in 1945 in Budapest, is based on a Hungarian folk poem. Entitled A Black Bird, an English version would read as follows:
A black cloud rises. In it
a black bird grooms its feathers.
Stop, bird, stop,
take my letter with you
for Father and Mother,
for my betrothed.
If they ask where I am,
tell them that I am sick,
In foreign parts I hide my head.11

The feeling of standing apart from all groupings and formations, the consciousness of not belonging a hundred percent to any group, thus seems to be
particularly characteristic of him. His relation to Judaism is symptomatic of
that attitude. He came from a Jewish family (his paternal forebears were called
Auer Ligeti is the not quite exactly magyarized form of that name). His father was a member of the Jewish community, but he cared little for religion.
Ligeti himself was not a member of any Jewish congregation; during his
childhood and youth he had only the vaguest knowledge of the Jewish religion. The world of Jewish belief, he once remarked, was closed to him.12 After a visit to Israel, he felt that Jewish culture was basically alien to him.
It does not require much imagination to understand that the virulent antiSemitism after World War I, the dramatic events of World War II and the
persecution of Jews during the Third Reich had traumatic effects upon him.
His father Sndor, a highly decorated lieutenant during World War I, was de16

ported to Buchenwald and murdered in 1944 in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen; his younger brother Gbor died at the Mauthausen camp. His
mother, a physician, was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Several of his other relatives perished likewise, while others barely survived in the Budapest
ghetto. For some time he suffered considerable guilt feelings, tormenting
himself with the question why, by what right, he of all people had been
Ligetis relation to politics is no less complex. Time and again he emphasizes
his political interests. During the Hitler years, he was taken with his fathers
political and economic theories and was left-oriented a utopian socialist.
His subsequent experience of the Stalinist dictatorship compelled him, however, to radically revise his political persuasions. In 1948, Hungary turned
Communist and Stalinist. Ligeti came to know the principles of Socialist Realism and was disgusted with the cultural politics of Shdanov, realizing that
they rested on ideas similar to Hitlers polemics against degenerate art. He
was dismayed to learn that composers like Hindemith, Honegger and Britten,
even Bach and Handel were being suppressed (the latter two because of their
clericalist tendencies), and that the performance of works by Bla Bartk
that he cherished particularly, such as the middle string quartets, the Music for
String Instruments, Percussion and Celesta and the Miraculous Mandarin, was forbidden.
Looking back later, Ligeti called himself doubly damaged, by National Socialism and then by Hungarian Communism. Since his flight from Hungary,
at the latest, he professed an emphatic commitment to democracy, to human
dignity, freedom of opinion and personal and religious liberty. He entertained
a profound admiration for great achievements in all cultures for great music
as well as for the Egyptian pyramids, Gothic cathedrals and Shakespearean
The pacification of humankind was close to his heart. But he did not count
himself among the representatives of politicized art: in this respect his work
differs radically from that of Luigi Nono, Hans Werner Henze or Helmut
Lachenmann. He did not wish to put his music in the service of any ideology
or to have it proclaim a message. He saw the danger of art being misused by
politics and argued that there should be no bridge between music and current
events13 though he did not object to taking positions on such events indirectly, praising in this connection Arnold Schnbergs Survivor from Warsaw.14
A boundless urge for independence and a highly critical way of thinking mutually conditioned each other in Ligetis nature. He was a declared opponent
of all ideologies, calling himself an anti-ideologue, didnt think much of

doctrinaire persuasions, questioned a great deal and was indifferent to all fads.
He opposed all dogmatic thinking and the rule of rigid systems, whether in
life, in politics or in art. He was the opposite of a conformist. This outlook affected his attitude not only toward the various directions taken by the New
Music, but also toward the technical norms that modernity posited for composition. It is precisely because he always preserved his independence and autonomy that he was repeatedly able to help the New Music out of crisis and
to point out new ways for it.
1.3 Towards an Intellectual Physiognomy
I am interested in everything: natural science, linguistics, history, politics.15

German literary history distinguishes the poeta doctus, the learned poet, from
the poeta vates or poet as seer, including in the former category such major
writers as Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, Gottfried Benn and Arno Schmidt. If
one were to speak analogously of a musicus doctus, one could cite Gyrgy Ligeti
as a contemporary representative. He was as well-versed in music history and
theory as any professional musicologist, but he was also closely familiar with
literature and painting. A congress organized in Hamburg in 1988 in honor of
his sixty-fifth birthday impressively documented the breadth of his intellectual
interests, which extended from the discoveries of modern biochemistry and
the visualization of fractals all the way to African and Javanese music.
His relation to technology is symptomatic of his artistic orientation. He was
interested in both electronic and computerized music. Many of his works
evoke associations with electronic music in the listener, and numerical proportions play a prominent role in quite a few of them. Yet he openly proclaimed that he did not make any scientistic music. Art and science are closely
adjacent yet different. Ligeti did not believe that one can make sensible music
by converting mathematical formulae into musical processes. Neither scientific nor mathematical elements, he once explained, will be found in his
music, but rather a combination of construction and poetic-emotional imagination.
Especially illuminating is his relation to the great composers, writers and visual artists. When he spoke of them, he did so by way of assessment, taking a
stand, adopting sides. He felt drawn to artists that seemed kindred to him, in
whom he discovered traits that particularly affected him, while others works
seemed miles apart from his own.
He had a special predilection for the complex, the constructive, the excogitated, also the mannered. For years he studied the complex music of the late

Middle Ages, the ars nova and ars subtilior, not in order to use them as models
but so as to enrich his experiences and to tap new wells of inspiration.
He had an aversion to the heroic, the affirmative, the direct, the unequivocal, the pompous, the confessional and histrionic. The term weltanschauung
was suspect to him, a sense of mission in art made him uncomfortable.
He admired the compositional genius of Richard Wagner, but he distanced
himself from the heroism and pathos of his music dramas. He valued the
prelude to Rheingold and the magic fire music of Die Walkre for their coloristic qualities, though the regarded the wonderfully orchestrated Rheingold prelude as the very archetype of static music. His relation to Dmitri Shostakovich was similarly ambivalent. So long as he knew only the Song of the Forests
and the Seventh Symphony, he was reserved about the works of the great
Russian. Once he got to know The Nose and Lady Macbeth of Mzensk, he
changed his mind fairly radically. Ligetis maxims included an affirmation of
emotionality in art but also an aversion to pathos and did not want the one to
be confused with the other. It is thus symptomatic that he firmly distanced
himself from Expressionism. He acknowledged Arnold Schnberg and Alban
Berg, whose Lyric Suite made a lasting impression upon him, as great composers, but he hastened to add that their pathos was alien to him.16
In the early sixties, he wrote the text to a ten-part radio series about Anton
Webern, which was broadcast by Germanys Southwest Radio in 1963/64. He
explained there how Webern gradually moved away from Wagner as well as
from the style of his own teacher Schnberg, found his own style and gained
distance from Romanticism. At the same time it seemed important to him
that a core of the Romantic tradition remained in Weberns music, one
that preserved the poetic aspects the tender, inward, yearningly enigmatic,
but excluded everything long-winded, rhetorical sentimental and lachrymose.17 Ligeti drew a parallel between Webern and Claude Debussy in this
context, holding that both had conserved the poetry of Romanticism but
had abhorred its pathos a memorable formulation that seems to mirror Ligetis own aesthetic position.
Debussy is altogether one of the composers most deeply venerated by Ligeti.
He praised him as an artist who did not let himself be enslaved by any rule.
Debussy, he once said, is closest to me: total fluidity, elegance that is essential for me. Elegance is also what captivated him about many works of
Igor Stravinsky, of which he especially valued the Symphonie dinstruments a vent,
the ballet Agon and the Canticum sacrum.


Ligetis early work was strongly influenced by Bla Bartk, at least in part.
Many of his early pieces profited from impulses received from Bartk. Even
in later years, he professed to greatly love Bartk, though he hinted at having
distanced himself considerably from him. The ideal of force to which many of
the great Hungarians works seem to pay tribute is not one of the things that
enchanted the older Ligeti.
Classicism and Mannerism are regarded as diametrically opposed stances in
the history of the arts. Ligeti freely admitted that his preference is for Mannerism, not only in music, but also in literature and visual art. He frankly confessed that he loved the mannerists more than the classicists. He preferred
Hlderlins craziness to Goethes classicism. Hlderlins appeal lay for him
in the combination of unbridled, in the best sense of the word deranged imagination and extraordinary formal rigor.18 His judgment about the relative
worth of Kafka and Thomas Mann was similar. He preferred Kafkas extremism to Manns classicity. Though he greatly esteemed the latters Buddenbrooks, he declared Kafka to be his favorite poet.
In delving into Ligetis intellectual world, it becomes clear that his literary
preferences were for Surrealism, Dadaism, the Theater of the Absurd and the
imaginary generally. Apart from Kafka, the authors that particularly attracted
him were Lewis Carroll, Alfred Jarry, Gyula Krudy, Kurt Schwitters, Fritz von
Herzmanovsky-Orlando, Boris Vian and Sndor Weres.
Two of the books that left a lasting impression on him were Lewis Carrolls
(1832-1898) Alices Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the LookingGlass, the bizarre stories of the heroines dream adventures, encounters with
fantastic creatures in an odd world in which causality is suspended and the
laws of nature are turned upside down. In a letter to Ove Nordwall of August
5/6, 1968, Ligeti wrote that Carrolls book had probably been as important to
him as Kafka. The figure of Alice and the formal characteristics of her stories,
he said, were to be found already in his Aventures and really also in many of his
other works, including the String Quartet No. 2 (1968).19 It is also worth noting
in this connection that at the end of the last of the Ten Bagatelles for Wind Quintet (1968) there is a quotation from Alices Adventures, and that Ligeti at the
time was thinking of producing a stage spectacle based on Carrolls book.
Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) is regarded by theater historians as a forerunner of
the Dadaists and Surrealists and as a pioneer of the Theater of the Absurd.
His five-act drama Ubu Roi (King Ubu), premiered in Paris in 1986, projects a
world of grotesque archetypal images and was created as a deliberate persi-


flage of theatrical conventions. Ligeti himself referred more than once to the
influence of this play on the conception of his opera Le Grand Macabre.
Ligeti derived vital impulses also from Gyula Krudy (1878-1933), a relatively
little-known Hungarian writer, often regarded as akin to Marcel Proust as well
as to the Surrealists. His novellas and novels (e.g. The Adventures of Sinbad) are
mostly located in a fantasy world of dreams and imaginary adventures. By his
own confession, Krudys necrophilia has been essential to Ligeti, as has been
the fact that in Krudys novels the process of time frequently seems suspended.
Along with Arp, Tzara, Huelsenbeck, Hausmann, Picabia and Janco, Kurt
Schwitters (1887-1948), was one of the most prominent representatives of literary Dadaism, who as the meaning of a poem accepted solely the consistent
abstinence from any kind of conventional lyrical signification.20 Of programmatic importance for literary Dadaism was his poem An Anna Blume,
first published in 1919. Schwitters made a name for himself primarily also by
his advocacy of an enlargement of the means and materials of art (see his
Merz-Bau below). In the spring of 1964, Ligeti wrote to Ove Nordwall that
probably no artist was closer to him in human terms than Schwitters.21 He also did not conceal his predilection for Schwitters famous Sonate in Urlauten
(Sonata in Primordial Sounds). Indeed, it takes an acquaintance with this sonata to begin to understand sound compositions like Aventures and Nouvelles

K. Schwitters, Merz-Bau (akin to Ligetis thinking)


Two further authors that fascinated Ligeti were the Austrian Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando (1877-1954) and the Frenchman Boris Vian (19201959). Amazingly enough he approximated both of them to Kafka. In Vian
he was impressed by the way the terrible things he says in his plays LEcume de
Jours (The Foam of the Days) and LAutomne Pkin are always made to
sound ridiculous. How much Ligeti felt drawn to the tragicomic world of Boris Vian one can gather from the fact that he titled one of his piano etudes after Vians novel Larrache-coeurs (The Heart-Snatcher) a striking piece, which,
however, for dramaturgical reasons, he did not include in the second cycle
of the piano etudes.
A special place in the pantheon of authors close to Ligeti, finally, was occupied by Sndor Weres, a great Hungarian poet, who composed several epics
and invented entire mythologies, such as the imaginary land Nakonxipan. His
comic epic Bolond Istk constitutes a mythology about the creation and the
end of the world.
Ligeti likewise had an affinity with the visual arts. He was conversant with the
history of both painting and architecture and staggered even professional experts with his knowledge and sense of quality.22 Three of his drawings, which
became known in the nineties, Jngstes Gericht, Familienszenerie and Die Bevlkerung in den Wolken (Last Judgment, Family Scene, The Inhabitants of the
Clouds), strike one as mildly Surrealist.23 Of the pictorial artists, he once remarked, the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher was closest to
him. Eschers illusionism, he said, resembled his own way of working, and
Eschers interest in the illusion of non-existent perspectives corresponded to
his own pleasure in patterns of rhythmic illusion (see illustration p. 109).

J. Mir, Carnival of the Harlequin (with Ligetis Artikulation)


He was also drawn to the paintings of Paul Czanne and loved the pictures of
his in which time seems to stand still. In concerning myself with Czanne
now, he tellingly remarked, I am becoming aware that there is an art to
which I feel very close: the heaviness of time, the frozenness of time. The
process of time not as a light dance but congealed, petrified.24
It goes without saying that he had many other partialities. Thus he was fond
of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch (see illustr. p. 100) as well as of many
pictures by Paul Klee. On May 22, 1988, he wrote to me that while working
on Artikulation, he had been impressed by Joan Mirs Carnival of the Harlequin.
In speaking of Ligetis intellectual interests, we must not forget mathematics
and natural science, which always greatly appealed to him. As a high-school
student, he excelled in physics and in chemical experiments, and he would
have studied physics if the anti-Semitic laws of the rightist government in
Hungary at the time had not prevented him from attending a university. Significantly he regarded mathematics as a kind of language and located it
somewhere between the natural sciences and art.25 Ever since his stay at
Stanford University, he was fascinated by computer science and artificial intelligence. In the early nineties he turned his attention to fractal geometry and
chaos research. A mainspring of these interests was the desire to discover the
laws underlying complexities in the arts.
A special place was reserved in his thinking for the relation between art and
science and that between music and technology. He drew a sharp dividing line
between art and science. Scientific ideas and methods, he wrote in 1985,
differ so fundamentally from artistic ones that neither technology nor mathematics by themselves would be able to produce any art. But he also qualified this statement by adding: Scientific facts, however, can well fertilize artistic ideas and conceptions and thereby beneficially affect the development
of a new visual art and a new music.26
Fascinated by the complexity of musical structures, Ligeti at times declared
complexity to be one of his foremost artistic aims. As a genuinely dialectical
spirit, however, he did not want to pass any judgment on the aesthetic effect
of such structures. His essay Zur Anwendung von Computern in der Komposition (On the Use of Computers in Composing), contains the following
significant reservation: We do not even know if sufficient complexity, sufficient wealth of relationships are categories of artistic worth there are extremely simple works that constitute great art.27 He approved of data processing for the production of sounds and even complex tone structures, and
he greatly valued the pioneering work of Claude Risset and John Chowing.28

But he had qualms about algorithmic composition. He could appreciate the

serendipitous in musical invention, but he settled for notated music, for the
worked-out score.
Psychologists assert that highly creative beings often incline toward illusion,
imagination, fantasies and utopias. In Ligetis work, the illusionary, imaginary,
fantastic plays a large role. He had a soft spot for imaginary lands, islands, cities, spaces and languages. As a youth he had conceived the imaginary realm
Kilviria (see the illustrations below). In lengthy notes, he described its language
and grammar, drew detailed maps of its topography, and painstakingly depicted its geological formations.29 For a while he even played with the idea of
writing a full-length music drama entitled Kilviria. He had, in fact, received a
contract for it from the Stockholm Opera. The libretto was to be written in a
kind of imaginary language. Ligeti was thinking in terms of a labyrinthine collage of motives from ancient mythology.
A passion for the new, the unprecedented in art, a pondering reason and a
lively imagination, calculation and spontaneity, stylized emotionality, a love of
formal rigor and at the same time for the crazily mannered, a fondness for the
excogitated, the complex, illusionary and imaginary these are some of the
traits of Gyrgy Ligetis spiritual physiognomy.


FS 3-5 Kilviria, Fantasy of a World Landscape (Drawings by G. Ligeti)

1. Imagined Routes,
2. Mountain Ranges and Rivers,
3. Inhabitants Settlements


1.4 A Non-Puristic Music

Music is not an island to me but part of a complex continuum of life and experience.30
My music is not puristic. It is contaminated by an insane
number of associations, because I think highly synaesthetically.31

Nothing is more characteristic of the aesthetics of several composers belonging to the avant-garde of the fifties than their purist point of view. They not
only paid homage to an extreme structuralism, but also vehemently championed the notion that the new music they propagated should remain free of
any and all associative side effects. (One could justifiably speak of a material
fetishism.) Thus for Karlheinz Stockhausen, a prime criterion for the quality
of an electronic composition was to what extent it has been kept free of any
instrumental or other tonal associations. Such associations, he thought, detracted the mind of the listeners from the autonomy of the sound world presented to them; they would feel reminded of bells, organs, birds or water faucets. Stockhausen therefore demanded that electronic music should, if possible, contain only sounds and sound combinations that were unique and free
of associations.32
Pierre Boulez, too, was taken with the idea of admitting only neutral elements to a composition elements that did not aim at any anecdotal characterization. For this reason he had considerable doubts about John Cages
prepared piano, as well as about the use of idiophones in the orchestra. Unlike the tones of a violin or trumpet, he thought, the sound of a percussion
instrument, of cymbals or a gong, was perceived as an individual factor. It
would have the tendency to step out of the context of the composition and
thus to evade its dialectic, because such a sound is linked to an anecdotal
Ligetis position on these questions was diametrically opposed to the views of
Stockhausen and Boulez. In a commentary on a performance in Hamburg in
the fall of 1960, he wrote:
Although I have an aversion to everything expressly illustrative or
programmatic, that does not mean that I am opposed to associations
evoked by music. On the contrary: sounds and musical contexts always call up sensations of color, solidity and visible as well as palpable
form in me. And conversely, color, form, material consistency, even
abstract concepts instinctively link themselves to tonal ideas in my
mind. That explains the presence of such numerous extra-musical


traits in my compositions. Tonal planes and masses, which supersede,

interpenetrate or merge with each other, floating networks that tear
apart and get knotted, wet, sticky, gelatinous, fibrous, dry, brittle,
grainy and compact materials, shreds, phrases, fragments and traces
of all sorts, imaginary buildings, labyrinths, inscriptions, texts, dialogues, insects, conditions, events, processes, amalgamations, transformations, catastrophes, decay, disappearance, all these are elements of my non-puristic music.34

In these sentences Ligeti indirectly but unmistakably turned against the then
prevailing puristic musical aesthetics of his most prominent colleagues. How
different the theoretical orientation of the three composers was is suggested
by the titles of their respective works at the time. Whereas Stockhausen and
Boulez had a predilection for technical terms Boulez Structures pour deux pianos were written in 1951, Stockhausen composed his Kontra-Punkte in 1953,
his Zeitmae in 1955/56 and his Gruppen in 1955/57 Ligeti gave his first
compositions, which made a great stir in the early sixties, such suggestive titles as Apparitions and Atmosphres.
Many of his works reveal that his conceptions of music and the musical extended far beyond the current views. There are indications that the universal
world of the musical he had in mind not only comprised sound and noise,
language and music, the vocal and the instrumental but that the borderlines
between these areas were frequently fluid. Music for Ligeti seems to be the
cosmos of everything acoustically shaped, from whispering and rustling to
shrieking and explosive thunder. Music is to him everything between the soft
flageolet to the full orchestral sound. It is symptomatic for him that he did not
attempt a synthesis of electronic and instrumental music. His domain is instrumental and vocal music, albeit a music sui generis that profited from his experiences with electronics and that frequently ranges in a region between the
world of tones and that of noise. That explains why many of his instrumental
works, such as Apparitions, Atmosphres or Continuum, evoke associations with
electronic music in the listener associations of tonal mixtures, impulses, as
well as white noise.
Is Ligetis music, then, pure music or program music? That question frequently arises, and our answer must be: neither nor. His music is, he once
explained, program music without program, a music heavily shot through
with associations.35 He distanced himself categorically from the program
music of a Liszt, Berlioz or Richard Strauss, and accounted for that by his
predilection for the ambiguous or polysemous. The following remark of his is
illuminating in this connection:

Everything that is direct and unambiguous is alien to me. I love allusions, double-entendres, ambiguities, the double-bottomed, the cryptic. Ambiguous are also the various pictorial associations with my music, which I speak or think or sense while I envisage music.36

Ligetis views about his non-puristic music are conspicuously close to those
of a contemporary, who as a composer nevertheless took a completely different route: Hans Werner Henze, too, confessed to a musica impura. In a conversation with Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich in 1972, Henze said:
My music has these human, allegorical, literary involvements. My music is impure, as Neruda said of his poems. It does not want to be
abstract, it does not want to be pure, it is sullied: by weaknesses,
disadvantages, and imperfections.37

1.5 Metaphors, Allusions and Synaesthesias

A spontaneous translation of optical or tactile sensations into acoustic ones is very frequent with me. I nearly always associate colors, forms and material consistencies with sounds,
as well as vice versa, acoustic sensations with colors, forms
and material conditions. Even abstract concepts such as
quantities, relations, connections and processes appear sensualized to me and have their place in an imaginary space.38
My music is not puristic. It is contaminated by incredibly
many associations, because I think highly synaesthetically.
With sounds I always think of forms, with forms of colors
and sounds etc., so that actually a great deal from the visual
arts, from literature, but also certain scientific aspects, things
of daily life, political aspects and a great many other things
play a major role for me. I do not know if these associations
are my private matter. I would say a certain level of education
is necessary to hear my music otherwise than if one listens to
it without these associations, as pure music. It is never program music, but is very strongly charged with associations.39

In looking at Ligetis numerous utterances about his music and his works, one
quickly notices that they do not at all exhaust themselves in technical categories but frequently allude to extra-musical matters. Ligeti does not hesitate to
confess that the sources of his inspiration are frequently extra-musical in nature. Verse, poems and texts that affect him, colors, pictures, paintings, objects of the visual arts all these act as creative stimuli to his imagination. The
fifth of his piano etudes, for example, bears the suggestive title Arc-en-ciel,

During the creative process, and sometimes also thereafter, associations to literature and the visual arts come to him, associations that in many instances he
has actually named. He often uses diverse metaphors to explain his music. In
addition, he stresses that many of his works evoke specific allusions allusions, for example, to Romantic music, to organ music, to Johann Sebastian
Bach, to Frdric Chopin, Claude Debussy, or Gustav Mahler. The second of
his Drei Stcke fr zwei Klaviere, for example, bears the title Selbstportrait mit Reich
und Riley (und Chopin ist auch dabei), Self-portrait with Reich and Riley (and
Chopin is with it, too).
Ligeti repeatedly declared that music was something primarily intuitive for
him, and that the creative process was set in motion for him by concrete, sensory ideas.40 He is, by his own confession, synaesthetically endowed, spontaneously translates visual and tactile sensations into acoustic ones and nearly
always associates both colors, forms and material conditions with sounds.
When I hear music, he once said, I also see colors, figures.41 He thus experiences music like Olivier Messiaen, who was also a synaesthetic.42 Keeping
all that in mind, one begins to understand Ligetis remark that for him the artificial product called work of art was linked to every level of perception,
including that of concrete life.43
If the above quotations are fairly general, the following statement conveys an
impression of how Ligeti connects certain conceptions with sounds.
For me, the idea of time, for example, is something white and fog-like,
slowly and inexorably flowing from left to right, making a very soft
hhhh-like noise. Left, in this case, is a purple place of tinny consistency and accordant sound, while right is orange in color, with a
skin-like surface and a muffled sound.44

The manner in which the acoustic is linked to the optical here allows us to
speak of synopsy, to use the technical term.45
Very instructive in this context are also Ligetis notes to the early works Atmosphres, Dies Irae (from the Requiem) and Aventures. Written in Hungarian,
they were translated into Finnish by Erkki Salmenhaara46 and then transferred
to German (unfortunately not without errors) by Helke Sander. They impressively document Ligetis synaesthetic perception. In seeking to verbalize his
tonal ideas, he uses not only the adjectives high and low, loud and soft, shrill and
mellow, but also the terms thin and thick expressions that refer to tonal volume and clearly point to the realm of the so-called ur-synaesthesias. Very suggestive are also the verbal images individual birds and suddenly the trembling of a butterfly, mingled fast, mingled motion, then again stop. They

emerge in the middle of the description of musical facts in the Dies Irae,
and here, too, one finds the notes Pursuit, panic, hysterical terror, milling,
precarious. Small Bosch objects in the texture of the pursuit a clear indication that in sketching the Dies Irae Ligeti associated some passages with
pictures of his favorite painter Hieronymus Bosch (see illustr. P. 100).

Angel of Darkness by Matthias Grnewald

We likewise get a keen insight into Ligetis perceptual world from his remarks
about his great orchestral work Lontano. Even the title is ambiguous; one has
to read it poetically as well as musically Lontano (From Far Away) means both
distant music and a remote world: the title thus signals spatial as well as temporal distance. After embarking on the work, Ligeti wrote to Ove Nordwall,
he found verses in an ode by John Keats that were close to this music. At the
same time he associated the musical sounds with liquid crystals, with the
stained-glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle and with Piranesis famous etchings I carceri.47 In conversation with Josef Husler, he also spoke about associations with Altdorfers painting Die Alexanderschlacht (The Battle of Alexander).48
How do such associations come about, and to what can the synaesthetic relations between music and the other realms be traced back? As an example of
the illusion of spatial distance evoked by music, Ligeti cited the piano entrance
of the stopped horns in m. 145. The spatial illusion occurs because the entrance of the three horns comes suddenly after a passage in fourfold forte.
The nature of this entrance also inevitably suggests allusions to the music of
late Romanticism, of Bruckner, of Mahler and also of Wagner. The horns
sound from afar and from old times. Fittingly, the verses from Keats Ode

to a Nightingale that so impressed Ligeti speak of the birds song evoking

forlorn dream landscapes:49
The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

The association with Albrecht Altdorfers famous painting Die Alexanderschlacht Ligeti, in turn, explained by referring to the gradual brightening of
the music in mm. 127-145. Through a long crescendo and the gradual rise to
higher and higher registers, the music here becomes brighter and brighter until it begins to radiate as the violins and the celli all reach the high d-sharp.
Analogously, the clouds open in Altdorfers painting, revealing the golden
rays of the evening sun shining through them. The tertium quid in the musical-optical correspondence here is thus the quality of radiance.

Light of the setting sun in A. Altdorfers Alexanderschlacht

(with Ligetis Lontano)

To make the spatial aspect of Lontano quite clear, moreover, Ligeti formulated the
following memorable statement: Behind the music there is another music and be-


hind that yet another, an unending perspective, just as when one sees oneself in
two mirrors and an infinite reflection occurs.50 It is possible that this perception in
turn suggested the comparison with Giovanni Battista Piranesis imaginary prisons (Carceri dinvenzione see illustration).

G. B. Piranesi, The Imaginary Prisons (with Ligetis Lontano)

From what has been said it is clear that Ligetis associations are by no means arbitrary but depend on specific correspondences. They result from peculiarities in
the structure of the work or specific properties of the tonal material. We find one
example in the score of the Violin Concerto, completed in 1992, which bears the following NB to the opening movement:
Regarding the natural flageolet tones of both the solo violin and the
strings in the orchestra (except for the double bass): during the entire
1st movement, if the flageolet notes do not always fully intone, they
should not be replaced by artificial flageolets, as the glassy, shimmering character of the movement is based on the natural flageolets, and
the not-always-secure intonation produces the impression of brittleness and hazard.

The more often one listens to this movement, the clearer it becomes that the
manner of playing it does indeed produce the impression of fragility.
Ligeti had a penchant for colors, for delicate as well as strong ones. He once
showed me a volume containing colorful Irish illuminations from the high
Middle Ages striking miniatures that strongly appealed to him. When he
sketched his works, he used color pencils, and not just for making a grid. His

score drafts often look like colorful sketches for paintings. No wonder, then,
that his predilection was for music with timbre.
Diverse conceptions of light sparkling crystals, black light, blinding
brightness generally important to him, often accompany his creative processes. When I once told him how deeply I was impressed by the sound image of vacuum in his music, he replied that he associated the image of dawn,
of the emerging light, with it.
Ligetis association-charged music makes special demands on the listener,
requiring synaesthetic cooperation of him. Ligetis ideal listener would be an
educated one capable of recognizing the associations inherent in the music
and sensitive to its associative qualities. In that respect Ligetis art suggests
comparisons with the art of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Alexander
Scriabin and Olivier Messiaen an art that without synaesthetic collaboration
can really be neither properly apperceived nor fully enjoyed.51
During a detailed study of Ligetis sketches and the notations in them, one
discovers a number of concepts or conceptual pairs that appear to have had
been in his mind during the creative process. They constitute a synaesthetically interlinked cosmos. The most frequent are the following:
Space/Universe (r)
African Masks


1.6 Innovativeness: Aspects of Compositional Technique

To produce something that already exists is of no interest to
me. If a new experiment has been made and there has been a
result, it is not worth making the same experiment again.52

The category of the new is central to the avant-garde art of the 20th century.
In his Aesthetische Theorie, Theodor W. Adorno outlined the dialectic between
this category and the concept of duration and spoke of a conflict. The thirst
for the new, he thought, displaces the continuance that works of art have always aimed at.53 Independently of Adorno, Ligeti believed already in 1966
that one could counteract academicism only by constantly inventing new
things. He remained true to this principle to the end. He never repeats himself. Each work may be understood as the solution to yet another technical
problem; his music is subject to a slow but steady transformation. At the
same time, however, one can speak more justly than with other contemporary composers of a fully developed, unmistakable personal style in Ligeti:
constants are at work in his multifarious work.
Thus his musical idiom is nearly always recognizable, even if one juxtaposes
works of vastly different periods. Surprisingly enough, one discovers that
some expressive characteristics that seem typical of his advanced works are
fully developed already in his Hungarian period. Even more astonishing is the
fact that some compositional ideas that captivated him during his Hungarian
years were newly realized in a totally different way much later. Ingenious flageolet passages, for example, occur both in the String Quartet No.1 (from UU to
YY) and in Atmosphres (from the letter T to the end). Yet how different is the
sound of the first movement of the Violin Concerto, a movement in which the
flageolet idea receives a wholly new realization.
How does the creative process operate in Ligeti? An essay he published in
1971 contains some essential statements about that. Here he disclosed that
the first impulses that launch the compositional act for him are of a rather
nave kind. He imagines the music in the way it is to sound later; he hears
the piece from beginning to end with his inner ear. This tonal vision, heard
within, however, coincides only by and large with the score elaborated thereafter. On the basis of constructive reflections, the details are frequently altered and refined. The process of composition for him, therefore, consists of
the permeation of naive musical ideas by rational calculations, by a system of
Before Ligeti begins to compose, he conceives the basic idea of the piece. Before he approaches the process of solving a particular technical problem, he

engages in all kinds of deliberations. He loved artisanal precision, perfection

generally, and had a penchant for detail. Thus, for example, after he had decided to write his Aventures, he undertook intensive phonological studies, relying primarily on E. Dieths Vademekum der Phonetik of 1950 and on the volume Sprachen of the Fischer Lexikon, published by H. F. Wendt in 1961 (diagram 1).

DG 1 Aventures: Specifications on Verbal Articulation

Amazingly, no fewer than 119 phone(me)s are used in this vocalise composition.55 In Clocks and Clouds, another vocalise composition, Ligeti makes do
with 13 vowels and 13 voiced consonants. The text sung by the voices is
written in an imaginary language, which, as a note in the score has it, has a
solely musical function. The phonetic signs are borrowed from the International Phonetic Alphabet.

According to psychoanalytic theory, artistic creation brings to fruition almost

exclusively impressions going back to early childhood. A dream Gyrgy Ligeti
told from his childhood seems to support this theory. The narrative runs as
In early childhood I once dreamed that I could not manage to get to
my crib (which was latticed and was felt to be a secure place of refuge), for the entire room was filled by a thin-threaded but extremely
dense and complicated webbing, similar to the secretion of silk
worms, which in pupating fill the entire interior of the boxes in which
there are bred with their cocoons. Besides myself, other creatures and
objects, too, were caught in the gigantic netting, moths and beetles of
all kinds, which had tried to reach the area lit by several dimly burning
candles, large, damp-dirty pillows, whose putrid filling was bursting
from rents in their cases. Every move of the trapped creatures caused
a tremor that spread through the whole system, so that the heavy pillows constantly swayed back and forth and thus in turn produced a
quaking of the whole. Now and then the mutually affecting motions
became so powerful that the net would tear here and there and some
of the beetles were unexpectedly freed, only to be soon lost anew with
a choking hum in the billowing texture. These events suddenly happening here and there gradually altered the structure of the web: in
some places, inextricable knots formed, caverns in others, in which
some shreds from the originally coherent mesh floated about like gossamer. The changes in the system were irreversible; no configuration,
once past, could recur. There was something unspeakably sad in this
process, the hopelessness of elapsing time and of an irreparable past.56

This dream not only reads like a Kafkaesque short story but above all provides a key, even the key, to a fuller understanding of Ligetis music. Net,
netting, web, grate, mesh: Ligeti uses these terms frequently in explaining the compositional techniques of many of his works. Some of his
scores create the impression of woven patterns, and his famed micropolyphony is at base nothing other than a weaving technique.
Ligeti was constantly in search of new ideas, new compositional problems. In
Apparitions and Atmosphres, he had worked with clusters, neutralized marked
diastematics and annulled rhythm as a major constructive factor. Soon thereafter, however, he abandoned that position. From 1964, and more fully from
1966 on, while working on the final movement of the Requiem and above all
on Lux aeterna, he canceled the diastematic neutralization by forming intervallic crystallization cores,57 and from 1968 on, he started to rehabilitate the

(formerly neglected) factor of rhythm most consistently at first in his String

Quartet No. 2.
It is well known that several composers of the 20th century developed innovative compositional methods. Arnold Schnberg invented the method of composing with twelve mutually related tones, Paul Hindemith formulated his Unterweisung im Tonsatz, Olivier Messiaen experimented with new modi,
Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez paid homage, in the fifties and sixties, to the principles of serialism, Iannis Xenkis translated mathematical calculations into music.
It is characteristic of Ligeti that he did not commit himself to any fixed method. While, in composing, he set out from rules that he himself devised for the
purpose, he frequently deviated from them. He was a decided opponent of all
orthodoxy, all rigorism. He occasionally made use of characteristic twelvetone rows, but he never composed a single strict twelve-tone music. He based
some of his pieces on innovative modi, but never raised modality to the level
of a compositional principle. He had a strong interest in mathematical structures, but he saw no sense in deriving principles of musical construction from
formulae of probability calculus.
Not only do the compositional problems change in Ligeti, but the individual
techniques, too, mutate, transform themselves. A typical instance is the modification the principle of micropolyphony underwent in the course of his
compositional career. If in his first, sensational works he had written densely
meshed voice weaves, the pieces composed since 1966 exhibit a loosening of
the micropolyphony. The individual voices often stand out from the texture;
the polyphony becomes graphically transparent.
Similar observations can be made about the development of the cluster technique. Atmosphres is distinguished by the use of diverse cluster types, the primary one being the horizontal plane (liegende Flche). The work begins with
just such a tonal plane, a twelve-note chord played without change initially for
eight bars by the woodwinds, brasses and strings.
A kind of cluster also opens the Chamber Concerto of 1969/70. The five notes
composing the cluster, g-flat, g, a-flat, a, b-flat, are constantly present throughout the first 14 bars. However, they are not assigned to different instruments;
rather, moving, garland-like melodic lines are formed, which intertwine in a
heterophonic manner (Ex. 1).


Ex. 1 Chamber Concerto: cluster in motion (g-flat, g, a-flat, a, b-flat)

Ligeti experimented not only with new procedures in polyphony and cluster
formation but also with new kinds of harmony, timbre, melody instrumentation and rhythm. His works are a bonanza of formations and compositional
techniques, extending from the relatively simple to the most complex. Even
the seemingly simple ones, however, are marked by considerable finesse, as
the following example will illustrate.
Several sections in the Cello Concerto (and in other works) are based on the
chromatic scale, played by different instruments starting from different degrees and in opposite directions (ascending and descending). The minor second, however, is systematically avoided: in its place we hear large intervals
major sevenths and minor ninths. The special appeal of the construction,
moreover, results from the fact that the scale is played in different rhythms by
the various instruments: in mm. 58-59, the first solo violin plays septuplets
and octuplets, the second solo violin sextuplets and septuplets, the solo viola
quadruplets and quintuplets, the first solo cello octuplets and nonuplets, and
the second solo cello quintuplets and sextuplets (Ex. 2).

Ex. 2 Concerto for Violoncello: diversely rhythmed chromaticism


How are inspiration and construction related in Ligeti? Does he observe certain rules in composing? In trying to answer this question, one should recall
that during his years as lecturer on theory at the Budapest Music Academy,
Ligeti authored two books on harmony, which were published in Hungarian.
And those who know him also know that he thought a great deal about questions of compositional technique. Thus it is not surprising that in working on
the Dies Irae he formulated fundamental rules about voice-leading, harmony, text treatment and the twelve-tone aspect rules which at least in part
retained their validity also for the works written in the sixties and thereafter
(e.g. Lontano).58
His notes about the dodecaphonic aspect are particularly instructive in this
context. He writes:
Economy with the twelve pitches: although there are no twelve-tone
rows, the notes are distributed vertically and horizontally in such a
way that the same note does not return, if possible, before the others
and thus the twelve tones (including octave positions) are distributed
as evenly as possible. This even distribution, however, is subject to the
rules of voice-leading and harmony: an early return of a tone is possible if the other, more important rule prevents the even tone distribution.59

In the end, however, what strikes one about Ligeti is his unconcern about
norms, doctrines, prohibitions and dictates. To cite an example, Arnold
Schnberg, in his sensational 1935 lecture Composition with Twelve Tones, had
banned the use of doubled tones60 - a prohibition that followed logically from
his dodecaphonic theory and practice. The consequence was that parallel
chords (mixtures) were taboo in the New Music. For some time, Ligeti, too,
respected that taboo. After 1980, however, he no longer adhered to it but began to work frequently with mixtures a technique that the chorale in his Violin Concerto exemplifies strikingly.
Analysis of his works shows that, in composing, he frequently starts out from
specific ideas (always different ones), without, however, always developing
them rigorously to the end; for he hated the stereotypical thought little of
the schematic and mechanical. Art, in his view, consists in nuance and in deviation; its charm resides in the anomaly, the irregularity. If he had to choose
between a commitment either to the automatic, i. e., the strict application
of a rule once it has been set up, or to free choice, he would decide in favor
of the latter.


If one looks back over his oeuvre, it yields an impression of continuity and
simultaneously of constant innovation. Like a Proteus, Ligeti ever transformed, yet remained true to, himself. To return to the image of the net, he
never stopped reticulating the web once begun. Though rents and knots occur, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that the knitting continues in another pattern.
1.7 Motion Types, Tonal Gestures and Expressive Characters
In an interview with Josef Husler, recorded on December 14, 1969, by Germanys Southwest Radio, Ligeti pointed out that for his earlier compositions,
those of the later fifties, two opposite formal types or types of motion
were characteristic. In the static forms, for which he had a predilection, music
could not be perceived as a process but became a state. The second, contrasting type, on the other hand, was characterized by being completely
chopped and splintered. He cited Atmosphres as an example of the first type
and the Dies Irae (also the Aventures and the Nouvelles Aventures) as illustrating the second. From these two types of motion, he continued, he had, in the
last few years, been moving on to other types, which are neither total arrest
nor completely abrupt change.61
In studying Ligetis oeuvre, one finds that certain musical situations, whether
motion types, gestures or expressive characters, do indeed recur in different
works, although the particular shaping is different in each case. Judging from
the frequency of their recurrence, it should be possible to extract a kind of typology from the plethora of individual manifestations. Some examples will
clarify what I mean.
According to his own statement, the technical world is of special value as a
source of inspiration to Ligeti. Clocks, clockworks, regular successions always
fascinated him. He had composed, he once remarked, pieces representing
mechanical processes.62 Several of his works, indeed, are of a recurrent type
whose rigid, clockwork-like rhythmic structure reminds one of precision mechanics. The phrase like a precision mechanism, indeed, occurs repeatedly.
Prototypical examples are found in the String Quartet No. 1 (mm. 781-1028)
and in the second movement of the Nouvelles Aventures (mm. 31-34) a short
passage headed, in fact, Les Horloges Dmoniaques.63 If the stiff, clockworklike music here consists only of four bars, Ligeti later constructed entire
movements modeled, as it were, on this miniature prototype. I am referring to
the piece for harpsichord entitled Continuum (1968), to the third movement of
the String Quartet No. 2 (1968), and to the third movement of the Chamber Concerto (1969/70) scores notable for their grid-like visual appearance.

In this type we should include also the ironically meant Pome symphonique,
which Ligeti arranged in November 1962 for 100 metronomes operated by
two musicians. The premiere took place in September of 1963 in Hilversum,
with the composer himself conducting. At the end, the performers left the
stage, leaving the audience and the machines to confront each other. The
piece was dismissed as mere ballyhoo. In a letter, Ligeti explained several
years later that his hoax was meant to ridicule the musical situation of the sixties, the concert life and the various ideologies that left the audience in the
lurch. The letter includes the telling sentence: Artistic freedom means being
free of all blinkers, even those of modernity.64
In 1972/72, Ligeti composed Clocks and Clouds, a piece for twelve-voiced
womens chorus and orchestra commissioned by Austrian Radio for the city
of Grazs Music Protocol. He took the title of the work from an essay by
Karl Popper about exactly measurable processes (clocks) and indeterminate
ones describable only statistically (clouds). Herman Sabbe has justly remarked
that the title of Ligetis work constituted a metaphorical designation of two
textural types that were characteristic of the composers entire oeuvre.65 Ligeti himself spoke graphically about associations with a formal process in
which rhythmically and harmonically precise shapes gradually merge into diffuse tonal textures and vice versa, and overlappings occur besides, so that
clocks tick within clouds and clouds, as it were, hollow out and liquefy
clocks from within.66
Ever since Bertolt Brechts notes ber gestische Musik67 and Theodor W.
Adornos Versuch ber Wagner,68 at the latest, pertinent publications repeatedly
talk about gesture and gesturing in music. A number of contemporary composers, too, including Ligeti, like to speak of the gestures in music. The
term gestus, Brecht explained, is not to be taken to mean underscoring or
clarifying movements of the hand, but rather overall attitudes. The concept of gesture should be located in the vicinity of the character that music
expresses, or the tone in which it speaks. Gestures, according to Adorno,
can be repeated and reinforced, but not really developed.
The gestural is, of course, also immanent to Ligetis music. Especially the
conclusions of many of his works have the effect of gestures. Three kinds of
such final gestures can be distinguished. To begin with, there are endings that
give a new shape to the traditional gesture of extinction and lapsing into silence (as, e.g., in the symphonies of Gustav Mahler or the Lyric Suite of Alban
Berg): typical here is the expression mark diminuendo poco a poco - moriendo
niente. Secondly, there are endings that are not conclusions but stop abrupt41

ly and quasi violently. The direction Pltzlich aufhren wie abgerissen,

(stop suddenly as if disrupted) occurs at every turn in Ligeti.
The third category consists of endings that seem as if the music vanishes into
nothingness. The second, fourth and fifth movements of the String Quartet
No. 2 offer instructive examples for these three categories. It is also important
for Ligeti that he often notates the silence. In countless pieces we come upon
the direction that the dying or else suddenly stopping music is to be followed
by absolute silence, whose duration he more than once specifies at ca. 10
One of the intermediary regions that strongly interested Ligeti is that between
music and language. For some time, he tirelessly studied the phonemes, the
gestures, the music of language and their various expressive characters. The
artistic result of these studies was the Aventures and the Nouvelle Aventures
(1962-1965) for three vocalists and seven instruments two mimodramas,
whose imaginary, non-semantic texts consist of phonemes, vowels and consonants, phones and their combinations that have no semantic meaning and
are artfully and organically integrated into the material sphere of the music. In
both works, Ligeti created impressive examples of an innovative amalgamation of the vocal and the instrumental. A basic idea of the two mimoramas,
which are among Ligetis most experimental works, is the sudden alternation
of emotional characters in a letter to Bo Wallner, Ligeti circumscribed
these Gefhlscharaktere with the adjectives mystical, idyllic, nostalgic, funereal,
relieved, excited, ironic, erotic, touched, humorous, hypocritical, cold, indifferent, triumphant, pathetic, stupid, hysterical, emotionally saturated, startled,
fiery, exalted, alarming, unbridled, mannered-ornate, vicious, etc.69 and the
concept of a polyphony of expression (Ausdruckspolyphonie) or counterpoint of feelings. Thus in two sections of Aventures (Conversation and
Action dramatique), the recital of each of the three vocalists is subject to a
constant change of the Ausdruckscharaktere.70 In this way a network results of
heterogeneous and contrasting characters that are simultaneously present. Ligeti compared the peculiar disposition of this music to that of a person who is
torn between the most diverse feelings.
Ausdruckspolyphonie is thus an emblem for the complexity of the world of emotions, but at the same time perhaps also an allegory of the crisis of communication to which modern man is exposed. The expressive characters into
which the Aventures issue are angst (anxiety, fear) and despair (see Ex. 3).


Ex. 3 Aventures: changing expressive characters in Soprano, Alto, Baritone

Speaking of music and language: among the most conspicuous characters of

Ligetis music is that of whispering (bisbigliando). Whispering or whisper-like
passages and effects occur repeatedly in the most diverse shadings in both
vocal and instrumental works. There is, for example, the especially intensive
whisper directed at the audience (stage whisper) of the three vocalists in
Aventures (mm. 20-37), the whisper-like passage (like a flitting breath) of the
instrumentalists in the second movement of the Nouvelles Aventures (mm. 3639), the whisper cadence at the conclusion of the Cello Concerto, or the

fourth movement of the Chamber Concerto, which commences with whisperlike passages. Some characteristics of Ligetis whispering/murmuring music
are note sequences to be played very fast, mostly small-stepped diastematics,
an even rhythm, pianissimo and legato articulation. He evidently received a sustained impression from the Allegro misterioso of Alban Bergs Lyric Suite a famous movement, whose flurry-like tonal character evokes associations with
whispering. Of a character all its own is the whisper cadence at the end of
the Cello Concerto, which the composer desired to be performed sempre prestissimo, quasi perpetuum mobile (no slowing down to the end!), the different
pitches to be played only on strings III and IV, but played voicelessly.
In looking over the range of Ausdruckscharaktere inherent in Ligetis music, one
cannot but marvel at their enormous variety. They represent every degree and
nuance from the subjective to the mechanical, from the tender to the brutal,
from the mysterious to the ecstatic, from playful irony to rank despair.
1.8 Time and Space. Imaginary Space
One of my compositional intentions is the creation of an illusory musical space, in which what was originally motion
and time is presented as something immovable and timeless.71
For me, spatial associations within music play a very large
role, but it is a purely imaginary space.72
To suggest space or to produce it associatively, that was
something I strove for in my music.73
My principal compositional project is to exorcize time, to
abolish its transience, to encapsulate it in the moment.74

Since the late 18th century, the philosophical and artistic thinking of the occident has simultaneously entertained two diametrically opposed conceptions of
time: time as a linear process, a progressive, irreversible development, the sequence of a before and an after; and time as a circular happening, a static motion, a cyclical consciousness.75 The latter view is evidently modeled primarily
on cosmic processes, such as the rotation of the planets, whereas the former,
which goes back to St. Augustine, reflects rather the subjectively experiential.
Bernd Alois Zimmermann, who coined the handy formula of spherical
time, favored the idea of a unity of time as a unity of present, past and
future.76 According to his conviction, past, present and future fuse in the
stream of human experience and consciousness to a single whole. One can
conceive this if one considers that the past is realizable really only in re44

presentation, and that our wishes and plans, which refer to the future, are nevertheless likewise articulated in the present.
The music of Richard Wagner, Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler, to mention only these three musicians, is marked by its dynamic traits, has a final character, undergoes a development: in the symphonies of Bruckner and
Mahler, the Finale is always the telos toward which the preceding movements
gravitate. Musical Impressionism, on the other hand, can in part be understood as an artistic rendering of states.77 Nobody will deny that some of Debussys piano pieces (by no means all) evoke a static feeling in the listener
e.g. his Voiles from the first book of the Prludes. We can thus understand
how Theodor W. Adorno thought he could assert that in Debussys music,
and also in that of Stravinsky, the spatialization of time became absolute.78
In July of 1987, Ligeti had invited my colleague Vladimir Karbusicky, Louise
Duchesneau, her husband and me to dinner. We talked about many things,
including the temporal dimension of music. I brought the conversation round
to Zimmermanns philosophy of music (a composer for whom Ligeti had a
great deal of sympathy) and his theory of the spherical shape of time. Ligeti
did not accept this concept. In his view, he said, music unfolded in space; in
his musical imagination, there were main rooms, subsidiary areas, labyrinths,
The conception of music as frozen time and static form was a favorite
one of Ligetis. He let no occasion go by to emphasize how essential the aspect of the imaginary space, and spatial thinking as such, was for his music.
In his radio talk on Webern, he hinted why he valued the Austrian composer
so highly: because by transposing so many of the musical figures and configurations of Romanticism, Webern had annihilated the essential formal type
of that age, the perpetual flowing on and on, the infinite melody; form had
thereby become more static, the flux of time seemed to have become arrested in it.79
How greatly Ligeti was fascinated by the concept of frozen time appears also from the fact that he felt drawn to certain paintings and literary works
paintings by Czanne as much as novels by Kafka or Krudy - largely because
he thought they realized this idea. Unforgettable to him was the passage in
Kafkas Castle, where the surveyor K. is alone in the snowed-in courtyard and
the world surrounding him seems utterly to congeal.80 Ligeti commented in
similar terms about a novel by Gyula Krudy: It is a very strange situation!
Time does not pass, it is always winter, winter for a thousand years, there is


no longer any spring, and nothing ever changes. Throughout the entire novel,
time stops from the beginning to the end.

Paul Czanne, The Banks of the Marne (Bridge at Crteil)

(re temporal form in Ligeti)

In the first act of Richard Wagners Parsifal, Gurnemanz leads the young fool
to the Grail castle. To Parsifals question who the Grail was, Gurnemanz
replies he would not tell. Parsifals line, Ich schreite kaum, doch whn ich
mich schon weit (I barely stride, yet seem as if I race), Gurnemanz comments with the famous sentence Du siehst, mein Sohn, zum Raum wird hier
die Zeit (You see, my son, here time turns into space.)81 The deeper meaning
of this utterance, which would seem to tell us something about Wagners philosophy of time/space, has to date not been definitively interpreted.82
Pierre Boulez, in 1966, entitled his obituary on Wieland Wagner Der Raum
wird hier zur Zeit, inverting Richard Wagners famous dictum. He did so to
express that Wagners renowned director-grandson had been able to set the
music in exact congruence with the scenic image.83 Perhaps, however, he also wanted to hint by this inversion that in his view music was reducible above
all to time, the musical time. Ligeti, on the contrary, proclaimed that his aim

was to exorcize time, to cause it to stop. Richard Wagners line Zum Raum wird
hier die Zeit seems to apply to Ligetis entire oeuvre.
By his own admission, Ligeti in composing often let himself be guided by
spatial ideas. To obtain an impression of this kind of idea, one only needs to
study the graphic notation of the Volumina or the published sketches to the
Dies Irae. They document that his imagination conjured up ideas of boundless spaces and musical labyrinths. Thus in the score of the Volumina, at the
number 36, we find the notation: Texture quick, continuous, a-periodical,
very dense labyrinthine motions in irregular rhythm, with both hands over the
entire extent of the manuals (Ex. 4). Similarly instructive are also the notes
to the Dies Irae:84 Infinite space,85 stretched, high low. Levels, depths,
manifold echo texture and Quite low and quite high, organ-like (wind instruments). In between, emptiness.

Ex. 4 Volumina: Spaces, with labyrinthine motions

In his treatise about form in the New Music, Ligeti made the remarkable observation that in our imaginative and cognitive world, time and space always
appeared coupled: where one of the two categories is a primary presence, the
other one promptly appears associatively. While listening to music, the tonal
process was primarily temporal. Even so imaginary spatial relations were generated on several levels: Musical shapes and events are imagined by us as if
they occupied places in the imaginary space feigned through them to begin


with.86 Here Ligeti indicates quite clearly that he conceived the musical event
as architecture in space.
Modern psychology distinguishes between inner and outer space, the within
and the without. In a remarkable book, Gaston Bachelard endeavored to explain psychologically the images of space that frequently occur in the poetry
of different languages. He analyzed both images of intimate spatiality, such as
the house, the hiding-place and the cave, and the housings of things, that is,
drawers, chests, nests and shells/conches. By topoanalysis, he meant the
systematic psychological study of the localities of our intimate lives.87
Bachelards categories and topo-analytical findings can serve to elucidate Ligetis spatial conceptions in a specific direction.
Many of Ligetis works suggest spatial ideas in the listener, evoke illusions of
space: an imaginary perspective, proximity and distance, depth and height,
width and narrowness. These spatial effects are called forth primarily by differing degrees of volume intensity, massiveness of sound, the simultaneity of
very high and very low notes, as well as by octave-doubled notes played in
unison in several registers. Thus the dynamic degrees loud and soft suggest
nearness and distance. Ligeti thought about the second movement of Weberns Piano Variations op. 27 that the prolonged fluctuating of the dynamics
gave the music a quasi stereometric shape, producing associations of spatial
depth: the chords struck fortissimo seem to stand out from the structure,
while the cells played piano remain in the background.88 A massive sound
produces the illusion of nearness. Very high and very low notes played simultaneously rouse the sense of vacuum, while octave-doubled notes played simultaneously in several registers evoke the illusion of spatial expanse. In several
of his works, Ligeti distinguishes systematically between voices in the foreground, in a middle area and in the background. In the Monument, for
example, the first of the Three Pieces for Two Pianos, the listener perceives the
various dynamic levels as fore-, middle and background. Nearly all of Ligetis
compositions evoke spatial associations. The listener often seems to register
motions within the imaginary space, such as from depth to height. In other
instances one gets the impression as though the music, starting from one
point, gradually captured the tonal space. These and similar associations are
by no means arbitrary; they result from the structural conditions of the music
itself, as the following examples may demonstrate.
The introitus of the Requiem, constructed according to the method of micropolyphony, proceeds in the manner of a slowly moving sound train from
the lowest depth to the height. The diagram (DG 2, below) designed by Erkki

Salmenhaara,89 being not quite exact, can give only an approximate impression of the course of the movement.

DG 2 Requiem: Tone Train of the Introitus

Some clarifying notes: the tonal train should be imagined as a chromatically

condensed polyphonic texture. In m. 3, the basses, divided into four groups,
enter with the low interval f-sharp/g. This is followed by the entrance of the altos, tenors and basses on the small f in m. 29, on the small a-flat in m. 46, of
the mezzo sopranos and altos on the one-line c in m. 59, and finally of the sopranos, mezzo sopranos and altos on the one-line f-sharp in m. 65. The highest note, on which the womens chorus closes, is the two-line d-flat. An altogether different course is taken by Continuum, a piece for harpsichord, which,
according to Hartmuth Kinzlers minute analysis, clearly divides into five
formal sections (see DG 3).90

DG 3 Continuum for Harpsichord: Macro-form

As one can see, the tonal field with which the piece begins is located on the
middle pitch region. In the first section, it opens slightly and closes again. The
tonal fields of the three middle sections open increasingly and do so in both
directions. The tonal band of the concluding part, however, is located in the
highest register.

In an illuminating study, Ivanka Stoianova expressed the view that the manylayered textures in Ligeti can be seen in the final analysis as ramifications of
the tonal material.91 Interestingly enough, one of Ligetis works bears in fact
the (original) title Ramifications. There is no doubt that by adducing the term
tonal ramification one can describe the course of a number of his compositions more precisely. Continuum provides an instructive example. But the
opening of the tonal field in both directions is characteristic also of the beginning of Lontano.
Ligetis oeuvre also offers instructive examples for the gradual increase of the
tonal expanse in a single direction. Thus the beginning of the first movement
of the Chamber Concerto is based on a cluster, from whose five notes (fsharp1/g1/a-flat1/a1/b-flat1) minimalist figurations are formed (eventually minus the f-sharp). The first 13 bars are furnished from this tonal supply. From
m. 14 on, the range gradually increases: the horn enters here on b1. In m. 16,
the c2 is added, and in mm. 27/28, the note d-flat2 and d2 follow. The goal this
development aims at is the e-flat, which in m. 38 is intoned in multiple octave
doublings by several instruments in unison. That instantly produces the impression of widened space: the narrowness that set the character of the
movements opening drops away.
Of many of Ligetis compositions it can be said that they display a quasi stereometric sound shape. Part Two of the book will deal with this in greater detail.
1.9 New Sound Images New Semantemes.
Cystoscopy, Vacuum and Music of the Spheres
Music at least a certain kind of music is not just an acoustic phenomenon,
not mere sound play, but also has a psychological, spiritual and intellectual
dimension. Tones and tone formations often have a semantics all their own.
For some time, musicologists in many countries were intent on studying only
the form and structure of musical works of art. Hermeneutic questions were
regarded as taboo; it was practically sacrilegious to ask questions about the extra-musical meaning of musical works.92 Fortunately, the realization has
won through during the last several decades that besides structure, the tone,
the idiom, the expression and the semantics of music likewise deserve to be
an object of reflection.
As a synaesthetically endowed individual, Ligeti, as we have seen, translated
both visual and tactile impulses into music. His many-facetted oeuvre is covered with a dense net of associations. The eminent relevance of this associative element emerges when one undertakes to study his drafts. What strikes

one especially is that in his oeuvre certain tone images recur, in diverse shapes
but with a similar or the same semantics, which is so precise that one can
speak of semantemes in the sense of modern linguistics. We will discuss three
of such salient tone images/semantemes.
The ninth of the Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet is a trio for piccolo flute, oboe
and clarinet. It is headed Sostenuto stridente, is to be played sempre fortissimo and
takes only one minute and eight seconds to play. It begins with an ingenious
unisono on the three-line e-flat (mm. 1-7) and then unfolds in the form of slowly changing, highly dissonant clusters, which in this high register sound so
shrill that they are physically painful (Ex. 5, below):

mm. 8/9



mm. 9/10

m. 10


db3 + e3 + f




In a letter to Ove Nordwall of November 67, 1968, Ligeti called the piece a
cystoscopy93 an initially rather strange-seeming nomenclature, which refers to the accumulation of dissonances and begins to make sense when one
recalls that the medical term evokes the rather painful procedure of a specular
bladder examination.94 Interestingly enough, the term cystoscopy occasionally also occurs in the sketches for the Piano and the Violin Concerto, sometime in connection with Shostakovichs Eighth Symphony op. 65, whose third
movement climaxes in an excited accumulation of dissonances that is likely to
have impressed Ligeti.
The cystoscopic sound image is actually a kind of topos with Ligeti, occurring repeatedly in his works, e.g., in Atmosphres (mm. 32-39), in the first
movement of the Concerto for Violoncello (mm. 49-54), in the second movement
of the Concerto for Piano (stridente, mm. 42 ff.) and in the fourth movement of
the Concerto for Violin (mm. 88-98). Cystoscopic sounds also determine several passages in Le Grand Macabre. In the second scene (ll. 187-189), they illustrate the perception of a strange light refraction, and later (l. 273) the words
Das All ist menschenleer (The universe is void of humans or deserted).
Typically, the catchword cistoscop crops up several times in Ligetis notes to
Michael Meschkes libretto.


Ex. 5 Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet, Trio: cystoscopic dissonance accumulation

Another, very expressive sound image in Ligeti evokes the vacuum. A strikingly thin, two-voiced movement combines a very slowly unfolding melody
train in the highest register with pedal point-like notes in the lowest one. Between these extremes, there is nothing the sense of emptiness emerges automatically. At the conclusion of the first movement of the Cello Concerto, for
example, the soloist, over pedal points of the double basses, intones the very
highest notes: the 13th, the 14th and the 15th overtone (f#4, g4 and g#4). Ligeti
conceived this memorable passage as a cipher for loneliness. In a commentary, he explained it this way:


In the first movement, the conclusion suggests solitude and desolation: the solo cello remains hanging in immeasurable height over basses of unfathomable depth, its perilously thin whistling flageolet tone finally breaks95 (Ex. 6).

Ex. 6 Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra: Sound Image of the Vacuum

This suggestive sound image recurs, with similar or identical semantics, in

several works, either at the beginning or at the end of movements. At the beginning of the Lacrimosa in the Requiem, very softly entering cluster-like
notes in the flutes and oboes are heard over a 13-bar pedal point of the double basses on the low c-sharp. Toward the end of the Horn Trio (Lamento53

Adagio, mm. 76 ff.), a vacuum of several octaves initially gapes between the
low pedal tones of the horn and the ethereally high melody of the violin.
Again at the beginning of the second movement of the Piano Concerto, the piccolo flute hesitantly announces itself, over a long pedal point of the double
basses, with sounds of lamentation. One might add that in the fourth scene of
Le Grand Macabre (ll. 623-627), a lone pedal point of the double basses on the
low f, lasting for 19 measures, hints at the mental state of the prince Go-Go,
who, after the putative end of the world, seems to be the only being left alive.
Emptiness and vacuum are at times linked to the idea of the universe. A very
impressive example is the melodramatic treatment of Nekrotzars words in
the third scene of Le Grand Macabre (ll. 591-593): Time has stopped, it exists no more, for what now is are eternity, emptiness, and the great
nothing! A detailed note about the poetico-musical conception of the opening movement of the Violin Concerto is also instructive in this connection. It is
found in the sketches in Hungarian and translates as Emptiness / vacuum /
universe (r). The solo violin very high and the double basses very low (possibly bass clarinet [?]. Very softly, from nowhere. In it grow the layer rows,
FRACTAL, AFRIQUE, and fill the vast space. End of the movement in full
The head movement of the Violin Concerto in both of its composed versions
has nothing in common with this plan Ligeti evidently distanced himself
from it. The notion of a gradual growth of layer rows, however, seems to
have played a part in the conception of the Passacaglia.
Ligeti had a special penchant for the immaterial flageolet sound. Several of his
works include entire parts that consist exclusively or predominantly of flageolet
sounds and glissandi. If in the penultimate section of the First String Quartet
(from the letter UU on) such tones are still relatively simple in structure (the
flageolet glissandi of the four string instruments are here based on the triads C
major, G major, D major and A major), Atmosphres closes with a texture of
far more complexly combined flageolet tones. According to a note in the score,
The flageolet glissandi are to be played very delicately. The individual
string players are to be equalized, so that no single voice stands out.
Melodic lines must not be audible; the individual parts should
merge completely into the all-enveloping tender chromatic texture.

This note applies mutatis mutandis also to the flageolet part at the beginning of
the fourth scene of Le Grand Macabre, a passage that illustrates in tonepainting the hovering of Piet and Astramor. From a note of Ligetis in Mi54

chael Meschkes libretto we can gather that he had music of the spheres in
mind for this passage.
When I once spoke with Ligeti about his highly original flageolet glissandi, he
reminded me modestly that Stravinsky had anticipated the technique in his
Firebird and Petrushka. That is certainly true. But how much further Ligeti developed the technique, and what new sonorities he knew how to extract from
1.10 A Double-Bottomed Relation to Tradition
I really always had a double-bottomed relation to tradition.
For one thing, I underwent a very strict, traditional training at
the Budapest Music Academy. For another, the musical tradition has ever played an important role in my music [], not
as a quotation dimension, and neither as a craft discipline, but
more like an aura and allusion.96

Ligetis treatise on form in the New Music includes not only discussions of
form-theoretical questions and reflections but also observations on the philosophy of history. In a fascinating simile, he here compares the history of art
to a gigantic net, which individual artists continue to weave. He admits that
within that gigantic weft there are places where the knitting does not continue but the net is rent.97 But even the tears, he thinks, are imperceptibly spun
over by hanks of thread. Seen in historical perspective, even the seemingly
tradition-less has secret links to the past. Ultimately, these reflections imply a
belief in the force of tradition even in avant-garde art. Ligeti has spoken about
his own peculiar relation to tradition, which he called not only doublebottomed but cryptic or sly. By way of illustration, he spoke of hidden
allusions to traditional music, specifically to Bach (Volumina), and especially to
Claude Debussy (Apparitions, Atmosphres), Gustav Mahler (Lontano), Bla Bartk and Alban Berg (String Quartet No. 2).98
In contrast to many of his colleagues, who have a penchant for quoting both
themselves and others and for the musical collage generally (e.g., Bernd Alois
Zimmermann),99 Ligeti very rarely quotes the works of other composers in his
music.100 One exception is the opera Le Grand macabre, where quotations occur
in two places (Bourre perpetuelle and Galimathias), a literal one from Schuberts Grtzer Galopp and a free one from Rameaus La Poule. Even
then, both of them are so totally integrated into their extremely complex context that in listening they will not be recognized as quotations. The same goes
for the rhythm of the theme from the Finale of the Eroica, a rhythm that is intoned ostinato-like during Nekrotzars processional entrance. Far more im55

portant than quotations, for Ligeti, are allusions to traditional music. The aura
of past music surrounds many passages in his works. Klaus Kropfinger has
rightly pointed out101 that the way in which Ligeti speaks of aura reminds of
Walter Benjamin, for whom this term meant the integration of the work of
art into the context of the past.102 How significant allusions to traditional music are for Ligeti can also be gathered from the fact that the sketches to the
Dies Irae contain a reference to Mahlers First Symphony103 - a work that
Ligeti prized particularly for its spatial effects.104
Ligetis relation to tradition changed after 1978, became closer, more direct
and transparent. This is manifest most overtly in pieces like the Ciaconna and
the Passacaglia ungherese for harpsichord; works like the Horn Trio, the Piano
Etudes and the Violin Concerto would have been unthinkable fifty years earlier.
Several compositions evoke allusions to the music of the 19th and early 20th
century; the aura of that music surrounds several of the Piano Etudes. Nevertheless, Ligetis music has not for a moment ceased to be new and original.
Terms like neotonal or postmodern do not apply to it in any way. He
sometimes connects to Romantic expressions (e.g., the horn fifths that everybody knows from Beethovens piano sonata Les Adieux op. 81a), but he does
so in a completely new way. He defamiliarizes and transforms them and
evolves figures from them that are miles distant from their point of origin.
In terms of complexity, many of his more recent works seem to surpass everything that had gone before. At the same time, however, there is a tendency
in the later works to linger over certain expressive characters. Sudden, abrupt
changes of expression are much rarer than they were earlier. The later works
generally appear to accentuate the expressive. The Horn Trio, for example, begins with an Andantino con tenerezza and concludes with a Lamento, in the
course of which the expression of lament and mourning intensifies enormously.
A symptom of Ligetis redefined relation to tradition after the seventies is the
turn toward baroque compositional forms and techniques, which he, of
course, treats quite originally. His predilection for passacaglias, ostinati and
retrograde canons is especially striking in this connection. The idea of the
passacaglia, in particular, the constraint of continuous variation of a given
theme, must have fascinated him as a challenge to his inventiveness and his
constructivist mind. To be sure, the passacaglias that conclude his opera Le
Grand Macabre (1974-1977) and the Horn Trio (1982) have only the basic idea
in common with the baroque form. Conception and execution are quite different. Listening to the passacaglia that forms the finale of the opera, one
cannot but marvel at the way in which its relatively simple eight-bar theme,

consisting exclusively of consonant sixths, develops step by step into an edifice of extraordinary complexity. It is similar with the finale of the Horn Trio,
whose five-bar passacaglia theme is treated so intricately that in merely listening one cannot really perceive it as such. Much simpler in structure are Hungarian Rock (a chaconne) and Passacaglia ungherese both intended as ironic
contributions to the debate about postmodernism.
Of extreme complexity, finally, are the three crab canons that Ligeti wrote in
the last of his Three Pieces for Two Pianos (1976), in Le Grand Macabre and in the
first of his Magyar Etdk (1983). These testify less to his link to tradition than
to his penchant for the artful and artificial, the thought-out and mannered.
In discussing Ligetis relation to tradition, one should not forget that he
commanded a marvelous knowledge of the so-called occidental music. He did
much listening to music and never grew tired of studying scores. He was keen
about getting to know ever more compositions from the area of the Ars subtilior, greatly prized Gesualdo, analyzed string quartets of Haydn and Mozart
not to mention his stupendous knowledge of the music of the 19th and 20th
century. In this respect, he differed radically from a composer like Iannis Xenakis, who had no interest whatever in traditional music.
Ligetis astonishingly original music, it has to be emphasized in conclusion, grew
from the tradition of Hungarian music. According to the composers own avowal,
it is situated, with some exceptions, beyond the tradition of German music. It is
more closely related to the music of French Impressionism (Debussy, Ravel) and to
Russian music (Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich).

1.11 Diversity of Inspirational Sources.

A Universalist Concept of Art and Music
Well, what is most alive with me at the moment as far as
tradition is concerned is a penchant for precise structures;
behind it stand Debussy, Stravinsky, Webern, Ravel, mostly
those four, although I then relate to altogether different aspects, such as African pulsation rhythms and much else, also
to Charles Ives with his technique of heterogeneous layers, to
Nancarrow, and there are also several extra-musical impulses.105

Hearing Ligeti talk or debate about questions of art and music, one may marvel not only at the breadth of his knowledge and his wide horizon but also at
his unique powers of association, which enable him to draw in even remote
and seemingly disparate subjects and areas. I confess that for a long time I
used to regard this peculiar gift mainly as an intellectual trait of his personali57

ty. It was only once I began to study his very detailed drafts for the Piano Concerto and the Violin Concerto that my eyes were opened and I realized that his
astonishing power of association comes to the fore also in the process of his
conceiving his works that is to say, he lets himself be stimulated by the most
dissimilar areas. He is inspired by many things, and diverse, even heterogeneous, elements meld into a single, unmistakable musical language.
The following areas have served him as inspirational sources in the widest
sense of the term:

occidental classical music

European folklore and non-European music
works of the visual arts
diverse other visual impressions

Ligetis numerous references to both compositions and paintings, as well as to

non-European music and jazz, enable us to realize that he associated the tonal
ideas that he entertained during the conception of, say, the Violin Concerto, and
the situations he envisioned, with parallel situations in other artists and in
ethnic music. The references he was fond of jotting down thus signify relationships and affinities, hint at predilections and a similar climate, or serve as
aids to memory.
Thus when he made his final decision to take on the violin concerto, he gave
preliminary thoughts to the tradition with which he wanted to class his work
and noted down works by Johann Sebastian Bach (the sonatas for solo violin,
the chaconne, the Brandenburg Concertos), the Beethoven Violin Concerto and
violin concertos of Mozart, whose elegance he admired. For a brief spell he
considered keeping his eye on Mendelssohns famous Violin Concerto as a
model Mendelssohns lightness attracted him but he soon discarded
the idea again.
From the start he envisioned an ideal of a mad virtuosity, such as he thought
he saw realized in works by Paganini (Etudes), Ravel and Prokofiev. He
thought of Ravels Tzigane, whose idiom and rhapsodic nature probably appealed to him, and of the second movement (Vivacissimo) of Prokofievs first
Violin Concerto, a work that repeatedly seems to evince relationships, both of
technique and mood, with Ligetis work. The sketches, moreover, include references to works by Debussy (tudes, Images), by Szymanowski and Enescu, as
well as by Stravinsky (Sacre, Agon, Petrushka and Elegy). Above all, two symphonies of Shostakovich obtruded themselves upon his deliberations, the
Fourth and the Eighth. What impressed him about the Fourth, as one can see

from his notations, was its suddennesses, surprises and exaggerations: abrupt changes of expression and character are indeed conspicuous in this work.
In the Eighth Symphony, he seems to have been fascinated by the third, very
emphatic movement (Allegro ma non troppo), whose shrill dissonances at the
end signalize a catastrophe: a comparison with similar passages in Ligeti we
may recall his cystoscopy clearly suggests itself.
A number of passages drafted for the Violin Concerto Ligeti associated with
older music, including Schuberts String Quintet in C major, Dufays mass
Ave Regina Coelorum and Gesualdos fifth and sixth Madrigal Book, of whose
chromaticism he was thinking while composing his fourth movement.
Ligeti also had a marked interest in musical ethnology. Already in Hungary he
had occupied himself with problems in ethnomusicology. In 1949/50, walking in the footsteps of Bartk, he collected several hundred mostly Hungarian
folksongs in Transylvania. In 1950 and 1953, he published two studies in
Hungarian, about Romanian research in folk music and about polyphony in
Romanian folk music.106
He was as fully versed in both European folk music and non-European music
as any scholar in the field and loved to talk about and discuss both. As Bla
Bartk once did with Hungarian peasant music, Ligeti drew inspiration for his
diversified creations from the unexhausted music of numerous ethnicities.
The geographic catchwords with ethnomusicological signification that occur
in the sketches to the Violin Concerto are particularly instructive. They include
references to Hungarian, Transdanubian, Transylvanian, Romanian and Gypsy music, to the Shetlands and Norwegian music (slttar), to regions in Africa
(Cameroon, Nigeria, Zaire, Zimbabwe, Madagascar) and in the Far East
(Thailand, Vietnam, Bali, Cambodia, et al.). These intriguing notes lead to the
conclusion that in conceiving many a passage he included impulses from both
European folklore and non-European music. Hungarian-Romanian gypsy
music no doubt had far more than a merely nostalgic significance for him. African music fascinated him above all for its confounding polyphony and polyrhythm. He was quite familiar with the music of the Banda Linda (Central African Republic), the Gbaya (Southern Sudan), the Chokwe (Angola) and the
Pygmies. For a while he was so impressed by the music of the Pygmies and
the Gbaya that he thought of letting the stimulation he received from both
bear fruit in two movements of his Violin Concerto, though that plan came to
In a conversation with Denys Bouliane, he pointed out that his Etudes
Desordre and Automne Varsovie, as well as his Piano Concerto, had very little to

do with the Schnberg, Berg and Expressionism, very little also with Darmstadt and Serialism, but a great deal with Debussy, Stravinsky, Ives and Webern, as well as with several ethnic music cultures, not only African but also
Indonesian and Melanesian. He did not want that to be taken as folklore,
however, not as a melting down and neither as an eclecticist composite of
diverse elements of style, but as a structural way of thinking.107 This clear
delimitation from the method of Bla Bartk is plausible. Yet it cant be denied that Ligetis more recent compositions display various ethnic colorations in places. Among the notations for the first movement of the Violin
Concerto we find the following memo: Stop the Hungarian-Gypsy-Romanian
folk music manner. Keep the smoothness, the speed, the virtuosity, the brilliance. The Transdanubian will stay but it will tend toward Balinese-Thai.
Listening to the head movement of the work attentively, one will not be able
to miss the Far Eastern timbre of the marimba episode and that the pizzicato
of the strings following thereupon almost sound like African xylophones.
For another example of ethnically colored passages: in the sketches to the
Concerto for Violin, under the heading Burma (the quotation marks are original), there is a partly whole-tone run in parallel minor sevenths assigned to the
violin and the viola (Ex. 7).

Ex. 7 Concerto for Violin: Burma reminiscence

Ligeti utilized the run for a passage in the Finale, where it is heard in part intertwined contrapuntally with other ideas, at first (mm. 39/40) mixture-like in
minor sevenths between alto flute and oboe, then (mm. 41-44), again mixturelike, in perfect fifths between flute and clarinet or else clarinet and bassoon,
and finally (mm. 44-46) as a run in major sixths between the solo violin and a
scordated violin or else viola. Closer examination might reveal wherein the
Burmese of this passage consists.
One thing is certain, however: as much as Ligeti may owe to his study of European folk music and non-European music, his more recent work at least
has nothing in common with folklorism. The Africa and Far East, those lands
that his music seems to evoke, are mainly thought out and dreamed up, as

suggested by the twofold ethnic colorations in his music, such as the combination of Burmese and Romanian in the last of the passages just discussed, or the mixed timbre of African-Romanian he once had in mind,
judging from a note in the sketches. According to an early draft, the Finale of
the Violin Concerto was to have consisted of a series of Romanian-Caribbean
Ligeti was also interested in jazz, at least in certain variants. He owned a large
collection of jazz recordings, and the sketches for the Violin Concerto contain
references to recordings with Oscar Peterson. Even more telling is the fact
that there are jazz-like passages in both the Piano and the Violin Concerto. They
are marked by pronounced rhythms and syncopated formations as well as by
an instrumentation giving a preference to trumpet and trombone. Ex. 8 cites
an example from the Finale of the Piano Concerto, Ex. 9 one from the opening
movement of the Violin Concerto.108

Ex. 8 Concerto for Piano: close to jazz

Ex. 9 Concerto for Violin: close to jazz


The notes for the Violin Concerto likewise contain instructive references to
works in literature and the visual arts. Lewis Carrolls Through the LookingGlass, one of Ligetis favorite books, came into his mind while he was thinking about the passacaglia and its glassy landscape. In drafting some passages, he visualized Seurats pointillist technique and the stairs in the graphics of
Maurits Escher (see fig. p. 109). The con violenza section in the Finale he associated with Picassos famous painting La danse (see fig. p. 192).109 His associations extended even to early art: to van Eycks Gent Altar and Grnewalds
Isenheim Altar in Colmar. It is characteristic of Ligetis quasi universalistic
thinking that one occasionally finds also names of little-known artists in the
sketches, such as that of the schizophrenic poet and painter Adolf Wlfli and
that of the Canadian composer Claude Vivier.
A separate category, finally, consists of visual impressions and allusions. Ligeti, who always had a fondness for picture puzzles, is particularly receptive to
optical illusions such as the line patterns of a turning strobe disk, and to the
many kinds of optical illusions identified with terms like moir and zoom. Thus
he once planned a piano etude for which he considered titles like Twilight,
Claire-obscure, Irisation and, in fact, Moir.
One cannot but be struck by the plenitude of extra-musical ideas and concepts, derived from diverse areas of nature and life, that accompanied his creative process. The previously cited list of concepts that repeatedly crop up in
his sketches conveys a vivid sense of Ligetis eminent synaesthetic bent:
Universe/Space (Hungarian Ur)
African masks
Shamans, magicians/sorcerers
Demons, dance


1.12 New Ways of Transcending the Tempered System

I have coined the word Sonoritt: that is, neither noise nor
tone, but something in between.110
As I look back, it becomes clear to me that, consciously or
unconsciously, I have always been in search of an alternative
to the twelve-tone temperament. The idea originated, I believe, with my piece Atmosphres (1961). When I first heard the
iridescent sound, which before I had been able only to imagine, I realized that what I was searching for ranged between
noise and musical sound.111

One of the leading ideas that pervade Ligetis oeuvre is that of an iridescent
sound. Nearly all of the works he composed in the West are distinguished by
a sonority sui generis that is hard to describe. The first work in which he was
able to realize his until then merely abstract ideal of an iridescent sound was
Atmosphres an epochal composition, whose clusters and enormously dense
chromatic fields opened up new sonorities. With Atmosphres, Ligeti discovered a unique region of sound between tone and noise.
From then on he made many attempts to get away from the well-tempered
system. One important stage within that development was marked by the
Requiem, an exceptional work, in which, owing to the large number of vocalists and the hyper-chromatic way of writing repeatedly dominant, a meticulously correct intonation is neither possible nor desired. Upon first hearing
the very vivid, hyper-chromatically determined vocal waves in the Kyrie,
one automatically thinks in terms of an intensification of the microtonal practice in Byzantine chant.
Ligeti regarded the well-tempered tuning as worn out, chromaticism as used
up. His endeavor was to leave both tonality and atonality behind. Though he
sympathized and experimented with microtonality, he did not write any rigorously constructed microtonal works. Instead, he found, after numerous attempts, an original way between microtonality and equal temperament. One
of his declared aims was quasi-equidistance: a music that suggests the illusion
of equidistance, one that is generated from within equal temperament, yet
does not belong to it in terms of its sound.
In his later works, Ligeti developed a new kind of twelve-tone method. The
listener often thinks he hears constantly changing twelve-tone fields and
twelve-tone sounds. Yet their sound quality differs fundamentally both from
the Schnbergian dodecaphony and from serialism. In his piano music, Ligeti
achieves this novel dodecaphony by various means, viz.:

x by a combination of diatonic and anhemitonic pentatonic scales (Dsordre; first, second, and fifth movement of the Concerto for Piano);
x by coupling the two whole-tone scales (Concerto for Piano, 5th movement,
mm. 3-22, Galamb borong);
x by a combination of diverse six-tone rows (Entrelacs);
x finally, by veiling the chromaticism (Lescalier du diable).

DG 4/5 Buganda/Africa: Amadinda play, players seating arrangement

At the xylophone, A starts the theme, B subdivides it, C taps out a rhythm

Attempts to annul the equal temperament strike at the very foundations of

music and hence have been undertaken by relatively few 20th-century composers. Ferruccio Busoni enthused about a system of third tones,112 Alois
Hba composed with quarter, fifth and sixth tones, and the composer and instrument maker Harry Partch (1901-1973) is regarded in the United States as
an apostle of natural tones.113

In the decades since the sixties, Ligeti took delight in heresies against the
equal temperament. According to his own statement, he was constantly occupied with the question how to get away from it.114 He was greatly interested in
the mood of European and non-European music, for natural tones and microtones. When I visited him once in 1993, he was tireless in playing me a
harp recording with a seven-step equidistant scale. Yet he did not commit
himself to any rigid system of microtonality (the term is now applicable to
all twelve-tone non-tempered music115). His efforts aimed in a direction beyond both microtonality and equal temperament.
Ligetis work with microtones and microtonality is many-facetted. To cite
some examples, in the music edition of the Passacaglia ungherese of 1978, we
find the following note: The piece should preferably be played on an instrument tuned in middle-tone temperament: the eight major thirds or minor
sixths on which the music is based sound pure in this tuning. On June 1,
1993, Caroline Kirchhoff performed the piece in Hamburg at first on a normally tuned harpsichord and then on a middle-toned one. The recital on
the latter instrument produced a far stronger impression.
Ramifications (1968/69) is composed for string orchestra or else 12 solo string
instruments. The ensemble is divided into two groups, of which one has the
ordinary tuning, whereas the other is tuned a quartertone higher. The resultant hoverings disclose new sonorities to the listener.
For the second and third movement of the Second String Quartet, the score
provides for occasional microtonal pitch deviations, which, however, are not
exactly determined; they can maximally attain a quarter-tone variation.
Of special fascination for Ligeti is the world of pure tuning. He expressed enthusiasm about the music of the Chokwe, which is based on pure triads with
pure fifths and pure major thirds, about the polyphony of the Georgians,
which likewise knows only natural fifths and major natural thirds, and also
about the yodeling of the Pygmies.
Already in the Horn Trio and later in the Piano and the Violin Concerto, he repeatedly used naturally pure intervals. He had a special predilection for the
natural seventh and the natural eleventh, which sound significantly lower than
the corresponding well-tempered intervals (minus 14 and minus 49 cents respectively). For the fifth movement of the Piano Concerto, a natural horn and
natural trombone are prescribed here and there. Manfred Stahnke may be
right in saying that with Ligeti microtonality is deeply interwoven in his entire way of thinking, even when he is writing in well-tempered mode.116

The Violin Concerto can be called a work of synthesis inasmuch as Ligeti here
makes use of virtually every possibility of transcending the equal temperament: the soloist and the solo string players in the orchestra play both on natural and scordated instruments. Out-of-tune instruments like the ocarina
and the swanee whistles (piston flutes) mix with well-tuned harmonic spectrums. For the woodwinds, minor pitch deviations are prescribed here and
there, and horns and trombones also produce natural harmonics.

From Ligetis folksong collection: Transylvanian

wedding march with voice, violin and gordon

1.13 Backgrounds of Ligetis Popularity

In composing I do not think of a specific listener or circle of
listeners. I do not care about being easily understood.
My music is an elitist art, but everyone can take part in it. It
is a question of ones education.117
I believe one can listen to my music quite naively but also in a
highly educated way. The access to it is really open.118

It is a truism that the new in art (as well as in science) often meets with a
fierce initial rejection. The history of the New Music teaches that epochal
works did not always easily prevail. We need only think of the scandal that
erupted at the first performance of Stravinskys Sacre du Printemps on May 13,
1913, in Paris.
Ever since the sensational premiere of Apparitions on June 19, 1960, however,
Ligetis works have been amazingly successful. It tells us something that at the

premiere of Atmosphres in 1961 in Donaueschingen, the enthusiastic audience

forced a repeat performance of the piece, and that the same thing happened
at the Hamburg premiere of Aventures on April 4, 1963.
Today, Ligeti is one of the most successful composers of our time. The
friends of his music steadily increase in numbers worldwide. His compositions meet with favorable response not only from specialists but also from the
broader public. That is not a matter of course in an age in which the demanding New Music has largely lost contact with the larger community of the
friends of music.
What accounts for the wide appeal of this music? In trying to explain Ligetis
popularity, one needs to consider several factors: external matters, certain
qualities of his music and, finally, psychological reasons. Let us consider each
of these.
After his sensational successes in the early sixties, Ligeti rapidly became
known, as the media began to take an interest in him. A contributing factor to
his growing renown was no doubt the use of three of his compositions in
Stanley Kubricks epochal film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick had worked on
his sci-fi film from 1965 to 1968. The original version of the film, which is
based on a short story by Arthur C., Clarke and proclaims Clarkes philosophy of space and the future, was shown already in 1966. Kubrick had bestowed great care on the music tract of his cinematic opus and experimented
a good deal. After several attempts, he finally decided to use music by four
composers for his film: Johann Strau Jr. (The Blue Danube waltz), Richard
Strauss (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), Aram Khachaturian (the ballet suite Gayane)
and Ligeti (Atmosphres, Aventures, Requiem and Lux aeterna), with the music of
Richard Strauss and that of Ligeti being utilized for practically opposite connotations: whereas the opening bars of Zarathustra accompany the grandiose
imagery of earth moon sun, Ligetis music is made to signalize danger,
menace, the unknown and inexplicable.119 Given the exceptional notice and
wide distribution the movie received,120 one can see why it would also draw
attention to Ligetis music.
One might add that the film maker used the music without informing the
composer. The latter protested vehemently and also took legal measures but
had to be content with a royalty of $ 3000. Kubrick used music of Ligetis
again in subsequent films, e.g., Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
How popular Ligeti had meanwhile become also emerges from the fact that
in 1969 the widely read Radio and TV magazine Hr Zu commissioned a
whole-page article on the avant-garde professor. Its author, Gerhard Ar67

noldi, lauded him as a composer who found his own way and did not become
a mere Stockhausen epigone.121 The same issue of the journal included a phonograph disk from the series Hr Zu Black Label (SHZW 904 BL) with recordings of Atmosphres, Volumina, Aventures and the Cello Concerto.
Under these circumstances it is not surprising that television, too, began to
take an interest in this self-willed composer. I vividly remember a mildly surrealist film about Ligeti that appeared on Germanys Second Program (ZDF)
in the seventies or eighties.

Space Odyssey: Music of Ligeti adapted to film

More important than these external factors, which undoubtedly favored the
dissemination of Ligetis oeuvre, are certain qualities of the music itself: its
coherence and sonority, its imaginativeness, its associative power and, not
least, the allusions to traditional music and the spatial effects it evokes.
All of Ligetis works are distinguished by their structural logic. Regardless of
the manner or technique of composition he employed, the result is always
coherent music. A friend once remarked to me that even if Ligeti were to set
the telephone directory to music, the coherence of the result could hardly be
doubted. The listener registers this coherence without being conscious of the
inherent structural laws, which disclose themselves only to an in-depth analytic study of the scores. Ligeti himself called his music very constructed, adding, however, that construction for him did not have the significance it has
for Boulez or Xenakis.122
Much of the fascination of his music is due to its sonority. Ligeti had an eminent sense of sound: Ulrich Dibelius justly called him a Klangbildner
(sound molder),123 and Wolfgang Burde fittingly spoke of Ligetis conception
of sound- space composition.124 The novel sonorities he opened up cast a

magic spell over the listener. In his early works he frequently paid homage to
his idea of a scintillating, iridescent, oscillating sound; in his later works, he
sought to undermine the well-tempered system by employing, inter alia, scordature, microtonal deviations, out-of-tune instruments and natural overtones.
The special suggestiveness of his music, again, resides essentially in its associative power. Ligeti pointed out again and again that his music was not puristic but strongly charged with associations and repeatedly stated that
with him the compositional process was accompanied by associations from
many areas. Such music can stimulate the imagination of the listener and can
awaken associations and fantasies in him or her as well. Regrettably there are
to date no statistics regarding associative effects of his music. Ever since Kubricks film, of course, many listeners associate Atmosphres and other pieces
with outer space. Upon being asked whether he identified with that association, Ligeti replied neither nor. When he composed Atmosphres, he explained, he had no thought of such a functional use the piece was no film
music. The title nevertheless did refer to the atmospheric, wherefore associations of space or space travel were not absolutely excluded from the sphere of
what could be associated.125
Ligetis music is original and new with every fiber, and it negates tradition. At
the same time, however, as we have seen, allusions to the great tradition play
a major role in it, and there is no question that such allusions build bridges
toward the listeners apperception. Ligeti remarked once that his music could
also be heard without any knowledge of these associations, but that a listener
who experienced it in its historical context would get more out of it, since as
Bildungsmusik (music of erudition) its full understanding presupposed a
proper connoisseurship.126
In considering Ligetis popularity, one must not forget certain psychological
factors. Many fans of his music revere him as an original artist, who is independent and unorthodox, thinks outside the box and refuses to be confined
to any single group. His music is music for individualists.
In May of 1993, several concerts were given in Hamburg in observance of Ligetis 70th birthday. Many Hanseats were delighted to celebrate their elective
Hamburger. Both the Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik and the Hungarian journal
Muzsika dedicated separate issues to him. Friedrich Cerha published an article
entitled Why I admire my friend in the Austrian journal Bhne, and Marion
Diederichs-Lafite invited me to conduct a conversation with Ligeti for the
sterreichische Musikzeitschrift.127 And as a clinching indication of his popularity,

five noted composers Lucian Berio, Dieter Schnebel, Manfred Stahnke,

Manfred Trojahn and Udo Zimmermann all congratulated their renowned
colleague on his 70th birthday in the Hamburger Morgenpost.
Ligetis extraordinary popularity did not cease with his death in 2006. Whether it has grown since then is hard to say. Several CD firms, in any case, have
brought out complete recordings of his works. A good many of his compositions, certainly, are performed much more rarely now. But others have become representative of modernity. Atmosphres has attained the status of a
classic of the New Music. Star pianists in many countries make it their ambition to play his horrendously difficult piano pieces. And his anti-opera, Le
Grand Macabre, has been performed in a number of European and American
cities. On May 27, 2010, The New York Philharmonic Orchestra presented
Le Grand Macabre with great success at Lincoln Center.


2 Part Two:


2.1 Composing in the Homeland

Certainly that First String Quartet already exhibits some of
the characteristics of my later music, but the make-up as a
whole is altogether different, old-fashioned: there are plainly
still melodic, rhythmic and harmonic formations in it, as well
as regular meter.128

Ligeti undertook his first attempts at composition already at the age of fourteen. In both his Cluj and his Budapest phase, he developed a restless compositional activity, whose extent we can gather from Ove Nordwalls list of pieces written between 1944 and 1956.129 Comprising no fewer than 74 titles, it
includes three cantatas, several folksong adaptations, lieder, a strikingly large
number of a cappella choruses, piano music, chamber music and a few orchestral works. Many of the compositions were written for school choir or orchestra Ligeti later called them gebrauchsmusik, using Hindemiths coinage,
music for general use (rather than for its own sake). The more demanding
ones could, for reasons of cultural politics, not be performed and landed in
the drawer.130
An artistically important event for the young Ligeti was his encounter with
the music of Bla Bartk in the winter of 1941/42. Works like the Divertimento, the Violin Concerto and the Second String Quartet made a deep impression on
him. Ligeti admitted repeatedly that the great model of Bartk had shaped his
early work, but he also indicated that there was a time when he made an effort to distance himself from Bartk and to find his own way. Oddly enough,
he said that at the age of 23 he showed greater independence from Bartk
than later on. From 1947 on, he modeled himself more closely on him again.
Ligeti was strongly impressed also by the music of Igor Stravinsky, some of
whose works (like the Histoire du soldat) he had studied, and whose Sacre du
Printemps he once heard on the radio. Of the composers of the Second
Viennese School, on the other hand, he hardly knew anything a few scores
of Alban Berg excepted.
Side by side with the traces of an intensive preoccupation with Bla Bartk,
two of the most representative works of the Hungarian period, the Musica ricercata for piano and the First String Quartet, also exhibit Ligeti pursuing paths
of his own. Musica ricercata roughly means recherch music. Already the
title of this eleven-piece collection from the years 1951 to 1953 thus gestures
at a spirit of experimentation. As with many of the pieces in Bartks Mikrokosmos, the rigor of construction here, too, is striking. There is an unmistakable endeavor to develop everything from only a few elements. The first five

pieces can be called inventions on a limited supply of tones. No. 1 is an invention on a single note (the note a), No. 2 one on three notes (e, f# and g).
No. 3, a rhythmically intricate piece bearing some Stravinskyan traits, is constructed with only four notes (c, eb, e and g), and No. 4, a waltz, with five or six
notes (f#, g, a, bb and g# or a). No. 5, a strongly expressive Lamentoso, is based
on a six-note mode, the scale of g-ab-b-c#-d-f). No. 6 is a study in the Mixolydian mode on a, and No. 7 is an invention on the ostinato as well as on the
Mixolydian mode on f. (That pastoral-like piece later became downright
popular). Nr. 8 pays homage to Bartks folklorism and barbaro spirit (the
characteristic expression mark is ruvido, rough), and No. 9, Bla Bartk in memoriam, is an invention on the top-heavy (Lombardic) rhythm - a specialty of
the great Hungarian. No. 10, Vivace, capriccioso, obtains its unique character
from the contrast between chromatically conceived and rhythmically accentuated passages and chains of thirds to be articulated gracioso. No. 11, finally, is
an artfully and rigorously developed fugue on a theme by Girolamo Frescobaldi (the theme of the Ricercare cromatico post il Credo from the Fiori musicali of
1635) a six-note theme, which Ligeti expanded to thirteen notes.131 Ligeti
seems to have thought highly of his Musica ricercata, since he adapted six of the
pieces (nos. 3, 5, 7, 9) as bagatelles for wind quintet.
A close study of the Musica ricercata and the First String Quartet will make it
clear that the roots of the unmistakable Ligeti style are to be found in the early work. Several peculiarities of the later music, at any rate, are preformed already in the early period. That is true, for example, of Ligetis interest in
working with a limited tonal material (whether intervals or scales) fixed in advance a trait of several of the late piano etudes. Specifically, the abovementioned inventions on one or three notes from the Musica ricercata strike
one as early anticipations of an idea that would achieve its magnificent full realization much later in the Monument, the first of the Three Pieces for Two Pianos.
Ligetis String Quartet No. 1, composed in 1953/54 in Budapest, bears the
subtitle Metamorphoses nocturnes a technically as well as poetically suggestive
name: the term Metamorphoses can be referred to the leitmotif of the
work, a characteristic constellation of intervals that undergoes countless transformations. Ligeti rather laconically remarked about it: The basic intervallic
idea, which is always present but always in new transformations, consists of
two major seconds that follow each other, off-set by a half-tone. A close
analysis of the score, in fact, reveals an extraordinary art of variation, in that
the two major seconds appear in the most diverse variants and rhythms (as
well as in peculiarly crossed-over and chromatically filled-in form) even

change diastematically (in interval) in the course of the composition, taking

on the form of minor and major thirds, perfect fourths and even minor
sixths. Ex. 10 lists the most important metamorphoses.

Ex. 10 First String Quartet: metamorphoses of the basic intervallic idea

The transformations that the germ cell of the quartet undergoes are at
times so considerable that one has trouble recognizing the connection to the
original form. Thus the ostinato-like portion of mm. 609-725 seems freecomposed. It takes a closer look to realize that it is designed purely chromatically (the first violin plays a chromatically ascending line defamiliarized by octaves and bizarre rhythms), and that the 21-times-repeated pizzicato figure of
the cello (ab-g-eb-f-e) is nothing but a chromatic variant of the germ cell.
For a closer phenomenological description of Ligetis music of the sixties, the
categories soft and hard music offer themselves. Both types appear al75

ready in the First String Quartet albeit frequently in different guise. In fact,
the formal dynamics of the single-movement work latently divided into numerous sections frequently results from the abrupt succession of soft and
hard portions, which form the brusquest contrasts imaginable. Accordingly,
the soft music appears introverted, even elegiac, favors expression marks
like dolce, espressivo and dolente, is determined predominantly by melody and
harmony and ranges between piano and pianissimo. By contrast, the hard music embodies partly the barbaro type and partly the type of like a precision
mechanism. It thrives on rhythm and rhythmic effects, its domain is the forte
and fortissimo sphere, and its expression marks are ones like vigoroso, feroce and
Both types appear side by side at the very beginning of the work: if the first
section, Allegro gracioso (mm. 1-68) can be labeled soft music, the second,
Vivace capriccioso (mm. 69 ff.) represents the hard type. The Adagio, mesto (mm. 210-238) can then again be classified as soft music.
Besides these two types, a third mode of expression is present in the First
String Quartet, whose primary earmark is lightness. To this category one would
have to assign the scherzo- (mm. 239-521) and the waltz-like (mm. 574-599)
portions of the work. A humorous effect, the unexpected tonal cadence
(dominant tonic) in mm 366/367 also belongs in this category.
The multiplicity of different characters in the string quartet extends from serenity to wildness, from elegy to mirth. The astonishing fact, however, is that
a number of the musical types Ligeti constituted here can be discovered again
in the later music.
2.2 Going beyond Serialism
Keeping to one and the same basic order led to incompatible structures. The unity existed only on the level of the
commentary, the verbal description of the composition; it
was imposed ab extra upon the musical processes and remained psychologically ineffective.132
I reacted to serial music exactly as I did to my own compositional procedures, at once negating and extending, that is,

On June 19, 1960, Ligetis Apparitions were first performed at the Festival of
the International Society for New Music in Cologne. The premiere was a sensation: the world took notice. The new work differed drastically from what
one was accustomed to hearing. One could tell that the hitherto little-known
Hungarian composer was about to discover a new universe of sound, and one

realized that he could not be assigned to any of the tendencies of avant-garde

music then paramount
At the time of the premiere, Ligeti had been in the West for three-and-a- half
years. He was profoundly impressed by the New Music he was getting to
know. In the Cologne Studio, in 1957/58, he gained experiences with electronic music. Here he studied electro-acoustics and phonetics, and here he
experimented with electronic sound materials, which fascinated him not least
for their similarity to phonemes. He exchanged ideas with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig and above all studied the scores of
Pierre Boulez.
The nineteen-fifties were the years of serial music. Serialism had spread like a
religious doctrine and had put many young composers into a state of euphoria. They were fascinated by the idea that all parameters of a musical work of
art could be fixed by series in advance. No less an authority than Ernst
Krenek coined the aperu that serialism had at last liberated the composer
from the dictatorship of the idea.134 Herbert Eimert, on the contrary, protested against the assumption that serial composition meant total predetermination. It was wrong, in his view, to think that the margin of choice was reduced to zero. The very opposite was the case, for every new serial level
brought countless new possible connections into play, and with every newly
added serial constraint the decision coefficient grew and differentiated.135
The pioneer of serialism was Olivier Messiaen, in whose epochal piano piece
Mode de valeurs et d intensits of 1949 not only the pitches but also the durations, the nature of the touch and the degrees of intensity are serially organized. Messiaens pupils Karel Goeyvaerts, Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz
Stockhausen took up from there. Thus the three twelve-member rows on
which Boulez based his composition Structure Ia determine both the pitches
(tone qualities), the note durations and the dynamics, while a ten-member
row dictates the touch (Ex. 11).

Ex. 11 P. Boulez: Determinations of the twelve-tone row (Structure Ia)


In a widely noted essay, Ligeti not only contributed a minute analysis of Boulez Structure Ia but also set forth a fundamental discussion of the process of
serial composition. He thought he could distinguish three work phases:
Decision I Automatism Decision II. The first phase involved selecting the
compositional elements, choosing their particular arrangement and determining the subsequent operations. In the second phase, elements and operations
were thrown quasi into a machine, in order to be woven automatically into
structures on the basis of the relations chosen. By means of several examples, Ligeti was able to show that irregular deviations from the strictly applied
serialist principle occur in Boulez Structure Ia, and he drew the conclusion that
compositional decisions and automatisms presupposed each other: the mutually affecting decisions inevitably lead to automatisms, determination produces the unforeseeable; and conversely, neither the automatic nor the fortuitous can be brought about without decision and determination. In conclusion, he opined (not without some irony) that Boulez had to break out of the
ascetic, almost compulsion-neurotic posture he had assumed in composing
the Structure, in order to create something totally opposite, namely the motley, sensual feline world of the Marteau sans matre.136
If we now look more closely at the rule of serial composition, we must first of
all speak of three axioms to which the serialists referred: the doctrine that in
the structure of the musical work of art all elements (pitch, duration, timbre,
intensity) have equal rights; the consequent insistence that all the elements
should be organized according to a uniform principle of order , such as a logarithmic numerical row; and finally, the confidence that the pseudomathematical logic of the construction would also guarantee the musical one.
After a detailed study of many different scores, Ligeti called the truth claim of
these axioms in question, argued that the individual elements in the structure
of the composition did not all have to have the same relevance, and showed
convincingly that the pseudo-mathematical logic of the musical construction
neither guaranteed musical coherence nor had any exact correlate in the structure of psychic perception.
The conclusions he drew for his own work from these findings are weighty
ones and in the last analysis signify the questioning and even the nullification
of the serial principles. To begin with, he annulled the law of the uniform organization of the parameters. Thus in Apparitions (and also in Atmosphres) he
worked, not with twelve-tone rows but with clusters. He did not, in principle,
abandon the determination of the remaining parameters; nevertheless, the
rhythmic relations are organized differently than the dynamic ones in his
work. Finally he distanced himself in yet another respect from serialism.

Whereas according to a serialist postulate the durational values of a row regardless of whether very short or very long should occur with equal frequency, Ligeti arranged the durations in Apparitions in such a way that brevity
and length respectively are made the criterion of frequency: in other words,
the shortest element recurs most frequently, the longest only once.
How much care he devoted to durational organization is evident from the
drafts for Apparitions. Ligetis calculations there reveal that he sought to record all possible durations and ordered them in rows. One of his tables lists no
fewer than 192 durations, no.1 being a thirty-second, no. 192 a unit of three
maximae (3 x 64 = 192). In another table, which lists thirteen elements, the
shortest of them is one sixteenth, the longest a unit of eight whole notes; here
the shortest element is intended to recur 80 times, whereas the longest values
are to occur only once.137
2.3 Apparitions and the Dream of the Web
My memory of this dream of long ago had a certain influence on the music I wrote in the fifties. What went on in the
web-filled room transformed itself into tonal fantasies that
became the starting material of compositions.138

Of primary importance for Ligetis development as a composer since his emigration are initially his experiences with electronic music, which he had in
1957/58 at the Cologne Studio for Electronic Music. Of the three electronic
pieces he produced there, only one was published. Significantly, it bears the
title Artikulation139 and is conceived as an imaginary conversation in an artificial language: a sequence of monologues, dialogues, trilogues and multi-vocal
disputes. After that, Ligeti wrote no further electronic pieces. Neither did he
try any synthesis of electronic and instrumental music, such as other composers strove for and realized. Apparitions and Atmosphres, the first orchestral
works he wrote after his emigration, do, however, profit from his experiences
with electronic music and reside in an area between the world of sound and
that of noise. That may explain why, after their respective premieres, many
listeners thought the orchestra sound was manipulated electronically, or an
electronically produced audio tape had been played through a hidden speaker.
Ernst Thomas called Apparitions a borderline case, inasmuch as the instrumental timbre really verged already on the realm of electronic possibilities.140
The genesis of Apparitions was protracted and is instructive in several respects.
The earliest, unfortunately lost, version of the work had the title Vizik (Visions) and probably dated from 1956 or even earlier. By then, at the latest, Ligeti had concrete ideas of a static music with neutralized sounds albeit

ideas he could not then realize technically: it was only the preoccupation with
electronic music that enabled him to do so. A later draft, now kept in the Paul
Sacher Foundation in Basel, is dated 1956 and bears the title Stet s vilgos
(Dark and light), which suggests the idea of a transition from darkness (low
registers, dim colors) to light (high registers, shrill colors). Each or its two
parts has certain instrumental groups assigned to it. According to Gianmario
Borio, this draft represents a preliminary stage of the first version,141 which,
scored for chamber orchestra (12 string soloists, harp, piano, harpsichord and
celesta), was composed in Vienna and Cologne in 1957 and consists of three
movements.142 Our concern here, however, is with the final (second) version.
It consists of two movements and calls for a large orchestral apparatus composed of 3 flutes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 horns, 3 trumpets,
3 trombones, tuba, an extensive percussion group, plus celesta, harp, harpsichord, piano and 46 string instruments.
Apparitions can be called a prototypical piece inasmuch as the type of music it
represents proved to be expandable. Moreover, the compositional techniques
that Ligeti first tried out here could be developed further in later works (the
Atmosphres and the Volumina). I am referring to the technique of tonal expanses in the special variant of the cluster technique, which is applied here in
a highly original manner. Looking back, Ligeti remarked about the compositional situation after his overcoming of serialism:
The wornness of interval relations, that is, of all harmony, and the leveling out of interval characters thus caused, led me to the consequence
of eliminating, for the time being, all intervals as structuring elements.
I composed voice textures so dense that the individual intervals submerged in them and functioned no longer as intervals as such but only
collectively as intervallic masses.143

This account applies doubtlessly also to Apparitions, albeit with certain exceptions. Toward the end of the work, for example, the first trumpet, the first
horn, the first trombone and the echo trumpet, all of them stopped, intone,
one after the other, conspicuous signal-like motifs.
Another innovation: the bar-lines appearing in the score of Apparitions are not
to be taken in terms of traditional meter but serve solely to synchronize the
voices, that is, to enable the conducting of the score. In this work, Ligeti apparently shook off the fetters of mensuration for the first time.
The associations with electronic music the piece evokes, incidentally, result
from the nature of the clusters, which are so densely interwoven that socalled beats (Schwebungen) are produced. Ligeti himself traced the seemingly

electronic sound of Apparitions to the use of motion timbre (Bewegungsfarbe),

explaining that by playing slightly off-key, illusory pattern transformations and
tone colors were created that differed markedly from the timbres of the usual
combinations of instruments.144
The more one delves into Apparitions the clearer it becomes that the work
wants to be understood as a musical realization of the childhood dream about
the gigantic web that Ligeti related. In trying to explain the structure of the
work, he, in fact, used the very terms conditions, events and transformations he had employed in the telling of the dream, and he felt he had to
distinguish two basic types of musical material: delicate-sounding, softseeming cluster textures and firm sound groups or even singular sound
splinters, which, as it were, perforate the sounding web. As typical of the
formal development of the first movement he noted that the suddenly appearing and for the most part also suddenly vanishing compacter sound
groups would attack the stationary sounds preceding them in each case and
thereby would induce transformations.
In trying to understand these ideas, one should keep in mind, to begin with,
that the cluster technique in this work is absolutely obligatory: both of the
basic types of musical material the stationary sounds as well as the firmer
sound groups have the cluster texture in common. At the same time, the
two types are structured differently: while the stationary sounds are long-held
and prefer the piano sphere, the firmer sound groups tend toward accumulation and toward fortissimo. The form of the piece could be defined as a twotiered process, in which the stationary sounds provide the background and
the attacking sounds the foreground. The impression of distance and proximity arises in listening.
Two examples may serve to clarify what has been said. The beginning of the
first movement is characterized by mostly long-held, stationary sounds confined to the piano sphere (mp, p, pp, ppp, pppp). Then, in m. 30, abruptly and
unexpectedly a fortissimo appears, as the multiply divided strings play a strong
pizzicato, the so-called Bartk pizzicato (sffff). This event triggers a more farreaching transformation, causing a shock to the resounding web (and to the
listener), and is followed by a general pause. Ligeti spoke figuratively of a tear
in the sound structure.
Similar, but even much stronger effects result from another sffff sound in m.
73. Like the Bartk pizzicato, this sound, too, enters abruptly but seems far
harder and more massive by comparison small wonder when one considers
the profusion of instruments: three piccolo flutes, xylophone, glockenspiel,

whip, a very high-tuned small drum, celesta, harp, harpsichord and piano, plus
the pizzicato-playing strings all contribute to the production of the sound.
This sound event meant as an attack and marking the peripety brings
about the decisive turn in the movement. In mm. 75-77, the second violins,
the violas and the cellos react to it with a wild eruption an impetuous
sound sequence that climbs to the highest region. In the process, the metallic explosion (in Ligetis words) produced by the sffff sound initiates a major
shift in tone location: whereas the music until then ranged mostly in the lower
pitches, the high register predominates from thence forward.
The sffff sound functions as an Archimedean point. It marks the place where
the dark register is relieved by the bright one, with the two parts of the
movement corresponding in length approximately to the proportions of the
golden section. When Ligeti conceived this movement, he was still under the
impression of the theories of Ern Lendvais, who sought to demonstrate the
golden section in the works of Bla Bartk.145 Significantly, the sketches include an early formal draft of the movement that is based on the so-called
Fibonacci numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610 and
987, where each number (starting with the third) is the sum of the previous
two (see Facsimile 6).

FS 6 Apparitions, 1st movement: form draft with Fibonacci numbers


On June 8, 1988, after the ceremony awarding him the honorary doctorate of
Hamburg University, Ligeti told me that in the United States scholarly treatises had been written about his music trying to demonstrate that several of his
works were constructed in accordance with the law of the golden section. He
said he was not conscious of such a method of construction. The Fibonacci
sequence and the golden ratio applied solely to Apparitions.
To continue with our discussion of the work: if the static sounds of the Lento
are lined up in blocks, in the Agitato they are made to fan out considerably.
Ligeti spoke of internally vibrating planes as well as of small figures that,
nearly indistinct, entangled, flare up and vanish again.146 This description certainly fits the first section of the Agitato. The dynamics, confined to the piano
sphere, and the extremely differentiated playing of the strings add to the effect. Ligetis experience with electronic music here makes a real difference.
The second section (mm. 25-37) stands in harsh contrast to the first. Hearing
it for the first time, one might think it was conceived in an aleatory manner.
In reality, the music is notated exactly down to the last quaver: a web of 46
string voices. The expression mark reads: Wild. Ex abrupto start. With extreme force. Each string player plays as intensively as if he were a soloist. Lots
of bowing. Verve more important than perfectly clean intonation. That the
passage is constructed through and through, to be sure, one realizes only once
one has become aware that it is the earliest instance of the famous micropolyphony, of which we have yet to speak in detail.
The third section (mm. 38-43) is structured altogether differently. The originality of the keenly rhythmical expanse of noise it constitutes lies less in the
addition of the percussion section than in the percussive treatment of the
wind instruments. The musicians blowing the two bassoons, the contrabassoon, the six horns, three trumpets, three trombones and the bass tuba are
supposed to knock against [the mouthpiece] with the tongue without producing a tone. Afterwards the brass players are to strike the mouthpiece
briefly and vigorously with the hand.
At the start of the final section (mm. 44-55) a dense, tremolo cluster of the
flutes, clarinets and second violins provides a background for motif fragments
played by the first trumpet, first horn, first trombone and the echo trumpet,
with the increasingly slow vibrations, as a fully composed ritardando, signalizing the imminent end which begins in the third to the last bar with sffff
sounds. There has been a great deal of guessing about the meaning of the
hammer with which the bottles are to be smashed: evidently it is a suggestive


allusion to the crushing hammer strokes in the Finale of Mahlers Tragic Symphony and again in the march from Alban Bergs Three Pieces for Orchestra.147
The sketches for Apparitions contain notations on the formal division, on the
organization of pitches and durations, on the dynamics, on instrumentation
and on ways to play. They also document that Ligeti associated sounds with
visual ideas. Thus we encounter catchwords like clouds (referring to string
sounds), beetles, forest, splinter(s), magicians who give off a high,
shrill tone and others. A low passage in the double basses Ligeti links to notions of tumult.
2.4 Atmosphres a Secret Requiem?
After the completion of this piece [Apparitions], I was far
more interested in the possibilities of a differentiated intertwining and interweaving of sound than in the formation of
musical objects: I therefore concentrated on tonal processes
similar to those that form the background in Apparitions. I
resolved that in my next work I would eliminate the duality of
clear individual figures and dense intertwining and let the musical form emerge solely from the tonal background, though
this background can no longer be called that, since a foreground no longer exists. What is at issue now is a subtle fibrous web evenly filling the entire musical space, whose internal movements and alterations determine the articulation
of the form.
The compositional idea I tried to realize in Atmosphres signified, on the one hand, the overcoming of structural thinking in composition a mode of thinking that characterized
the entire musical development of the last ten years and on
the other, represented a disowning of every kind of dialectic
within musical form. There are, in the form thus come into
being, no longer any oppositional elements or reciprocal actions; the diverse states of the musical material take over
from each other, or one turns almost imperceptibly into the
other, without the emergence of any causal connections within the formal progress.148

Ligeti worked intensively on Atmosphres between February and July of 1961.

The initial idea for it, however, goes back to a much earlier time. As he disclosed to the Swedish publicist Gran Fant, the piece was conceived already
in the early fifties, while one night, desperate and hungry he was roaming
around in Budapest.149

After its sensational world premiere on October 22, 1961, Atmosphres soon
became one of the most famous works of the Hungarian composer, the onetime fame of Apparitions paling as that of the new work rose and overshadowed the earlier one. It says something that today there are only three recordings of Apparitions, whereas Atmosphres is available on no fewer than eleven
different CDs.
In terms of tonal type, Atmosphres and Apparitions are related to the extent
that both pieces belong, according to Ligeti, to the structural type of the
nebular-indistinct.150 Even so, there are major differences between the two,
which constitute their specific particularity. Whereas in Apparitions tonal states
are time and again disrupted and changed by unexpected sound events, comparable incidents hardly occur in Atmosphres. The music proceeds continuously, changing constantly but only slowly and somehow inconspicuously a
peculiarity that betrayed a critic into the following obtuseness: Everything is
standing still; during the nine minutes stretched to an eternity that the piece
lasts, nothing, but nothing, happens.151
In actuality, a great deal happens in the course of the piece, though it takes an
attentive listener to realize that. The composition is divided into 22 sections
of different duration (the last section consists of silence), all of which are individually structured. While most of them are based on dense chromatic clusters iridescent twelve-tone sounds are the norm the individual sections
differ greatly in their structure.
We can obtain major insights into the conception and the structure of the
work from a study of the composers notes, which Salmenhaara has published.152 They include specifications about both the durations and the texture
of the various sections specifications that indicate that the final form of the
work largely coincides with the original conception. Thus the durations
planned for the sections in seconds were taken over without change into the
autograph score:



48 29 55

















10 26


16 9





The sum total is thus 8 minutes and 34 seconds. In the printed score, Ligeti
dispensed with these detailed specifications, noting the performance length in
a lump sum as ca. 9 minutes.

Before beginning with the elaboration of the score, Ligeti gave intensive consideration to the constitution of the individual tonal fields, distinguishing between three basic types of such expanses: stationary planes or expanses
(liegende Flchen), vibrating expanses and mosaic-like textures.153 The term
liegende Flchen means primarily unchanging clusters, stationary sounds
the first section presents a prototypical example of these although, as the
second section (letter A) shows, such expanses can be shaded in both timbre
and dynamics. Vibrating expanses are shaped by trills, tremolos and swinglike figurations or by internal motions within a broadly differentiated texture
(fourth and ninth section, at letter C and H respectively). The mosaic-like textures, finally, are characterized by the dissolution of lines into individual components (Ligeti spoke of Stckchen, bits). In sections 12, 18 and 19 (letter
K, Q and R), the score resembles a mosaic even visually.
As already intimated, the sections differ considerably in terms of frequency
band, register, timbre combination, dynamics and also manner of playing. The
diagram provided by Erkki Salmenhaara154 (see DG 6) can convey a graphic
impression of the modifications of the frequency band, its narrowing in the
8th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 20th section (letters G, J, K, L, S) being particularly

DG 6 Atmosphres: 22 sections in time and texture

There has been significant progress in sound analysis in the last twenty or so
years, as new methods were developed and digital procedures made it possible
to depict the sound shape of compositions with considerable precision. Andreas E. Beurmann and Albrecht Schneider produced an amplitude diagram
of Atmosphres, which impressively illustrates the total form of the work. Ligeti
himself had said of it that it was to be realized like a single, wide-flung arc,
with the individual sections fusing together. Beurmann and Schneider describe its course as follows: a delicate swaying in, an arrival out of nothingness, five areas of an extremely slow dynamic swelling and ebbing and then
vanishing into nothingness, symbol of the title of this music, atmospheres,
shrouds of air155 (see Diagram 7156).

DG 7 Atmosphres: amplitude diagram

At a first listening, Atmosphres perplexes by its novelty. It can be called a

classic work of the New Music insofar as several specifics of the Ligetian
music language appear here for the first time in full-blown form. The discoveries in compositional technique that Ligeti made here proved to be promising for the future. He had recourse to them repeatedly in his later works, all
the while developing them further. A few examples may serve to illustrate the
The cystoscopic sound image, for which Ligeti had a penchant, occurs for
the first time in the seventh section of Atmosphres (mm. 33-39). This cluster
field, constituted by four piccolo flutes, four oboes, four clarinets and four
trumpets in extremely high register, sounds sharp and shrill. From this extreme height, the music plunges into extreme depth, as eight double basses intone an eight-tone cluster in fourfold forte tutta la forza (mm. 40 ff. 8th section,
letter G). The effect is indescribable. Similar plunges are frequent in the Dies
Irae of the Requiem.

A favorite technique in Atmosphres is the overlapping of sound fields and sections. While the double basses are still holding the extremely low eight-note
cluster, the remaining strings (14 first violins, 14 second violins, 10 violas and
10 cellos) suddenly enter in fourfold piano (mm. 44-53, letters H and I). The
highly complex 28-voice canon and the 20-voice mirror canon they perform
provide an archetypal example of Ligetis celebrated micropolyphonic technique 157.
The brass field of the 14th section (mm. 58-65, letter M) deserves to be highlighted because in its compactness it forms the summit of the work in terms
of volume. The twelve-note cluster field constituted by the six horns, four
trumpets, four trombones and the tuba commences in four-fold piano and
swells in quick crescendo to fourfold forte. The use of the trumpets in extreme low register at this point is especially impressive an ingenious timbre
combination, which Ligeti will use again in the Dies Irae to dramatize the
word (Tuba mirum spargens) sonum. As peculiar as it is original, again, is the
wind episode (17th section, mm. 76-79, letters P and Q). According to a direction in the score, the brass players here are to blow very softly into their
instruments without producing a tone. The noise effect here is thus composed in.
We already noted that the 18th and 19th section (mm. 79-84) represent the
type of mosaic-like texture. To be emphasized is the enormous differentiation
in the playing techniques prescribed for the various string groups: at once
with mute and without, on the fingerboard and at the bridge, sul tasto and col
legno, gettato and legato. As a result, and because of the many tremolos, the listener seems to hear a trembling on the surface of the sound. A special sound
effect is reserved for the penultimate (more properly the last) section (mm.
88-102, letter T). Supported initially by flute, and toward the end by trombone and tuba, clusters, the 56 strings play exclusively flageolet glissandi. An
immaterial quality clings to the flageolet clusters produced in this way, the unusual sound image evoking associations with music of the spheres a type Ligeti had a soft spot for in later years as well.158
Atmosphres is dedicated to the memory of Mtys Seibers. Seibers (b. 1905), a
Hungarian composer and writer about music, who had emigrated to England
in 1935, was killed in an accident on September 25, 1960 in Johannesburg,
South Africa. His teacher Zoltn Kodly dedicated his Media vita in morte sumus
for mixed chorus to him. Ligetyi felt obliged to Seibers, in part because he
had championed him and helped him at a time of indigence after the emigration. The dedication prompted Harald Kaufmann, who in 1962 broadcast a
lecture about the piece on West German Radio Cologne, to engage in some

speculations. Supported by conversations with Ligeti, he proposed the thesis

that Atmosphres should be regarded as a secret requiem: While composing
the work, Ligeti in fact thought of the representation of a funeral mass within
the material sphere. He wanted it to be imagined that a requiem is in progress
quasi in the cellar, in a far distance, in the realm of the subliminal. Since there
is no room for traditional musical form phenomena, the material texture must
admit of associations that have points of contact with the associations according to the old requiem sequence.
Starting from this premise, Kaufmann thought he could identify passages in
the structure of the piece that refer to parts of the Latin mass for the dead.
The stationary cluster sound at the beginning reminded him of a distant
murmuring of the Requiem aeternam. The narrowing of the frequency band in
mm. 53/54 made him think of the beginning of the Dies irae. The bunching of
all the brasses seemed to him a sound image of the Tuba mirum, the wondersounding trumpet. The place at which the chromatic cluster thins out into a
diatonic one (69-74) he associated with the Agnus dei, dona eis requiem. And the
portal of the narrowed frequency band, after which fear reigns no more,
he thought he could read as a conciliatory Lacrimosa.159
Kaufmanns views attracted widespread attention among critics. Erkki Salmenhaara adopted them,160 and Ove Nordwall spoke of an instrumental paraphrase of the requiem mass.161
I asked Ligeti what he thought about these surmises. He replied that he did
not think of any part of the funeral mass while conceiving the piece: Kaufmanns correlations and associations were wholly subjective. However, the
peculiar restraint characterizing Atmosphres, he thought, did legitimate it as a
commemorative composition.
2.5 Micropolyphony
I called this type of composition micropolyphony because
individual rhythmic processes in the polyphonic network dip
below the line where they become blurred. The texture is so
dense that the individual voices are no longer perceptible as
such and only the fabric as a whole is apprehensible as a superordinate form.162

Among the compositional methods Ligeti developed, his micropolyphony is

not only one of the most original but also the one most widely known. So it is
all the more astonishing that neither the genesis nor the technical presuppositions of the procedure have been adequately explained to date. In his articles,

Ligeti repeatedly mentioned his micropolyphony, but he did so rather generally and by the way.
A closer study of Ligetis micropolyphonic structures reveals three peculiarities, which can at the same time clarify the differences from the traditional
1. The basis of micropolyphony is the canonic manner of composing, that
is to say, one and the same diastematic (melodic/intervallic) line underlies the contrapuntal texture of the voices. But whereas in the traditional canonic technique the voices as a rule enter successively, in Ligeti
they enter at the same time (although a parallel example can be found in
early music history as well: in the so-called mensuration or proportion
canons of the 15th century, all the voices also start simultaneously).
2. In the traditional canon, the rhythmic relations governing the basic melodic line remain the same in each of the imitating voices. In Ligeti, on
the other hand, they are for the most part radically altered in such a way
that no voice is like any other in a rhythmic respect. This, too, prevents
the canonic process from being recognized as such in the hearing.
3. Whereas the traditional canon prefers two, three and four voices, the
micropolyphonic textures in Ligeti favor an extreme number of voices.
To put it more precisely: instead of the individual voices, we get whole
blocks dense voice combinations that are all treated canonically, the
canon technique being frequently linked in ingenious ways with the
cluster technique. The polyphonic procedure takes possession of every
fiber of the extremely dense fabric and permeates the smallest detail.
Ligeti coined the term micropolyphony to hint at the listeners inability to
register the subtleties of the polyphonic texture.
The earliest instance of the technique occurs in the second movement of Apparitions, in the section headed wild (mm. 25-37) a 46-voice texture of the
strings. The 12 divided first, and 12 divided second, violins, the violas, the cellos and the double basses add up to five groups of voices, which are organized strictly according to the technical principles outlined above. All of the
voices enter simultaneously on the note g. The canonic structure, however, is
not based on a single sequence of notes, but on four such sequences. Apart
from a few exceptions, the first and second violins are structured according to
a chromatically descending line. A mingled chromatic-diatonic ascending line
furnishes the material for the canonic structuration of the violas, a third, likewise diatonically-chromatically ascending line underlies the web of the cellos,
and a fourth tonal sequence is recognizable in the pitch organization of the

double basses. The canonic process within the individual groups is strictly
regimented insofar as the intervallic relations remain unchanged. In point of
rhythm, however, no voice equals another.
As in Apparitions, the micropolyphony in Atmosphres is limited to a single section of the work, in this case to mm. 44-53. But the handling of the technique
here is more artful, more consistent and, in a way, more unified. The micropolyphonic fabric here consists of 48 voices, (14 first, and 14 second, violins, 10 violas and 10 cellos) and is structured clearly as a canon and mirror
canon. While the violins play a 28-voice strict canon, the violas and cellos array themselves into a 20-voice inverted mirror canon. That is to say, the mirror canon represents a faithful mirror image of the canon insofar as the sequence of the underlying melodic line proceeds in the exact opposite direction.
Likewise as in Apparitions, all the voices of the micropolyphonic web enter
simultaneously, but they do so not on the same note, but on all degrees of the
chromatic scale. The intervallic relations of the cantus-firmus-like melody are
again identical in all the voices of the giant canon, while the rhythmic proportions undergo significant modifications and are organized according to a different principle. The complexity of the rhythmic organization, moreover,
beggars description. Suffice it to say that the strings play at three different
speeds: if the recital of the second violins and violas observes a quasi normal
tempo (four counting units per half-measure), the cellos play more slowly and
the first violins faster (three and five counting units per half-measure).
The first of Ligetis works in which entire movements are structured according to the micropolyphonic method is the Requiem. The parts that are worked
strictly micropolyphonically here are the Introitus and especially the Kyrie
Eleison a movement offering perhaps the most impressive example of this
novel technique. Looking only at the vocal parts, this Kyrie is a 20-voice
double fugue. Sopranos, mezzos, altos, tenors and basses form five vocal
groups of four voices each, all of which are worked strictly canonically. Characteristically for the conception and the dense micropolyphonic structure of
the movement, both underlying themes, the Kyrie and the Christe theme, enter
simultaneously (Ex. 12). Both themes are based on twelve-tone rows, which,
however, are treated not according to the strict principles of dodecaphonism
but with remarkable freedom. Let us look more closely at the Christe theme. It
appears not in a single form but in numerous variants and metamorphoses.
Its characteristic interval sequence echoes the twelve-tone row of Luigi Nonos cantata Il canto sospeso (1956). But how drastically it has been modified by
Ligeti! Whereas Nonos twelve-tone row is a so-called all-interval series (in

Ligetis view only apparently so, since in reality it consisted of the interpolation of two minor seconds tending in opposite directions163), the diverse
forms that Ligetis characteristic row assumes prefer the minor second
apart from the fact that Ligetis row does not contain either a major second
or a perfect fifth (Ex. 13).

Ex. 12 Requiem: Simultaneousness of the Kyrie and Christe themes


Ex. 13 Nono, All-interval row;

Ligeti, Requiem with Christe entrances in the Kyrie

As one can see, Ligetis row comes about gradually: it is incomplete at first,
consisting of only 9 or ten notes; only at the fourth entrance does it appear in
complete form. Besides, Ligeti time and again changes the position of individual notes, thereby unhesitatingly violating both the rules of the Schnbergian dodecaphonism and the principles of serialism. VII is an exact transposi93

tion of VI, IX is the inversion of VII, and XI reveals itself as the retrograde
inversion of IX.
The development of Ligetis micropolyphonic technique was inspired in part
by a study of Guillaume de Machaut and the old Netherlanders, especially
Ockeghem. In a 1988 conversation with Detlef Gojowy, Ligeti stated that he
was still profiting from his rigorous studies of counterpoint back in Budapest.164 Ockeghems polyphony, in which no voice dominates but everything
is in steady flux, like tumbling waves, had been a model for him already in
the Requiem. To all appearances he was strongly impressed, above all, by the
prolation canon of the 14th and 15th century. He continued to speak enthusiastically about compositions like Ciconias Le ray au soleil characteristically a
three-voice proportion canon.
2.6 Language and Music in the Requiem
Oui, mon Requiem, mes Requiems ne sont pas liturgiques.
Je ne suis pas catholique, je suis dorigine juive, mais je n appartiens aucune religion. Alors, j ai pris le texte du Requiem
pour son imagination de l angoisse, de la peur de la mort, de
la fin du monde.165
I think but of course I may be wrong that the Requiem,
and above all the Dies irae, is the best I have composed thus

While Ligeti was working on the Dies Irae of his Requiem in December of
1964, he was in a state of euphoria: he had the feeling that he had created
something significant. In a letter to Ove Nordwall, he called the work a turning point in his creative career: a kind of summation of his hitherto mode
of composing, and at the same time the exposition of something new. Having the idea in mind at the time of writing an opera, he was convinced that
the Dies irae was seminal for future compositions, and that in the Requiem
he had anticipated something of the dramatic art he hoped to realize later on
in his opera. For that reason he regarded the Requiem as a kind of dividing
line between the hitherto pieces and the future ones.167 Ligetis assessment
proved accurate. The four-movement Requiem would become one of his most
renowned works, and this for several reasons: the loftiness of its subject, the
gigantic size of its instrumental apparatus (the score calls for two female soloists, ca. 200 vocalists and a grand orchestra), the novelty of its sonorities and
its staggering expressivity.
In February of 1989, Ligeti discussed some of his works at the Hamburg Music Academy. When he was asked why of all things he had chosen to set the

text of the Catholic funeral mass to music, he replied that as a Jew and the
son of an atheist he could not claim to have a particularly close relation to the
Catholic Church. He had decided on the text mainly for two reasons. For one
thing, he had a special fondness for the Dies Irae, Thomas of Celanos celebrated sequence. The apocalyptic quality of this poem of the 13th century,
whose double stanzas he admired, had fascinated him ever since his youth,
just as he always felt drawn to the representations of hell by Peter Brueghel
and Hieronymus Bosch. For another, the persecution of Catholics in Hungary
after World War II had deeply shocked him: he had drafted a requiem already
in 1953. More than ten years were to pass before he was able to complete the
projected oeuvre: he began to work on it in the summer of 1963 and did not
complete the score until January of 1965.
His Requiem does not include the entire text of the funeral mass but is limited
to the Introitus, the Kyrie, the Dies Irae and the Lacrimosa, which latter is
textually part of the Sequence but forms a separate movement in the composition. The reasons for this limitation, as the composer himself explained, are
musical ones: the Sequence forms the central part, after which the Lacrimosa
serves as an epilogue. He could certainly have included additional parts of
the mass, but he did not do so because he regarded the music of the half-hour
work as a complete, self-contained construction.168
Of the Requiems four movements it can be said that structurally, as well as in
terms of expression, they differ as decisively as possible from each other.
Each has its own unmistakable physiognomy. Design, texture and character
are entirely different, and each movement is governed by special principles of
handling the language. In the above-mentioned letter to Nordwall, Ligeti
threw out some interesting hints about the individual character of the movements. The Introitus and the Kyrie, he thought, continued from the type
of Volumina and Atmosphres, though they developed it further by means of
the counterpoint. The Dies Irae, on the other hand, represented a type related to the Allegro Appassionato of Aventures, though definitely going beyond it both technically and in terms of expression. The Lacrimosa, finally,
without chorus, written merely for two soloists and orchestra functioned
as a sort of epilogue, very simple and tranquil.
When Ligeti began with the composition of the Requiem, the so-called speech
composition was in topical fashion.169 Ever since Karlheinz Stockhausens Gesang der Jnglinge (Song of the Youths) an epochal composition that premiered in Cologne in 1956 several avant-garde-minded composers (among
them Lucio Berio, Mauricio Kagel and Dieter Schnebel) took, in their vocal
works, to demolishing the syntactic structure of language and to using lan95

guage as purely phonetic material. They deliberately dispensed with textual intelligibility and sought to partly strip language of its semantic function. Not
yet satisfied, some composers went as far as to use neither texts, nor words,
nor morphemes but only phonemes in their works. With his Aventures and
Nouvelles aventures, Ligeti himself made two important contributions to the
genre of phone (or phoneme) composition (Lautkomposition).
His Requiem, to be sure, cannot be called speech composition, since its text
is dismembered neither phonetically nor semantically. But although, owing to
the extraordinarily dense musical structure, listeners for the most part will not
be able to understand the words Ligeti probably assumed that they would
be familiar with the text of the Latin funeral mass anyway it is important to
note that the composer took care to translate the emotional content of the
text into musical terms and to some extent let himself be stimulated by the
suggestive images of the funeral mass. In doing so, he succeeded in achieving
a unique amalgamation of language and music. Certain words of the liturgical
text, moreover, he treated in such a way that they were clearly understandable.
The Introitus expresses above all the pleas for eternal rest and eternal light, as
well as for the prayers being heard and granted. Ligeti evidently let himself be
guided musically by the idea of the lux perpetua, the eternal light to shine upon
the dead, since he shaped the movement as a gradually brightening sequence
ascending from the depth to the height. Beginning in the lowest register, the
music systematically rises higher and higher. The sequence, which consists
of micropolyphonically worked blocks, gradually conquers the middle pitch
region and finally the high register. At first only the basses, divided into four
groups, intone in the lowest register. Then the tenors and altos, each likewise
divided into four groups, join in. A mezzo and a soprano solo, entering imperceptibly in mm. 50/51, introduce the final section, which is reserved to an
eight- and a twelve-voice womens chorus. Thus the extraordinarily dark timbre of the beginning gradually lightens up. What is novel is the fact that the
brightening of the sound is brought about not by the usual tone-painting
means but by the disposition of the tonal material.
The application of the micropolyphonic technique makes it inevitable that the
text for the most part remains unintelligible, since, owing to the dense structure, different vowels are sung simultaneously. There are two exceptions to
this, however: in mm. 14-16 and 45/46, two solo basses, like Tibetan monks,
declaim in lowest register the words Domine [] exaudi orationem meam the
only words of the Introitus that the listener can really understand.


Compared with the Introitus, the Kyrie Eleison is greatly intensified,

both tonally and in terms of expressiveness, tending, as it does, to the colossal. Thus the chorus, maximally twelve-voiced in the Introitus, here thickens to twenty voices. Powerful effects issue from the two themes, the Kyrie
and the Christe theme, which, though treated in the manner of a multi-voiced
double fugue, enter simultaneously at the start. If the Christe theme is distinguished by prominent intervals, the Kyrie theme, as the movement progresses,
is increasingly endowed with chromatic features. The contrapuntal intertwining of the two theme complexes under the micropolyphonic banner leads to
an excessive, potentiated chromaticism, one could well say a kind of hyperchromaticism that constitutes an absolute non plus ultra. One seems to hear
myriads of trembling voices. It is no wonder that Kubrick used this music as a
background for his cosmic film.
The movement is likewise remarkable for its dynamics and its manner of performance generally. Whereas the dynamics of the Introitus never leaves the
piano sphere, the music here traverses every volume degree from fourfold piano to fourfold forte. Swelling and subsiding waves define the picture. Crescendos and diminuendos take constant turns, and since the vocal groups enter successively thanks to the fugal technique, the waves tumble over each
other. Spatial effects also result from the fact that the Kyrie theme is to be intoned at first pianissimo and espressivo, while the Christe theme is to be performed pppp non espressivo and in the background. Later on, this order is frequently being departed from, at times even stood on its head.
Of all the movements of the Requiem, the Kyrie attains to the greatest density and tonal fullness. The entire tonal range and tonal volume are enlisted.
Although the crescendos at times (mm. 78, 84 and 88) conduct to ecstatic
climaxes and then suddenly break off (as if torn off), there are no real ruptures in the macro-texture, since these breaks happen only in individual voice
groups and never in all of them simultaneously: despite these local discontinuities, the listener receives an impression of continuity, that of an uninterruptedly flowing polyphonic current of sound. In a lecture given in 1965 in
Jyvskyl, Finland, Ligeti pointed out that during his work on this movement
Johann Sebastian Bachs eight-voice motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Sing
a New Song unto the Lord, BWV 225) had been in his mind as the concept
of a great contrapuntal form.170
It needs to be stated emphatically that Ligetis Kyrie Eleison occupies a
preeminent position in the history of requiem composition. Never before has
the supplication for mercy been given musical expression with such poignancy.

A word still on pitch organization: in a letter of February 9, 1970, to Harald

Kaufmann, Ligeti made some important remarks about the sequence in which
the Kyrie and Christe themes enter in the Requiem.
If you write out these individual notes, the result is a melodic line that
contains the twelve notes twice over and whose second half is [the]
inversion of the first (except for the exchange of two notes in the second half); there is a constructive reason for this, but it would be too
complicated to describe that here.171

A closer study of the score indeed reveals fairly complicated relations. There
are 12 Kyrie and 11 Christe entrances (at the beginning of the movement, the
Kyrie and the Christe theme enter synchronously). If we compile the notes of
the altogether 22 entrances, we get the following succession:






























As one can readily see, the opening notes of the first twelve entrances form a
twelve-tone row that, transposed, agrees exactly with the tonal material of the
ninth entrance of the Christe theme (cf. Ex. 13, p. 93). The connection to that
row of the ten remaining entrance notes, on the other hand, remains unclear.
About the Dies Irae Ligeti wrote to Nordwall that it was very dramatic
and rich in contrasts and should be sung with great verve and expressivity.
Of critical importance for any discussion of the movement are the sketches
that Salmenhaara has published.172 The notes and key words of which they
consist strike one at times like stage directions for an imaginary opera. These
notations once again convey an impression of Ligetis synaesthetic endowment. Musical matters and technical terms are paralleled to psychic states,
emotions, spatial perceptions and individual pictures. The key terms Fear,
hysterical nervosity, persecution. panic, terror and swarming, blows
[or strokes] and emptiness, hallucinations and entreaties are particularly
characteristic of Ligetis conception. Taken together, they offer a modern,
psychologizing exegesis of Thomas of Celanos famous poem, inspiration to
countless painters and musicians.
Discontinuity, dissociation and deep ruts caused by extreme contrasts are
throughout inscribed in this composition. The art of contrast, dramatically

heightened, takes hold of every dimension of compositional technique. It extends to the organization of pitches as well as to the durational level, to compositional style as well as to changes in tone coloration. Extreme contrasts between high and low, wide and narrow, slow and fast, loud and soft, light and
dark, whispers and shrieks, homophony and polyphony, choral singing and
solo parts shape the physiognomy of the movement. And it is only fitting
with this concept that especially dense, musically eventful passages are frequently followed by episodes of appalling emptiness, to use one of Ligetis
own favorite expressions.
The relation between language and music in the Dies Irae must be called an
extremely complex one. The musical setting is again such that the text remains generally unintelligible with all the more importance accruing to the
occasional text fragments that are to be articulated clearly. Language is defamiliarized in numerous ways: by speaking hastily; by excessive stretching out
of individual words and syllables; by polytexture (simultaneous recital of different verses); finally by splitting up, i.e., the distribution of individual syllables of a word over different voices. The rather odd thing here is that the distant models Ligeti sought to orient himself by in the Dies Irae are evidently
the Passion and sacred plays generally.
Any discussion of the movement should start from the fact that in the published drafts Ligeti distinguished between a main layer, two contrast layers and individual objects within the structure of the composition. A close
study of the score will in fact reveal several levels of style and expression.
A first level is constituted by the choruses, which are set after the manner of
the turbae. Turba means tumult, crowd, people. One seems to be hearing a
screaming multitude. The text is uttered in such a hurry that one cannot understand a single word. The expression mark at the beginning of the movement reads Molto agitato, mit grter Aufregung [with extreme agitation].
In the sketches, Ligeti characterized this level with the catchwords Choruses:
turbae, ffff, large leaps (possibly inexact), wild exaggerated, swinging, menacing. Extremely brisk rhythms, large interval leaps and multiple fortes are indeed the stylistic characteristics of these choruses. Ligeti reserved this manner
of composition for those sections of the text that describe the general mood
of the Last Judgment, primarily for the stanzas:
Dies irae, dies illa,
Solvet saeclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando judex est venturus,


Cuncta stricte discussurus!

Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus judicetur.
(Judex ergo cum se-)debit,
Quidquid latet apparebit:
Nil inultum remanebit.
Juste judex ultionis,
Donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

Hieronymus Bosch, Hell


A second layer in the Dies Irae is represented by the two female soloists, a soprano and a mezzo, who invite comparison with the soliloquists of the Baroque
passion. Typical for them is, above all, the sequence of, in part, extremely high and
extremely low notes, which are either uttered very fast and in haste (noteworthy
here is the expression mark con paura [with dread, fearfully] in mm. 79, 84 and 107)
or else held strikingly long. The abrupt change of register creates the impression of
the music being chopped a device faintly reminiscent of the medieval hocket.
Ligetis notes on this stylistic/expressive level in the drafts read: Solo: agitated,
dramatic, frequent climaxes presaging evil, jumbled, ffff. Hocket, even syllabically.
Large intervals.
Shock-like effects follow one on the heels of the other over large stretches of the
Dies Irae. Unexpected turns stun the listener and keep him in constant suspense.
Thus the very hurried speaking of the first turba chorus issues in a long-held
sharply dissonant dyad of the bassoons, horns, trombones and tuba on the contraB-flat and the contra-A (m. 11). Then the mezzo soprano enters sinistro and minaccioso with the Tuba mirum, the text being at first mercilessly chopped up: while
the syllables Tuba mi- are held long, the remaining syllables, -rum, spargens
sonum are to be recited molto vehemente and presto. Ligeti, by the way, did not miss
the opportunity of dramatizing the word sonum musically by means of fanfarelike runs of the brasses (trumpets, trombones and tuba). In a letter to Harald
Kaufmann, he pointed out that the especially dark and baleful sound at this point
was due above all to four trumpets in lowest register a sound color combination
never tried out before.173
A third level in the Dies Irae consists of the lines that are to be articulated clearly:
the Mors stupebit et natura / cum resurget creatura and the Rex tremendae
majestatis / qui salvandos salvas gratis. Something impersonal, oracular, mystical
adheres to both of these passages, and both have in common the syllabic declamation of the text by the chorus. Yet how differently are the two passages shaped, and
what a degree of complexity does the treatment of the language attain to!
The Mors stupebit, to begin with, is to be recited pianissimo (first syllable sffpp)
and sotto voce in a whispering tone. The word Mors, Ligeti notes in the score, is to
be recited with great force, like a strongly breathed, hoarse outcry. With stupebit follows the actual sotto voce; but even in the pp the whispering is to remain very intense. In spite of the voicelessness (breathed = much air, little tone), the text is to
be clearly understandable. After a relatively brief but quite intense crescendo, the section closes in fourfold forte, with the last syllable of the word creatura to be pronounced voce ordinario. The Mors stupebit is, moreover, superimposed by the intonation of the verses coget omnes ante thronum, whose melody is distributed


syllable by syllable over diverse voices an impressive example of both polytexture

and splitting up.
The Rex tremendae majestatis follows a very different course. At the start, the
chorus intones the word Rex with full force and quasi shouting in fourfold
forte. Bit by bit the volume then decreases. For the words qui salvandos salvas
sotto voce poco a poco is prescribed. But with the last two syllables (gratis), the voice
is to nearly fade away (whispering tone). As a kind of counterpoint to this very differentiated scanning, the soprano soloist initially recites the Quid sum miser in an
extremely choppy manner as being in great terror and then, at the
recordare, describes zigzag-like, wide-spanned melodic lines.
A fourth level of style and expression, finally, is constituted by passages worked according to the polyphonic web technique. I am referring to the salve me, fons
pietatis! and the Oro supplex et acclinis / cor contritum quasi crinis, / gere
curam mei finis two widely separated, prayer-like passages assigned to the twelvevoice womens chorus. Whereas the salve me begin in a fourfold piano and rises
up to threefold forte, the Oro supplex is to be recited ppp sempre, quasi lontano
(from afar) and restrained. With this passage, the Dies Irae ends.
The more attentively one listens to the movement, the firmer ones impression
grows that its unique drama results from the intensity of the contrasts and from the
recurring alternation between the stylistic and expressive levels I have described.
The concluding Lacrimosa, functioning as an epilogue, is scored only for the two
soloists and for an orchestra reduced to chamber-music dimension. The chorus
falls silent. In his sketches, Ligeti made the following notes for this movement:
After the great tutti, two soloists are by themselves again, over an indifferent emptiness (initially without accompaniment, then faint
fl[ute], cl[arinet] or something comparable) 2 solos, Lacrimosa.
Low, calm, muted part procession or chorale (episode). Possibly to be
grouped according to timbres: low drums (or bass drum) trombones,
horns and tubas (W[agner]-tuba and cb [contrabass]-tuba).
Dreamlike transformation of the complicated masses, purification,
transition to a weak swinging (1-3, 1-2).

A close look at the score will reveal that many of these ideas were realized.
Thus the movement commences with a pedal point of three double basses on
the low C-sharp. Later, two piccolos and a flute join softly. This sound image evokes emptiness, a vacuum. Even later (at letter F), we come upon the
muted part of the sketches: a relatively short passage of muted strings.


Compared with the Kyrie and the Dies Irae, the far simpler relations of
the Lacrimosa are particularly striking. Ligeti regarded the latter as an act of
purification. The movement therefore, which is dipped in delicate tints,
moves entirely on the piano level. Particularly characteristic of the conception
is that fact that the litany-like duet of the soloists repeatedly issues in pure
consonances: perfect fifths and perfect octaves.
In the previously cited lecture at the Hamburg Music Academy, Ligeti shared
a further piece of information that deserves our attention He indicated that
there were considerable similarities between the Dies Irae of the Requiem
and his opera Le Grand Macabre, mans fear of the end being the subject of
both works except that in Le Grand Macabre the theme was treated in an
ironic manner.
Our discussion of the relation between language and music in the Requiem has
shown that, apart from some passages, the text is unintelligible. Even so, the
music is able to translate the gesture of the language and to communicate very
suggestively diverse psychic states such as supplication, horror, anxiety and
dismay. In addition, the several clearly articulated text fragments the words
Domine, exaudi orationem meam in the Introitus and the Mors
stupebit and Rex tremendae majestatis in the Dies Irae act like signals
evoking associations of existential exigency, of death, judgment and prayer.
Ernst Bloch said of the music of the great requiem settings that it procured,
not aesthetic pleasure, but shock and consternation. Although for nearly two
centuries the ecclesiastical text of death and damnation has no longer been
believed by most people, he noted, it continued to be alive in the music,
which had a profound understanding of Ends.174 To support his thesis, Bloch
cited the requiem masses by Mozart, Cherubini, Berlioz and Verdi. To this illustrious company one will be permitted to add also Ligetis Requiem.
2.7 Lux aeterna
Like Apparitions in 1958, Lux aeterna of 1966 is again a corner-stone in my work.175
With this piece, the mode of composing in total chromaticism has been transcended.176

After the completion of the Requiem in January of 1965 (the world premiere of
this monumental work took place in Stockholm on March 14, 1965), Ligeti
turned to other projects: in December of 1965, he was able to complete the
Nouvelles Aventures. Even so, the parts of the mass that he had not composed
seem to have continued to occupy him. Especially the communio of the funeral

mass and the idea of the eternal light expressed in it must have affected
him. When Clytus Gottwald made him an offer to write a piece for the
Stuttgart Schola Cantorum, he did not hesitate long. In July and early August
of 1966, he wrote the Lux aeterna for sixteen-voice a cappella chorus.
Lux aeterna represents not only a new but an important step in Ligetis compositional development. In this work he succeeded in overcoming the chromaticism and the counterpoint reigning in the Kyrie eleison of his Requiem
and in once again, after a long time, opening up a new harmonic dimension
for his music. Because of this innovation, he regarded Lux aeterna, also in view
of Lontano, as a prototypical work.177
In studying the work, it becomes clear that, along with canonically worked
portions, there are homophonically conceived passages, which Ligeti called
stationary sounds or harmonies. Importantly, however, these so very different parts are not simply juxtaposed but flow into each other. An original
technique of transformation is at work here: from complexly fashioned canonic parts, which, viewed harmonically, form clusters, by and by stationary
sounds crystallize out, from which, in turn, canonic formations containing
clusters develop. Listening to the piece, one obtains the impression that diffuse sound images alternate with harmonically smooth expanses: clustercontaining material morphs into consonance-like harmonies and vice versa.

FS 7 Lux aeterna: Ligetis construction plan (first publication)

In his introduction to the piece, Ligeti spoke of harmonic sound complexes

and more or less chromatically muddied sound expanses and commented:
One could compare this process to a stage set that at first is clear to
sight in all its details, but then a mist arises, and the contours of the
set become indistinct, until finally the set itself has become invisible;


then the fog dissolves, new contours emerge at first only in vague outlines, until, the mist having dissipated, a new image appears178.

Visual ideas are thus likely to have played a role in the conception of this iridescent piece. Brightness and clouding are optical associations that will occur
also to the listener.
Perhaps because it is one of Ligetis most popular pieces, Lux aeterna has been
discussed repeatedly.179 Of fundamental relevance for any analysis, however, is
Ligetis construction plan, which here is published for the first time (Facsimile
Upon close inspection, the ten sections into which it is divided reveal themselves as marking the various tonal fields. Formally, however, the piece actually divides into four parts, each of which commences with a canon, which is
then followed by a stationary sound. At the start of the third part (exactly in
the middle of the composition), the beginning of the new canon and the stationary sound coincide. The following rough formal division may facilitate a
first orientation:
Section I
mm. 1-37

Female voice complex

mm. 24-37

a1-a2 held by the sopranos and tenors: luceat

mm. 37-41

Domine invocation of bass falsetto (quasi eco)

Section II
Mm. 39-61

Complex of male voices

Section III
Mm. 61-90

Tutti, then

from m. 80

male voices only

Mm. 87-92

second Domine invocation

Section IV
Mm. 90-119 Female and male voices, at the end only alto voices
Mm. 94-102 b1-b2 held by sopranos and tenors: luceat
The stationary sounds deserve our special attention because they serve as
formal piers that clarify the overall course of the work. What is striking, to
begin with, is that in three places (mm. 24 ff., 61 ff. and 94 ff.) Ligeti uses octaves. If we ask why he would resort to the most perfect consonance in a
composition that has nothing in common with tonal music, we should note

the high pitch of the tone in two of the places and its brightening quality: the
word luceat is thereby underlined semantically. Quasi-consonantal in effect in
this environment are also the thirds-seconds sounds f#1-a1-b1 (m. 37), b2-a2-f#2
(mm. 94-102) and g1-bb1-c2 (m. 61), as well as the related second-third sound
e-g-a in m. 87. The quasi-stenographic notation of the canonic parts with the
conspicuous arrow-like lines indicates the gradual formation of the clusters,
from the first note (or notes) to the final sound.
Ligetis very informative construction plan also helps us to realize that the
suddenly entering tutti sound in m. 61 divides the piece, which consists of 119
bars, in two nearly identical halves, between which numerous symmetries obtain, without there being any question of an exact mirror-symmetric disposition. Several things in this context are worth noting: the piece begins on the
note f1 and closes on the dyad f/g; to the highly pitched luceat in Part I (mm.
24 ff.), an even higher exclamation corresponds in part II (mm. 94 ff.); in
both parts a Domine invocation occurs in the form of a stationary sound (mm.
37-41 and 87-92); and the third-second sound f#1-a1b1 of the first part (m. 37)
recurs in the second, except transposed an octave higher (m. 100).
Opinions are divided on the meaning of the Lux aeterna. Clytus Gottwald interpreted the work in light of Dieter Schnebels call for a negative sacred
music demanded by our time, and thought that the eternal light in the piece
appeared as vanishing, as a curtain that, withdrawn, opens the view to the
true eternity, that of suffering.180 Hans Michael Beuerle, by contrast, held
that the Lux aeterna, like all works aimed at autonomy, was affirmative,
not, indeed, in terms of dogma and liturgy, yet in terms of its text.181 In my
view, the decisive factor for Ligeti was his poetico-musical conception: the vision of the changeable light, occasionally flashing up, but for the most part
shining rather dimly. It is indicative that the composition is kept throughout
in the piano and pianissimo sphere. The differentiation of the music is achieved
not by dynamic means but by the spatial disposition of the sound and by the
unique fluctuation of the harmony.
2.8 Continuum
As Maurits Escher sought the illusion of a non-existing perspective, so I seek the illusion of unplayed rhythmic structures.182

Ligeti commanded a profound knowledge of the tonal and technical peculiarities of individual instruments. All of his instrumental works are suitable to the
instruments used in both conception and execution, and that goes for the
keyboard works as well as for the chamber music, and of course for all the

concertos. About his Continuum, composed in January of 1968, he wrote to his

friend Ove Nordwall in February that technically it was invented entirely
from the possibilities of the harpsichord and was to be played on two manuals in the same position183.
In a listener coming from traditional music and hearing the piece for the first
time, Continuum might create the impression of a perpetuum mobile. In any
event, it represents the type of mechanical music. The sketches indeed include the note like a precision mechanism, and Ligeti in fact initially
thought of entitling the piece Mechanismus but then called it Continuum. A
continuum in mathematics is a continuous geometric construct created by the
connection of numerous points, such as a line or a circle. It is very likely that
in settling on the definitive title Ligeti had this mathematical concept in mind:
in the quoted letter to Nordwall he compares the plucking of the strings to
points that fuse into lines.
In the printed edition, Ligeti writes about the piece:
Prestissimo = extremely fast so that the individual notes are hardly
perceptible any longer but fuse into a continuum. To be played very
evenly without any articulation. The correct tempo will have been attained if the piece (without the final pause) takes less than four
minutes. The vertical dotted lines are not bar lines (there is no beat or
meter) but only serve for orientation.

The remark not only is important for the recital but also provides insight into
the conception and character of the piece. The sketch also has the note: The
legato comes about in that the keys remain depressed during the next notes
and [are] let up only when necessary for the new [?] stroke. This direction
was suppressed in the edition, but Ligeti wrote to Nordwall: The sounding
together of the strings (direction: key to be left depressed until the same finger is needed again) creates the impression of continuity.184
Ligetis calculations as to the length of play in the sketches are instructive.
Both there and in the printed edition the orienting bars comprise 16 notes
(strokes) each. The piece was initially conceived with four seconds for 48 = 3
x 16 strokes (thus 12 strokes per second) in mind. Accordingly the duration
of the piece was to be 432. The definitive direction prescribes an even
shorter recital length: less than four minutes. To attain that, the pianist
must manage to play 14 strokes per second.
Continuum has no rests or breaks. Nevertheless, latent caesuras enable one to
detect a division into four parts:185

first part

mm. 1-56

second part mm. 57-91

third part

mm. 92-152

fourth part mm. 153-204

While the first two parts make a rather static impression in spite of the uninterrupted figuration, the third part is dynamically agitated: the two hands
begin in the middle position and move quasi chromatically in opposite directions. The last part stays in the highest register and ends abruptly.
Beginning with Continuum, Ligeti distanced himself from his micropolyphony
and its highly complex rhythmic structures and gives artistic expression to a
different idea: that of a simple and uniform rhythm. The principle according
to which the piece is constructed is that of an ostinato repetition and gradual
transformation of figures comprising from two to eight notes, which are
played on both manuals. There are passages where both hands concurrently
play figures of two, three, four, five, six or eight notes, and others where figures of different length are counterpointed. For example, in mm. 13/14, the
right hand plays a three-note, the left a two-note figure. In mm. 15/16, threenote figures appear in both voices, but in a characteristically off-set manner.
In m. 17, a three-note figure (right) is combined with a four-note one (left),
and in mm. 218-20, a four- with a five-note one (Ex. 14). As one can see, the
notation is grid-like, and in fact Ligeti called the technique of the simultaneous combination of differently structured figures Gitterberlagerung or
grid superimposition.

Ex. 14 Continuum: Grid superimposition

For a different example, in a number of places, the same figure is played by

both hands but in quasi canonic displacement (Ex. 15).


Ex. 15 Continuum: Grid superimposition

Ligeti professed an aesthetic of the illusionary: he had a soft spot for deceptions,
both in visual art and in music. He prized the prints of Maurits Cornelis Escher
above all on account of their optical deceptions. He once observed about this artist:
Aesthetically, I do not even regard him as so great an artist, but in
terms of his ideas and their executions he is akin to me. My way of
working with constructions that yet are not mathematics, with geometric and arithmetic divisions, nets, grids they resemble his way of
working. As he sought the illusion of non-existing perspectives, so I
seek the illusion of not-played rhythmic structures. But I found patterns of rhythmic illusion long before I ever knew Escher already in
my piece for a hundred metronomes or in Continuum (1968).186

M. C. Escher, Upstairs and downstairs,

detail: (re Ligetis aesthetics of the illusionary)


Continuum indeed yields impressive examples of acoustic deceptions. One illusionary effect is the manner in which motion, despite the extreme speed, seems to pass
over into stasis: in several places one seems to hear slowly changing, densely structured clusters. No less remarkable is the fact that, along with the real motion, the
impression of an ideal motion often makes itself felt, which, in Ligetis words,
results from the tonal superposition, like two billowing motions that are alternately coincident with and displaced against each other.187 Thus the motion in mm.
125-149 lets the ideal melody, formed of the high crest notes g2 g#2 a2 a#2
b2 c#3 flash up, while the corresponding counter-motion in the bass suggests a
melody formed of the low keel notes f e eb d c#. Ligeti may have been quite
surprised when he read Gerhard Kubiks account of inherent tonal sequences and
melodies in Central-Africa music,188 since numerous such patterns are concealed in
his own harpsichord piece.
Like Lux aeterna, Continuum is a key work for Ligetis compositional development.
The direction he entered upon with this piece he continued to pursue in subsequent compositions for the piano, for example in the second of the Three Pieces for
Two Pianos of 1976. Even the tricky polyrhythmics and polymetrics of the Piano
Etudes, it would be no exaggeration to say, are rudimentarily preformed already in
the Continuum.

2.9 New Conceptions of the Concertante: Notes on the Cello Concerto

The entire construction of the music, on the other hand, is
shaped in a concertante manner.189

Looking over the repertoire of instrumental concerti composed in the 20th

century, one will find numerous variants of the genre: next to concertos that
revive Baroque practices and those that pay homage to Romantic or neoRomantic ideals, there are others that are oriented on serialism or sound
composition (Klangkomposition).190 Bernd Alois Zimmermann articulated the
view of many of his fellow composers when he wrote that in concert pieces
of the sixties there should be no longer any question of concertare, of any
contest of the soloist or soloists for the palm of virtuosity. Even so he
spoke of the undiminished fascination emanating from the instrumentalist
and his play, and not least from his instrument. In conceiving his cello concerto, he, Zimmermann, had had a stronger mutual pervasion of the former
opponents (soloist and orchestra) in mind.191
Ligeti wrote his much-played Cello Concerto between July and December of
1966 for Siegfried Palm. In a commentary, he set great store by a clear understanding that the piece was not in keeping with the Romantic type of the
symphonic concerto. Neither should the concerto character of the piece be

interpreted as though the solo cello and the orchestra were two separate
units confronting each other in competition and contrast. He thought it important to state that the concertante character permeated the entire construction of the music. However, he defined the relation between soloist and
orchestra as follows:
Ever new instrumental groupings continue to reticulate the motions,
with the solo cello steadily serving as the foundation of the varying instrumental combinations; beyond that, it also stands out in virtuoso
voice-leading as concertante principal instrument, although its unity
with the orchestral happening remains always in effect.192

The premiere took place in Berlin on April 19, 1967. Some of the attending
critics wondered about the conspicuous disproportion between the enormous
difficulty of the work and the acoustic result. Thus Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt opined:
The solo cello, to be sure, becomes the pedestal for a monument of
the most cunning virtuosity; a player of less skill than Siegfried Palm
would have to despair before such a parade of finger-technical, intonational and dynamic artistry. Yet his feats are built into the total
sound in such a way as to stand out very little. We see a man evidently
performing trapeze acts of cello play without his efforts becoming really audible.193

This impression is apt to arise if one associates concerts with an expectation

of a music of maximal bravura and occasional noisiness. There is in fact nothing pompous and nothing conventionally affirmative about Ligetis Cello Concerto. The piece is poetic music through and through. Both beginnings and
conclusions of its two movements are altogether unusual. Thus the work
opens with an extremely soft, all but endlessly held note of the solo cello (its
entrance is to be inaudible, as if coming out of nothingness), and it closes
with a highly original whisper cadence that disappears back into nothingness.
The music often conveys the impression of coming from far away. Its domain
is the piano and pianissimo sphere. In the first movement that sphere is practically never left. Some interjections in three- or even fourfold forte do occur in
the second movement, but they strike one as somehow exterritorial: the piano
level dominates here as well.
Whispering, a murmuring, whisper-like music is the mark of the Cello Concerto.
On the soloists whisper cadence, with which the work closes, Ligeti remarked in the score (p. 48): sempre prestissimo, quasi perpetuum mobile (no

slowing down to the end!); various pitches to be stopped on strings III and
IV, but to be played tonelessly. Numerous passages in the second movement, in which the instrumentalists execute sixteenths and thirty-seconds figurations pianissimo, have a whispering effect. And, of course, tremolando, trilland flautando-like passages likewise contribute to the whispering effect. A bisbigliando is explicitly prescribed twice for the harp: once in the first movement
(mm. 18-20), and once in the second (mm. 37/38).
There are indications that in conceiving his whisper-like music, Ligeti was influenced by Alban Berg, who in the Allegro misterioso of his Lyric Suite of
1925/26 had created an archetype of this genre.194 The following passage
from a letter to Ove Nordwall of February 7, 1967, clearly refers to that: In
the instrumentation you will, more than hitherto, find traces of my preoccupation with Alban Berg (although the music itself has hardly anything to do
with Berg, certainly it lacks any kind of pathos or romanticism []. 195
In the same letter, Ligeti tells Nordwall that the concerto was originally
planned as a single movement and divided into 27 seamlessly merging sections. In composing, however, he wrote, the form changed: one of the sections became independent and now formed the first, slow movement, whereas the remaining 26 sections formed the second. He added that the music of
the first movement was akin to the Atmosphres-Volumina-Lux aeterna type, as
well as to the Lacrimosa from the Requiem, whereas in the 26 sections of the
second movement he thought he could detect instrumental Aventures.196
An outstanding trait of the Cello Concerto is its transparency. the works chamber music-like character is prominent throughout. All of the instrumentalists
are treated like soloists the cello soloist is only primus inter pares and all have to contend with exorbitant technical difficulties, especially in the second
movement, where virtuoso play is foregrounded. At the same time, however,
virtuosity is nowhere flaunted. Cadence-like figurations are given not only to
the cello soloist but also to other instrumentalists, such as the trombonist, the
bassoonist, the hornist, the trumpeter and finally the double basssist (2nd
movement, mm. 44-49). On p. 32, the score has the following remark:
The entrances of the figures are metrically fixed, but after their entrance, the figures are played independently of the meter and the bar
limits, independently also of the other instruments, as fast as possible,
quasi flitting away, with the rhythm of the figures not having to be absolutely even but, depending on the playing technique, small rhythmic
irregularities being permitted to occur.


A further important aspect of the works conception is that most of the virtuoso and capriccioso passages seem like improvisations, although everything is
notated down to the last detail, and that in some places the players seem to
lose their self-control and to break out into playing wild (first in mm. 50-57
of the second movement). Each time, however (as in mm. 57-66), these
wild eruptions are followed by retarding sections that are mechanically
A listener interested in the specifics of Ligetis tonal language of the sixties
will discover several characteristics in the Cello Concerto. These, to name only a
few, include, in the first movement, the abruptly entering five-octave unison
of the strings (mm. 36 ff.), the cystoscopic accumulation of dissonances in
a high register (mm. 49-54), and the suggestive sound image of the vacuum
(mm.54-63) of which we spoke earlier;197 and in the second movement, the
technique of the strongly interferential mobile clusters (mm. 1-8 and 28-30),
the quasi-ethereal flageolet passage (mm. 28-33), the above-mentioned repeated
alternation between wild, extremely forceful stretches and indifferent, mechanically precise ones (mm. 50-66), and finally the prescribed absolute silence at the end.


2.10 On the Three Pieces for Two Pianos

The three pieces are connected, they add up to a selfcontained, if loosely joined whole. There are correspondences, quasi formal rhymes, in the construction of the individual
pieces. All three begin with the exposition of a relatively simple musical idea, which then unfolds in the direction of increasing complexity. They are not genuine developmental
forms, however, a motive-thematic conception is altogether
lacking, yet the forming processes are not static or open, either: they have a clear direction, and the formal construction
is self-contained. I propose the terms unfolding form or motion form for this sort of forms: specific types of motion are
steadily transformed, more and more ramified and interwoven with each other.
The playing is done exclusively on the keys, the givens of
the piano and of the hands are incorporated into the music,
as in Scarlatti, Schumann, Chopin (this solely from a pianistic
point of view: stylistically, the pieces have very little to do
with the traditional piano music only in the third piece are
there some allusions to Schumannesque and Brahmsian Romanticism).198

Among Ligetis compositions, the Three Pieces for Two Pianos stand out in terms
of both bulk and weight. Written between February and April of 1976 for the
Brothers Kontarsky, they were premiered in Cologne on May 15, 1976. The
composer furnished them with an introduction, which was repeatedly reprinted. The following remarks take it into account but are primarily the results of
Like the Continuum, these three pieces, too, are invented out of the spirit of
the instrument: Ligeti utilizes several tonal possibilities resulting from the interplay of two pianos. The three pieces, which bear suggestive titles, are as
different as imaginable in character. Each is based on its own structural idea,
and each harbors a specific, unmistakable expression. At the same time, there
are relations, analogies and commonalities between them: each one represents
a manifestation of that original formal idea for which Ligeti proposed the
terms Entfaltungsform or Bewegungsform (unfolding or motion form).
The idea is connected with the weaving technique so immensely characteristic of Ligetis music, that is, the procedure of modifying microstructures and
motion types so slowly that the impression of continuity is created in the listener.

About the first piece (Monument) Ligeti stated that the principal technical
task in it was the differentiation of the dynamic values.
At the start of the piece, there are only two levels of volume: ff and f;
but as it progresses, other levels or layers are added: mf, mp, p and pp.
These dynamic levels are fixed, there are neither crescendos nor diminuendos, and the different layers are simultaneously present: the ff,
for example, is linked to two specific recurrent pitches (these pitches
then change in time, but always in such a way that one can follow the
wandering of the ff), the same goes for the f, etc. In close succession and abruptly, the pianists play ff, p, f, mp, pp, etc., in ever changing permutation, but for the listener all the ffs appear as one layer, all
fs as a second layer (lying quasi behind it), all the way to the hindmost pp layer. In a precise realization of the dynamic differentiation,
the music appears as if it were three-dimensional, like a hologram
standing in an imaginary space. This spatial illusion lends a stationary,
immobile character (= Monument) to the music.

Besides the dynamic differentiation, the rhythmic one likewise plays a prominent role. The first piano begins with an octave sound, which is repeated thirteen times at regular intervals. It is followed by a two-note cell, which is repeated in diverse rhythms and is then expanded to a three-note cell. The second piano enters later and imitates what the first is playing on different degrees, so that at length constantly changing six-tone fields are presented by
the two pianos. Since the first pianist plays in four-fourth, the second in sixeighth time and the cells are constantly rhythmicized in new ways, the result is
the most intricate polyrhythm imaginable. The piece evokes a spatial illusion
as well as the impression of hammering, building and growing. Thus Monument resembles a study in martellato.
In 1972 Ligeti became acquainted with the music of the American minimalists Steve Reich and Terry Riley. He recognized analogies in it to his own
earlier pieces (especially Continuum) and reacted by deliberately working with
elements of minimalist music in his Clocks and Clouds of 1973. The points of
contact with the two composers are even more obvious in the second of the
Three Pieces for Two Pianos, which bears the self-ironic title Self-portrait with
Reich and Riley (and Chopin is in it, too). In his introduction, Ligeti stated
that he here melded techniques developed by Reich and Riley with his own
procedures of the grid superimposition and the oversaturated canon. He
had also, he said, utilized the technique of key blocking developed by KarlErik Welin and Henning Siedentopf and further developed it into mobile
key blocking: one hand depresses the keys soundlessly and in changing se115

quence, the other hand plays both on the sounding and on the momentarily
blocked keys, thereby producing novel rhythmic configurations.
Of fundamental relevance to the construction are figures of between two and
thirteen notes, which are repeated several times, gradually transformed, superimposed upon each other and played in phase displacement. The piece, which
is marked Presto: as fast and evenly as possible, is clearly divided into four part. In
the first, the pianists simultaneously play similar but differently structured figures, which are repeated several times and gradually transformed. Each figure
complex is distinguished by simple, regular pulses. But the superimposition
of the figures in both pianos results in complex, irregular rhythmic entities,
which produce the impression of pulsation, scintillation and oscillation. The
appearance of the notation is grid-like. Ligeti used this technique of the grid
superimposition also in the harpsichord piece Continuum and in the pizzicato
movement of the Second String Quartet. In the second part of the triple Portrait (spirited, energetic), the phase displacement technique is applied: the
pianists play the same figures, but successively, i.e., in imitation. The part of
the second piano has the marking Quasi eco. The rhythm of this part is capricious. A brief canon (cantabile) appears at the end as a counterpoint to the figures. At the start of the third part (impetuoso), the pianists take turns playing
the same or similar figures, the play then morphing into one in phase displacement. The fourth part is mostly marked by a uniform triplet motion in
unison and in pp, with occasional sudden brief bursts of fast fff play.
How are we to take the title? In his introduction, Ligeti places his techniques
of phase displacement and pattern repetition in direct relation to Reich and to
Riley, while referring to the grid superimposition as a technique characteristic
of himself. If we connect these indications with the results of our analysis, we
will realize that the first part of the piece is conceived by Ligeti as a selfportrait, the second and third part as homages to Reich and Riley respectively
and the fourth part as an allusion to the famous presto of Chopins Sonata in
B minor op. 35 (1939). The sense of allusion follows from the type of motion
and the aura of the eminently pianistic.
In the third piece (In gently flowing motion), both pianists play quasi arpeggioed
tone figures, at first in descending direction, later in contrary motion. Longerheld notes form cantabile melodies in the upper voices (an allusion to Schumannesque and Brahmsian Romanticism). The first 30 bars are to be recited
piano and a tempo. Then the motion waxes into an accelerando and a crescendo
that swells to a five-fold forte. The constructive idea of the third, as of the first,
piece is the gradual expansion of the pitch range: both pieces begin in the
middle region and then grow in the direction of the high and low registers.

But whereas the motion in the first piece (as well as in the second) oozes
away into nothingness, the third concludes with a chorale, one that is composed as an eight-part mirror canon and dies away into pianissimo.
2.11 Mad World Theater: Le Grand Macabre
I held on to the idea of a hyper-colorful, comic-like musical
and dramatic action: characters and stage situations should be
direct, terse, non-psychological and stunning the contrary
of the literary opera. Action, situation, characters should be
brought to life by the music, stage events and music should
be dangerously bizarre, wholly exaggerated, wholly crazy: the
novelty of this kind of music theater was to manifest itself,
not in the externalities of the production, but in the interior
of the music, by the music. The musical texture was not to be
symphonic: the musico-dramatic conception is to be worlds
away from the region of Wagner-Strauss-Berg. Closer to
Poppea, to Falstaff, to the Barber, yet different, not really
linked to any tradition, not even the tradition of avantgardism.199
Music and language of my opera are direct, nonpsychological, at times coarse, drastic. I wanted to get away
from the operatic ideal of the 19th century as well as from the
anti-opera of the recent past. The Grand Macabre is more
nearly in the tradition of the medieval dance of death, of the
mystery play and the Punch and Judy show, of the carnival
and suburbs theater. Already Ghelderodes play was close to
Jarrys Ubu Roi: it was the immediately grabbing/gripping effect of Jarrys manner that I tried to realize in music.200

Along with Apparitions, Atmosphres and the Requiem, the opera Le Grand Macabre is a central work of Ligetis creative middle period. Considering that the
opera opens an access to his intellectual-spiritual world, to his entire thinking
and his conception of art, one should not hesitate to call it in fact a key work.
Some authorities have placed it in the vicinity of the theater of the absurd.201
A decisive factor for any interpretation, however, is that in spite of all its absurdities and all its crazinesses, the opera conveys a whole series of messages that can be more or less precisely formulated.
Ever since 1965, Ligeti had the idea in mind of writing a piece for the Stockholm Opera, something Gran Gentele, general manager of the Stockholm
Opera, had asked him for. Ligeti at first thought of some kind of opera with
the title Kilviria, the imaginary country of his childhood. In 1969, he draft117

ed a mythological libretto on the Oedipus story, but dropped the plan when,
in July of 1972, he heard of Genteles lethal accident in Sardinia. His ideas
now circled about another subject, some tragic-comic, altogether exaggeratedly terrifying and yet not really dangerous Last Judgment. In searching for
such a subject, Ligetis collaborator, the stage designer Aliute Meczies late in
1972 remembered Michel de Ghelderodes La Balade du Grand Macabre of
1934, a play about the imminent end of the world and mans creaturely fear of
death.202 After reading the Balade, Ligeti was instantly electrified. This play,
he remarked later, was as if made for my musical-dramatic conceptions: an
apocalypse that then does not really take place, Death as a hero who in reality
is perhaps only a petty juggler and charlatan, the broken, yet happily thriving
world of booze and whoredom of the imaginary Breughelland.203 He instantly realized, however, that the ironic pathos of Ghelderodes language was
poorly suited to being set to music and thus asked Michael Meschke, the stage
director and manager of the Stockholm Marionette Theater, to write a libretto
in the manner of Alfred Jarry: very terse, non-psychological, like a puppet
play, very direct, but still sensuous.204 A first libretto version that Meschke
presented already by the end of March 1973 was not yet concentrated enough
for Ligeti. So Meschke produced a second version in the summer, which Ligeti then versified and improved rhythmically, making countless major changes in Meschkes text in the process, until it had the shape that satisfied him.
After some preparatory sketching in the summer of 1974, he started on the
composition in December of the same year. The work took two-and-a-half
years to complete: by the end of April, 1977, the last page of the score was
finished in clean copy. The premiere of the opera took place on April 12,
1978, at the Royal Opera of Stockholm.205
It is impossible to discuss either the genre and character of the opera or the
composers intentions without having the action clearly in mind. Here is Ligetis own synopsis of the plot:
The action of the opera takes place in the totally run-down yet happygo-lucky thriving principality of Breughelland, one ruled over by the
gluttonous, babyish Prince Go-Go. The prince is tyrannized by his
two corrupt ministers, the leaders of the two mutually hostile parties,
the White and the Black, who, however, do not at all differ in their
outlook. Thus the business of the state is conducted in a thoroughly
muddled fashion.
All the more efficient is the reign of terror perpetrated in the house of
the court astrologer by his dreadful wife Mescalina. Astramadors has
to sweep the floor, wash the dishes, darn the socks, and hardly has any


time for his real occupation of star-gazing. When, regimented by Mescalina, he does reach for his telescope, he spots a comet that is rushing
toward Earth. He swiftly calculates the collision course of the celestial
body and realizes that the comet will devastate our planet still today,
exactly at midnight.
The main actor of the opera is Nekrotzar, the Grand Macabre, a sinister, shady, demagogic figure with an unshakable sense of mission. He
claims to be Death himself, come to Breughelland to wipe out, with
the aid of the comet, the entire population, and therewith the world as
a whole. In darkly magnificent pomp, he enters the princely palace
and there, sure of victory, proclaims his apocalyptic threats. But he
gets caught up in the vortex of the all-too mundane life of the Breughellanders and is inebriated so thoroughly by the court astrologer and
his boon companion Piet-vom-Fass [of the Vat] that by the time midnight rings out he is so drunk that the lofty gesture with which he announces the end of the world falls totally flat. In their intoxication, the
Breughellanders think they are already in heaven, but it gradually becomes apparent that in heaven everything happens exactly as it does
on earth. Everybody is still alive, only Nekrotzar, the Grand Macabre,
dies of grief at having missed his hallowed aim.
If he was indeed Death, then Death is now dead, eternal life has thus
set in, and Earth equals the Kingdom of Heaven: the Last Judgment
has taken place. But if he was only an arrogant charlatan, a dark, false
Messiah, and his mission only empty phrases, then life goes on as usual: Everybody dies someday, but not today, not right away.206

Le Grand Macabre: Amando


Le Grand Macabre Nekrotzar: death, a juggler,

the false Messiah? (Stockholm, 1978)

In a conversation with Hermann Sabbe, Ligeti provided some pointers for a

deeper understanding of the work. To get to know the work better, he said,
one needed to proceed from its overall form. The opera was designed as a
kind of hugely magnified bar form. While the first three scenes were comparable to stollen, the much shorter fourth scene functioned as abgesang. All three
stollen had in common that they issue in progressively surpassing crescendos.
First scene: idyll between the two lovers Amado and Amanda, followed by
the entrance of Piet-vom-Fa and later of Nekrotzar. Second scene: another
idyll, although this time malicious, between Mescalina and her Astradamors,
here, too, great crescendo, crowned by the arrival of Nekrotzar accompanied

by Piet-vom-Fa. Third scene: again idyll (or a variant of the idyll) in the
throne room of Breughelland, this time between the prince and his ministers,
an idyll leading to the most dramatic of the crescendos, the entrance of Nekrotzar, now accompanied by Piet and Astradamors. The fourth scene, much
more concentrated than in Ghelderode, forms the epilogue.207
On the surface, the opera exhibits some tragicomic aspects. Its principle, Ligeti said, was a strangely iridescent ambiguity. Everything was constantly ambiguous: the serious was humorous, the comical deadly serious. Even the
stupid texts, perhaps annoying to some viewers at first hearing, were actually tragic at their deeper level.208
Le Grand Macabre, to be sure, is no tragicomedy in the ordinary sense, but a
work that cannot be reduced to any clich an opera sui generis, that owes
much to pop art and, as Ligeti said, is, if anything, in the tradition of the medieval Dance of Death, of the mystery play and the Punch-and-Judy show, as
well as of the carnival and suburbs theater. In conceiving the work, Ligeti derived impulses both from literature (Franz Kafka, Fritz von HerzmanovskyOrlando, Alfred Jarry and Boris Vian), from the paintings of Hieronymus
Bosch, and from the English pop art of Peter Blake.
A propos of Jarry in particular, Ligeti knew, and greatly esteemed, the wellknown stage play Ubu roi (King Ubu) of the French writer Alfred Jarry (18731907). First performed in Paris in 1886, the play burlesques tyranny and the
greed for power, was praised by Dadaists and Surrealists, and is regarded as a
forerunner of the Theater of the Absurd.209 The ruler of Ligetis Breughelland,
the gluttonous and babyish Prince Go-Go, bears some resemblance to the
primitive, cowardly, gormandizing and power-obsessed Pre Ubu, who succeeds in usurping the Polish throne and to tyrannize the population with his
selfish tax policy. A number of vulgar turns of phrase in Ligetis piece, too,
were sponsored by corresponding turns in Jarrys play.
Ligeti was no real friend of psychoanalysis. It is therefore all the more peculiar that he nearly always argued in a psychologizing manner when he talked of
Le Grand Macabre. The basic theme of the opera, he thought, was the defeat of
fear through defamiliarization or alienation (Verfremdung) fear being the fear
of death and of the end generally, but also the fear of human civilization being destroyed by atomic death. Fear could be overcome only by caricature, by
ridiculing, making fun of serious things. It was very important to keep an
ironic distance to things.
Verfremdung is indeed one of the leading principles of the work. False Latin,
false rhymes, out-of-context quotations, pseudo-quotations, distortions and

transmogrifications are the order of the day in it. During his third entrance,
Nekrotzar paraphrases the Dies Irae and misquotes from the Book of Revelations. Well-known things are twisted out of shape in ironic refraction. Wellknown musical quotations are verfremdet by diverse changes. The music frequently takes on the function of ironizing, burlesquing, parodying, travestying.
Michael Meschke had completed the second version of the libretto on August
10, 1973. During the summer of 1974, at the latest, Ligeti began to worry
about a definitive shape of the text, about stylistic details, and naturally also
about the musical setting. He made so many changes in the original, frequently during the act of composing, that the final text differs substantially both
from Ghelderodes Balade and from Meschkes libretto. Of special significance are his borrowings from the Apocalypse of St. John, from the Dies Irae
and from Goethes Faust. Meschkes typescript contains numerous entries and
marginal comments in Ligetis handwriting that permit inferences about the
process of the plays gestation (see Facsimiles 8 and 9, below).
The bizarre, the ludicrous, the grotesque and extreme irony are the most
prominent earmarks of Le Grand Macabre. Nothing is in sync, everything is
askew, everything shows in distorted perspective. Ligeti, as is clear from his
earliest notes, imagined the imaginary Breughelland, a broken world that
knows no worries, as a kind of Cockaigne, where roast chickens fly through
the air and rivers flow with wine. In the first scene, to begin with, the love relationship between Amando and Amanda is ironized. Love is reduced to the
purely sexual: in Meschkes libretto the lovers originally bore the drastic
names Clitoria and Spermando. In the second scene, the sado-masochistic altercation between Astramadors and Mescalina, a specific variant of the relation between the sexes is drastically burlesqued, with the crude, coarse, vulgar
and obscene approaching the nauseous. Mescalina stands for the bestial side
of man and for human cruelty. The third scene travesties the (totalitarian)
state and the political system, the infantile potentate, the corrupt functionaries
of the state and their fiscal policy.210
Death, too, is included in the ironic process. Though certainly outfitted with
numerous daemonic traits in the definitive version of the play, he succumbs
to intoxication and cannot carry out his work of annihilation the fearful end
of the world fails to occur. Crazily enough, the only figure in the opera that
really dies is Nekrotzar himself. Accordingly, the court astrologer Astramadors poses the question in the concluding scene: Was he Death, or perhaps only a mortal, like us?

FS 8 Scene 3: tam tam, bossa nova, bird chirping,

codetermination, Heidegger jargon


FS 9 Ligetis insertions into the stage directions of M. Meschkes libretto

Nearly everything remains up in the air in the final scene: pure illusionism
reigns at the end. The question remains open whether the Breughellanders are
in heaven or on earth, whether eternal life has already commenced or death
still impends. Amando and Amanda expound their idea of eternity in these

For the best that there can be

Is to make love exhaustively.
If one does that, time stands quite still,
Besides eternity there then is nil.

Among Ligetis numerous interventions in Meschkes text, one deserves special mention. After Nekrotzar has proclaimed his evangel that all who are
born are to die! he orders Piet to bring him his paraphernalia from the grave.
The obedient Piet hands him the scythe and the trumpet and drapes a wrap
that is studded with little bells around his shoulders. Thereupon Nekrotzar
asks in Meschkes version:
Well? Who am I
On the eternal world theater?

Ligeti thought the passage needed to be elaborated and gave it the following
Nekrotzar: Well? What do you say to that? Tell me, who am I?
Hman actor. An opera singer, hahahaha!
Nekrotzar: Yes! Actor, hahahaha!
Actor on the stage
Of the great world theater!

The emphatic reference to the great world theater at this point is especially
In considering the genesis of the opera, it is important to know that Ligeti
developed concrete musical ideas concurrently with his work on the textbook.
From the start, he had a colorful, dangerously bizarre, altogether exaggerated and quite mad music in mind that should be indebted to no tradition.
His musico-dramatic conception should be altogether remote from the German tradition of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Alban Berg and rather
closer to the Romance tradition of Monteverdi, Verdi and Rossini. The earliest notes for the composition in fact include numerous references to Rossini
and sporadic ones to Verdis Falstaff and Otello, to Bizets Carmen, even to
Jacques Offenbach. The notion of a stretta in the manner of Rossini may well
have fascinated Ligeti from the start, since Meschke designed the scene between Prince Go-Go and his two ministers as a sequence of accelerations.
But there are also allusions to the rhythm of the anvils in Wagners Rheingold
in Ligetis notes, as well as to the stormy scene between Brnnhilde and
Waltaute in Gtterdmmerung.
Le Grand Macabre differs from German music drama also insofar as the texture of the music is not symphonic and lacks an elaborate system of leitmo125

tifs. Yet Ligeti did not want to do without leitmotiv-like linkages altogether.
The approaching apocalypse, the theme common to the first three scenes, offered plenty of opportunities for cross-references opportunities Ligeti knew
how to use.
Toward the end of the first scene, for example, upon Nekrotzars threat to
mow the good and the bad down indiscriminately, a chorus of spirits behind the stage intones at first in a two-voiced version and a little later again
in a four-voiced one the following chorale:
Doom is already nigh:
Thou art in misery
For Death comes certainly!
Beware and hark,
At midnight dark
Thoult die!

(The tune of this chorale, which is altogether absent in Meschke, unmistakably echoes the Protestant chorale O Welt, ich muss dich lassen [O world, I
have to leave you], though it is a mere allusion rather than a quotation [Ex.

Ex. 16 O Welt, ich muss Dich lassen (top), Le Grand Macabre, scene 1,
piano score 56/57 (above)


Then, in the third scene, after the grand entrance of Nekrotzar and his words
For now is come the great day of wrath! another (mixed) backstage chorus,
now representing the people of Breughelland, intones ffff always forzato the
Alas, o Prince, and woe!
See our dreadful throe!
Were in distress,
warned of duress:
Thy aid and comfort show!

This renewed chorale-like intonation clearly recalls the earlier spirit chorale
in scene 1 and connects thematically to it: what was prophesied in the first
scene has now come to pass.
A leitmotiv function can also be ascribed to the apocalyptic music given to
Nekrotzar. There is, to begin with, the signal of the bass trumpet, which in
the first scene sounds three times, behind the stage, during the intonation of
the spirit chorale and then again, in the third scene, five times at the door
into the hall during Nekrotzars entrance always in a different variant. At
the beginning of the grandiose entry (no. 457), it exhibits the dodecaphonic
form reproduced below (Ex. 17), with the two last notes repeating the first

Ex. 17 Apocalyptic trumpet signal

Then, toward the end of the entry parade, the trumpets and the trombone
blare out, in unison and five-fold forte, a longer fanfare (no. 470), which will
be intoned twice more later on, first in a two-voiced version (no. 475) and
then in a four-voiced one (no. 481). The music of the heavenly trombones,
too, sounds three times (nos. 489, 495 and 518), the first two times following
upon Nekrotzars apocalyptic proclamations.
The mad world in which the action of Le Grand Macabre takes place can only
be mirrored by an equally crazy tonal realm. Ligeti accordingly avails himself
of an abnormal set of instruments. The bass trumpet is only one of the
many unusual instruments the score calls for: harmonica, sirens, diverse swanee, signal and alarm whistles, and lots of brasses, often played in extreme
registers. In order to give the music a woodcut-like character, Ligeti deliber127

ately dispensed with the usual large string ensemble. 15 solo strings, mixed
with woodwinds and horns, he wrote, represent the lyrical elements: especially in the singing of the transfigured lovers Amando and Amanda, who,
blissfully unaware, sleep together, in Nekrotzars tomb, right through the
supposed end of the world.211
The prelude to the first scene is modeled on Monteverdis Toccata but is
played, not by trumpets, clarinets and trombones, but by twelve automobile
horns. Ligeti commented: The denaturalized, choking, stiff sound of the car
horns, a kind of malfunctioning brass section, signalizes the broken world of
Breughelland. No less crazy is the prelude to the third scene, which is instrumented for six doorbells!
In line with the crazy world of sound, Ligeti evidently also set great store by
casting the figures of the opera with the most diverse vocal types, as a glance
at the list of characters will show:
Dramatis personae
Chief of the Secret Political Police
(Gepopo) [cf. Gestapo!]
Prince Go-Go
Piet- vom-Fass
Ruffiack [ruffian]
Schobiack [scoundrel]
Schabernack [prankster]
White Minister
Black Minister

Coloratura soprano
High soprano
Mezzo soprano (trouser role)
Boy soprano or high countertenor
Dramatic mezzo soprano
High buffo tenor
Character baritone (demonic role)
Speaking part
Speaking part

The distribution of vocal types is often logical. That the childish, fat and gluttonous Prince Go-Go should be cast as a high countertenor makes immediate
sense. By contrast, it may seem odd that the role of the chief of the secret police should of all things be assigned to a coloratura soprano and that Ligeti
endowed it with traits of a trilling, chirping songbird. The explanation may lie
in the fact that in the palace scene in Ghelderodes play a whistling, piebald

bird appears to transmit messages and reports from the chief of the security
police to the prince and his two ministers.212
A closer look at the musical treatment of the various character types reveals
characteristic stylistic levels and idioms. To cite only a few representative examples: the music of the two lovers, who seem in a perpetual trance, is
throughout lyrical in nature. Their voices prefer narrow intervals and over
long stretches are set parallel (at times even in thirds!) a musical emblem of
total harmony. In working out their love duets, Ligeti had in mind an idiom
close to that of the 14th-century composer Johannes Ciconia. As a stage direction tells us, he imagined Amando and Amanda as a young, very beautiful
pair of lovers, as if from a Botticelli painting.
In Ghelderode, Nekrotzar, the Great Macabre, is endlessly tall, thin as a rail
and has deep-set, piercing eyes.213 In Ligetis opera, he is given a more demonic appearance. He is, as an important stage direction has it,
costumed as Death. His head can be a skull, his body a skeleton. Costume and make-up should, however, also include something ambiguous and threadbare; one is to get the discordant impression that Nekrotzar could be Death or perhaps only a charlatan pretending to be
Death. Since at the end of the opera it turns out that Nekrotzar is in
fact Death itself, the sense of Death should predominate. The sense
of his being a juggler, a false Messiah is to play only a subliminal
part. Nekrotzar is very tall and gaunt, he should appear larger than
human. . . . At no. 38, Nekrotzar enters very suddenly. The door to
the burial chamber bursts open and Nekrotzar steps out of the vault.
This should occur in a surprising, trick-like, wholly dumbfounding
manner. Nosferatus sudden rise from his coffin in Murnaus film can
serve as a model.

Nekrotzars vocal part is distinguished above all by large, zigzag-like interval

leaps. The aforementioned signal of the apocalyptic bass trumpet serves as his
personal leitmotif. His entrances or his words are frequently underscored by
very deep double bass and/or contrabassoon, trombone and tuba tones. At
the end of scene 2, (nos. 274-275), such tones conglomerate into clusters
sounding as brutal as they are massive.
Within Ligetis oeuvre, Le Grand Macabre marks an important stage also in
compositional technique, inasmuch as he first developed a procedure here
that would become virulent in his later work. I am referring to the artificial
folklore, the cultivation of certain contrapuntal forms, such as the passacaglia and the mirror canon, as well as the simultaneous use of different tempo

Ex. 18 Le Grand Macabre, scene 3: artificial folklore

How are we to interpret the peculiar term artificial folklore? In devising the
part of the Chief of the Secret Police in the third scene, Ligeti explained, he
had conceived a bizarre, non-existent folklore, which combined dissimilar
constituents in a certain way, including Brazilian samba and Andalusian flamenco elements, Bulgarian rhythms and others. The result, he said, was a

strangely artificial folklore. First he had made a rhythmic sketch, then had
fitted the text to the music or else written a text at the same time so that it
corresponded to the music.214
The passage in the third scene to which Ligeti alludes (nos. 395-401) is distinguished by an asymmetrical meter (11/8 = 4 + 4 + 3), by the use of exotic
instruments such as temple blocks, conga, bongos and castanets, by folkloristically tinged melody, and by its leggiero, scherzando or capriccioso character
(Ex. 18).
In an interview, Ligeti brought up the significance of contrasts in Le Grand
Macabre. Contrasts, he noted all but brutal contrasts played an important role in the dramatic action as well as in the music. The question then
arises, however: what holds the music together, and what establishes the
works thematic coherence? Basically one can say that the music is throughout
fitted to the scenic events and supplies a background for the stage action. It is
frequently gestural, has many illustrative traits, often forms tonal images, and
also tends toward self-contained forms.
Theatrical gestures are almost always in correspondence with musical ones.
Thus a two-voiced run tutta la forza in the first scene at no. 38 illustrates the
abrupt jumping up of Nekrotzar, who until then has lain in the burial chamber, and later on, too, underscores his peremptory gestures (nos. 78/79).
Again, Ligeti could not pass up the opportunity to suggest the canter of Nekrotzar and Piet at the end of scene 1 (at no. 104-106) with a tone-painting
ostinato rhythm . a deliberate allusion to the noise-like music of the
anvils in Wagners Rheingold.
The second scene the sadomasochistic altercation between the court astrologer and his domineering wife is marked by rapid changes in the scenic situation. The music accordingly undergoes quick changes in character as well.
The result is a motley series of contrasting images, which often pop up in isolation from each other, separated by general pauses. One is tempted to speak
of musical comics or cartoons. To give some examples: after Mescalina has
floored her husband with a karate chop, she is afraid for a moment of having
killed him and begins to lament. The music reacts ironically with novel sighing figures (no. 152-155). To test whether Astradamors is really dead, she
then lures a gigantic hairy spider from the corner and holds it under his nose.
Her singing (agitato erotico) is accompanied by the harpsichord and the organ
(nos. 158/159). Astradamors inarticulate shrieks evolve into a highly virtuoso
vocal passage, which is supposed to be performed like a crazy Baroque aria
(no. 1690-162). A little later (no. 169), Mescalina and Astradamors begin a

grotesque and shameless dance, as the stage direction has it. Even later,
when Mescalina orders Astradamors to go to his telescope and peer at the
stars, a beautiful and ethereal music commences (no. 187-190). The phenomenon of a peculiar refraction of light (It seems to meas if the spectral
rays of the twilight are undergoing a red shift) is illustrated by cystoscopic
tone clusters.
In light of the fact that the music of Le Grand Macabre nestles against the scenic incidents or else, as it were, comments ironically upon them, it may seem
strange that Ligeti here and there refers back to historic forms and techniques. The music for the copulation scene between Mescalina and Astradamors in scene 2 is written as a bourre perpetuelle; the grandiose entrance of Nekrotzar in the third scene has the shape of an ostinato; the music accompanying his dying is constructed as a mirror canon; and at the conclusion of the
opera we hear a passacaglia. Yet we cannot speak of a real discrepancy for
one thing because even in these cases there is either an astonishing congruence or a deliberate contrast between stage event and musical form; and for
another, because the traditional techniques are so much refined and developed that something entirely new is created.
In scene two, Nekrotzar enacts a violent love scene with Mescalina. Whereas Venus, remaining always in the background, follows the scene lustfully,
Piet and Astradamors react cynically, regarding it like a sports event. According to an important stage direction, there should be a grotesque, highly
charged contradiction between the vivid action and the music running along
as if behind an insulation glass. Despite the vehement happening, the scene
is sung sotto voce. There is thus an ironic contrast between the rather brutal action and the eminently graceful music of the bourre. The diverse quotations,
pseudo-quotations and allusions that are heard simultaneously with the bourre at this point are likewise meant ironically. Ligeti here loosely quotes JeanPhilippe Rameaus La Poule and then, note for note, Schuberts Grtzer Galopp.
Toward the end of the scene, four different tunes play at the same time
much as in the famous dance scene in Don Giovanni. Along with the atonal
bourre music of the orchestra, the E piano plays the Schubert gallop in G
major and in 2/4 time, the harpsichord a dance-like tune in E major and 2/4
time, and the organ a different dance-like tune in F major and in 3/4 time.
The chaos is complete when the three instruments, which begin in the tempo
of the orchestra, gradually accelerate their parts and end at different times
(Ex. 19).


Ex. 19 Le Grand Macabre, 2nd scene: a kind of collage

The music accompanying Nekrotzars entrance parade is undoubtedly one of

the grand moments of the opera. In terms of compositional technique, it realizes a whole slew of new and original ideas: it unites the concept of the ostinato with the ideas of the collage sonore and the simultaneity of different tempo

levels. The basis of the music is a four-beat rhythmic period that recurs, ostinato-like, 23 times. Its rhythm is borrowed from the celebrated bass theme of
the Eroicas finale a portentous allusion that makes fun of Nekrotzars
pompous heroics (Ex. 20)

Ex. 20 Rhythmic allusion to Beethoven

Importantly, the pitches of the ostinato bass (the rhythmic period consists of
13 notes) are organized according to a twelve-tone row, which in the first
twelve periods thus recurs thirteen times. That means that each of the first
twelve periods starts with a different note: the second period with the second
note of the row, the third with the third note, and so on.
It is constitutive for the ostinato technique that a persistently repeated bass
theme is accompanied by ever new melodies. In Ligetis entrance music, a
violin, a bassoon, a piccolo clarinet and a piccolo flute, entering one after the
other, play four melodies that contrast as harshly as conceivable with each
other. The violin plays a ragtime two-step, the bassoon a tune alla danza, the
piccolo clarinet a capricious melody and the piccolo flute a tune that is
marked leggiero. Meter and tempo of the four melodies differ: the melody of
the violin is in 2/4 time, that of the bassoon in 6/8 time, that of the piccolo
clarinet in 3/4 time and that of the piccolo flute in 4/4 time; and the metronome markings are = 60, = 80, = 138 and = ca. 192. From that one can
already see that Ligeti here first realized ideas that he had had in mind for
some time: the ideas of the collage sonore and of poly-tempos. A note in the
score reads: The representation of the various independent levels is only
proximate, it does not provide an exact picture of the polymetric process
coming about.
The totality of the entrance music makes a rather ambivalent impression. Its
character wavers between solemnity and jollity. This is deliberate and fully
corresponds to the scenic situation. At no. 457, the score has the following
stage direction:

Here begins the magnificent entrance of Nekrotzar plus entourage

(roughly at the drum or bass trumpet signal). Nekrotzar is riding on
Piet, the four musicians (picc., Eb-clar., bssoon and vl.) appear in costume, the remaining retinue (ad lib. dancers) are wearing medieval
carnival masks (devils masks). Their bearing is now solemn, now boisterous. Nekrotzar wields the scythe and blows the trumpet ad lib.

From this direction, at the latest, we realize that the ragtime music of the violin is a deliberate allusion to Stravinskys Lhistoire du soldat and that the solo
violin is to sound like a devils fiddle. Well suited to the ambivalent character
of the music are also the cha-cha sounds that become clearly audible at the
climax (no. 460) (Ex. 21).

Ex 21 Nekrotzars entrance: collage sonore and poly-tempo


The motif of intoxication plays a prominent role in Le Grand Macabre. The

Breughellanders, we know, are bibulous Piet-vom-Fa is a wine taster by
profession. After the apocalyptic threats uttered by Nekrotzar in scene 3, Piet
and Astradamors get drunk and seduce even the Great Macabre into tippling.
For the inebriation scene that immediately follows upon the scene of drinking
Ligeti uses the music of the bourre perpetuelle from the second scene, varying
and paraphrasing it and now titling it Galimathias (blather, palaver). The heading refers primarily to the confused chatter of Nekrotzar, who starts to sputter about his past deeds of annihilation.
No less impressive than the entrance music is the cosmic music Ligeti
wrote for the conclusion of the third and the beginning of the fourth scene.
The vision of global annihilation clearly forms the climax of the opera, scenically as well as musically. After the celestial trombones have sounded a final
time at nos. 565 ff., the totally plastered Nekrotzar does remember his mission and asks what time it is. Learning from Piet that it is a few seconds before midnight and suddenly recovering his senses, he calls for his scythe, his
trumpet and his horse, whereupon Prince Go-Go and Astradamors carry him
to a rocking-horse and mount him upon it. In a visionary pose, he now proclaims the end of the world:
Now time stands still, it is no more,
For what there is is eternity, emptiness
And the great Nil!
And I saw and I see:
The cruel midnight,
The last, the very last midnight strikes!
In the name of the Almighty
I dash to pieces now the world!

This entire section is styled as melodrama. Suggestive tonal planes of the orchestra underscore Nekrotzars apocalyptic proclamations. A whole series of
highly expressive tone columns form a tonal field initially located in the middle and low region and slowly opening on both sides of the tonal space in
such a way that the rising sound train gradually attains the highest register,
while the falling one sinks lower and lower. In that way, an ever expanding
vacuum stretches between the two tonal trains a sound image that vividly
emblematizes the arrest of time, but above all emptiness and nonentity.
Shortly after Nekrotzars In the name of the Almighty I dash to pieces now
the world (at no. 597), the horns and trombone sound misterioso slowly falling

chorale-like triads that sound oddly consonant. In a weirdly lurid light, Nekrotzar sings the words yes, it comes about, about, comes about. The
light goes out, it grows completely dark, and Nekrotzar falls off the rockinghorse. A backstage boys choir sings Consummatum est! on the note of a
pseudo-Gregorian intonation. The curtain falls slowly, the darkness becomes
The orchestral interlude at this point is surely among Ligetis most brilliant inspirations. Technically, it could be described both as a cluster composition
and as an invention on the tritone, with striking tremolos, swelling sounds
and, toward the end, a rapid reduction of the spatial volume the music
plunges into the abyss. According to a marginal note in Meschkes libretto,
Ligeti had dark, deep, black music in mind from the start for this interlude.
The fourth and last scene commences with a phantasmagoria: Dense fog.
Unreal, dream-like light. Piet and Astramadors are floating free in space: they
dream of being in Heaven. Astramadors, who speaks of metamorphosis,
thinks he is floating toward paradise. Piet thinks he already hears the harps.
Lines like Astramadors aperu Im growing wings! are also meant as ironic
allusions to the concluding scene of Goethes Faust Part II. The ethereal background of the music of the spheres in this scene is produced by flageolet
harmonies of the cluster-like disposed strings. Harmonica, horn and organ
tones add a somewhat saccharine note to the music.
With the entrance of the three thugs Ruffiack, Schobiak and Schabernack, at
the latest, the unreal character of the scene vanishes. Twelve automobile
horns recall the listener to the reality of Breughelland. Nekrotzar becomes the
center of a final grotesque scene. Now wanting to die, he staggers toward the
burial chamber. At that moment, Mescalina leaps from the vault like a fury,
rushes toward him and wildly chases him. She reaches him, holds him fast
and is about to plunge a spear into his breast, whereupon he utters a frightful, inarticulate shriek of fear. The action is meant as revenge for the violent sex episode in the second scene, in which Nekrotzar embraced Mescalina
brutally and finally bit her in the neck like a vampire.
Later the Grand Macabre dies in fact like a vampire. According to a stage direction, after the sun has risen slowly, he stands motionless for a while, then
begins to shrink, collapses, becomes smaller and smaller, contracts to a kind
of ball, continues to dwindle and finally vanishes, becoming one with the
ground. The sun stands in full splendor above the horizon.
For this process of dying, Ligeti wrote an artful, almost artificial music: a mirror canon for strings. It begins with two voices, related to each other like im137

age and its mirror image, and then gradually becomes four-part, six-part,
eight-part and finally ten-part, with the basic two-part scaffolding remaining
unchanged. At the start (no. 666), the strings play pianissimo, very tender and espressivo. At no. 669, a long diminuendo commences, which, in accordance with
the scenic happenings, closes with a morendo al niente.
After Nekrotzars evanishment, Astradamors and Piet deliver a kind of funeral oration on him. Thereupon Amanda and Amando step from the burial
chamber, clasped in each others arms. Although grossly disheveled, they are
of a wondrous gracefulness. They are blinded by the sunlight and at first are
oblivious of their surroundings. Astonished, Piet asks them:
Hello, children
Arent you aware
that the end of the world is here?

The lovers protest to have no fear of death: for them there is only here and
now! That slogan then becomes the watchword for everybody. At the end,
the entire cast sings:
Do not fear death, good people, nay!
It comes sometime, but not today.
And when it comes, well, then its here
Till then live well in mirth and cheer!

The passacaglia for this final scene is a stunt of consonant music. Its eight-bar
theme consists entirely of major and minor sixths. Later, when the vocalists
enter, triads of every kind occur; more complicated chords are rare. The consonant building-blocks, to be sure, are put together in such a way that the
passacaglia is everything but tonal. And this oddly consonantal music. as
Ligeti interpreted the piece, is in some way very solemn and sad. A life altogether without fear, a life of pure pleasure is in truth deeply wretched.
Le Grand Macabre holds a special position within contemporary musical theater. In 1971, Mauricio Kagels anti-opera Staatstheater premiered in Hamburg
a work that critically dismantles the traditional operatic genre and takes the
experimental trend to its limits. Ligeti avowed to have received a strong impression from this work, and for a time he thought of likewise writing an antiopera. Yet what became of this anti-opera plan was, in double negation, an
anti-anti-opera, namely Le Grand Macabre, a piece that has also little in common with the much-discussed Theater of the Absurd. For while Ligetis work,
in the final analysis, treats of the absurdity of human existence, it is based on
a quite logically progressing action and, in contrast to the Theater of the
Absurd, by no means dispenses with rational devices and discursive

thought.215 Le Grand Macabre, an opera sui generis, which mixes the comical
with the tragic, the silly with the demonic, is grotesque musical theater
cracked world theater.
A revised version of Le Grand Macabre was premiered on July 28, 1997 in
Salzburg. In a conversation, Ligeti explained the reasons for the drastic revision. In the first version, he said, the portion of spoken text was considerable,
as Michael Meschke originally had a play with music in mind. From the start,
however, Ligeti thought the proportion of sung and spoken text to be unbalanced. Thus he got in the habit of progressively trimming the spoken dialogue
from production to production the piece was staged more than twenty
times over the years. After 1988, his decision to systematically revise the work
in this respect became firm. From December 1995 to August 1996, he
worked intensively on this revision. In August of 1996, a fire broke out in his
Vienna apartment, which consumed a number of manuscripts. Miraculously,
the score of Le Grand Macabre was spared by the conflagration.
The new version, in which the spoken text was substantially abridged, is sung
nearly throughout. Spoken text occurs in relatively few places, and speech
song is assigned to others. One of the most massive interventions is the transformation of the two ministers, who were originally speaking roles, into comic vocal parts. Their comical entrance at the start of the third scene is hilariously shaped as a fast waltz. Major changes were also made in the fourth scene, which in the first version divided into several smaller numbers. Here, the
whole had to be freshly assembled. Besides, the concluding passacaglia was
substantially expanded, Ligeti feeling that it had ended too abruptly in its original version. The reworking of the score was not an easy matter: Ligetis style
had greatly changed in the intervening twenty years, yet he wanted to preserve
the original manner.
One of Meschkes guiding ideas in developing the libretto had been the intention to shock, to pater le bourgeois. That explains many rather uncouth
textual passages in the first version. They were softened in part by Ligeti, not
from prudishness, but rather from dignity.
Major changes were also made in the instrumentation. A number of passages
in the first version came to seem over-instrumented to Ligeti. He wanted to
make the sound more transparent. Here he also benefitted from the experiences he had gained from diverse productions of the work. Since the low pedal-point notes are hard to produce on the trombone, he decided to reassign
them to the contrabassoon and the double basses.


In the new version, Le Grand Macabre strikes one as far more operatic than the
first version. The spoken word was reduced to a minimum. The ambivalence
and dubiousness, but also the illusionary and lofty qualities seem to take effect
more strongly than in the old version.
2.12 The Turning Point ca. 1980
I would say the year 1980 was a major turning-point for music and art, including my music.216
For now, the Great Composing Machine is still utopian, but
today, in the second half of the eighties, we stand at the
threshold of fundamentally new regions of art. At the moment, that applies above all to the visual arts, but the repercussions for music will not be long in coming. This threshold,
I think, was first reached by experimental mathematics, when
Benit Mandelbrot for the first time pulled the apple manikins from his high-speed printer in 1980.217

After the completion of Le Grand Macabre, Ligetis compositional productivity

stalled. During the period until 1982, he did not succeed in completing any
new work. The starts he made into composing a piano concerto did not lead
to any satisfactory results. People who were close to him and knew his usually
admirable productivity began to speak of a creative crisis. There were several
reasons for this situation. For one thing, Ligeti twice needed prolonged hospital treatments. For another, the believed he might experience a decisive turning-point in contemporary art and music one that gave him a great deal of
trouble. He would not, and could not, take the road to the then rapidly
spreading post-modernism. But neither did he feel that he belonged any longer to the avant-garde.
While searching for a new direction, he received impulses from the American
composer Conlon Nancarrow, from the study of Central-African music, and
from fractal geometry, especially the viewing of fractal images. In addition,
there were stimuli he had gained from the area of computer music that had
now become virulent.
From January to July of 1974, Ligeti resided at Stanford University. Here he
was introduced to the realm of computer music by John M. Chowning,218 who
worked at the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence. What interested Ligeti in
this area was the projection of sound into space, the transformations of
sound color (timbre), the control of pitch and time and, not least, the precise
construction of tonal systems. Upon his return to Europe, he ceaselessly
propagated the new medium.

In 1980/81, he then became familiar with Conlon Nancarrows music for

mechanical pianos. Here what fascinated him, besides the technical perfection, was especially the concurrence of several tempo levels a compositional
possibility that had occupied him already earlier.219
In the fall of 1982, the Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra drew Ligetis
attention to recordings of instrumental and vocal music of the Banda Linda, a
tribe active in the Central African Republic.220 After repeatedly listening to the
recordings, Ligeti was stunned by the complexity of this both polyphonic and
polyrhythmic music (see the graphic representations, p. 64). Later he also had
opportunities to hear other recordings of sub-Saharan music, especially music
of the Pygmies and the Gbaya.221
In the spring of 1984, he met the ethnomusicologist Simha Arom in Jerusalem, who had made the recordings of the Banda linda music. Arom showed
him his transcriptions of Central-African music and explained its melodic and
rhythmic structures to him. Ligeti quickly noticed a remarkable discrepancy
between the formal structure of this music and its internal nature: the unchanging repetition of periods of equal length contrasted sharply, he thought,
with the highly complex inner structure of these periods, which were notable
for their superimposition of diverse rhythmic patterns.222 Aroms essays, his
further recordings, and above all his voluminous book Polyphonies et polyrhythmies instrumentales dAfrique centrale acquired a fundamental importance for Ligeti.
Once Ligetis interest for sub-Saharan music had been aroused, he sought to
expand his knowledge of the subject. In 1986, he read the book Musik in Afrika, edited by Arthur Simon and published in 1983 and was particularly taken
with the contributions by Gerhard Kubik, especially his disquisitions about
xylophone music (amadinda) in the ancient kingdom of Buganda and about
inherent patterns. By inherent patterns Kubik meant audible, structured
tone patterns that stand out from the total picture of a musical process as if
from a picture-puzzle. Emerging only in the act of perception they are not
played as such by the musicians but nevertheless are compositionally provided for in most cases.223 Considering Ligetis lively interest in the illusionary,
Kubiks theory was bound to fascinate him.
Ligeti was strongly fascinated also by pictures of fractal shapes, which he saw
for the first time in 1983. The following year, the biochemist Manfred Eigen
presented him with a catalogue of the exhibition Morphologie komplexer Grenzen
(complex liomits) of the Bremen research group headed by Heinz-Otto Peitgen and Peter H. Richter a volume containing highly impressive illustra141

tions. In 1986, he became acquainted with Peitgen and Richters book The
Beauty of Fractals,224 which increased his already potent enthusiasm for the subject (see the fig. below).

Computer fractal image of increasing resolution

(see Ligeti, Computer and Composition, below)

Fractal geometry is a branch of mathematics established in the 1960s by Benot Mandelbrot.225 In contrast to Euclidian geometry, which analyzes relatively simple figures such as circle, triangle, square, etc., fractal geometry concerns itself with the morphology of the amorphous. It endeavors to describe the irregular and splintered forms of nature, starting from the realization that clouds are not spherical, mountains not conical, coastal lines not circular. Bark is not smooth, Mandelbrot says, and lightning does not force
its way in a straight line. To describe these irregular forms adequately, Mandelbrot coined the term fractal, derived from the Latin adjective fractus = broken. The most useful fractals, he thought, encompassed the fortuitous in its
regularities as well as its irregularities.

With the aid of a computer experiment, Mandelbrot, in 1980, obtained the

famous Mandelbrot set, sometimes called apple manikin, whose chief aspect is its self-similarity: up to infinite magnification, parts of a figure display
always the same structure as the parent figure. Now Ligeti, as we know, always took a lively interest in the results of the latest branches of mathematics,
as well as in computer composition. Yet he saw little sense in a direct transfer
of mathematical principles to the realm of composition. As much attention as
he paid to the ideas, methods and results of Gottfried Michael Koenig,226 Iannis Xenakis227 and Klarenz Barlow, he confessed to have reservations about
algorithmic composition. What seemed particularly problematic to him was
the tendency to put the main emphasis in composition on the method and to
regard the result as secondary. In his view, what matters is less the production
of the artifact than the work of art as value in itself.228
He expressed similar misgivings about the nave transfer of computergenerated images to music an experiment made by several composers in
Western Europe and the United States. He argued that such computer pictures were spatial structures that could not simply be converted to temporal
analogues. His object was to find musical analogies to fractal images without a
computer and without mathematics. In the fourth movement of his Piano
Concerto, for example, there were melodic sources, he explained, that are built
into an iterated, that is to say, feed-back system. The music starts very thinly,
with isolated figures; it gradually thickens in that the figures are multiplied
with themselves.229
Only the imagination has to be kindled: with this turn of phrase Ligeti expressed his conviction that impulses alone do not suffice for the creative act,
but that they have to be fertilized. His Piano Etudes, his Piano Concerto and his
Violin Concerto demonstrate impressively that he was able to convert the impulses he had received from various directions creatively.
In his essay, Computer and Composition, he spoke graphically of an ignition effect, which the interaction of the rhythmic worlds of Nancarrow and
the music of sub-Saharan Africa, the computer impulse from Stanford and
the fractal images had had on his latest creations.230
Undoubtedly, the occupation with Central-African music was one of the artistically most fecund experiences in Ligetis life an experience that left deep
traces in his oeuvre. He owed to this music an inspiration as rich as the one
Pablo Picasso had derived for his art from African masks (see fig., p. 192). It
enabled Ligeti to supply his music with new, unworn rhythmic energies and
to develop highly ingenious polyrhythmic techniques.

On October 23, 1986, I attended the world premiere of the three-movement

version of the Piano Concerto in Graz. Profoundly impressed by the novelty of
the work, I gained the conviction that with it Ligeti had entered a new phase
of his creative career. You will understand the work better, Ligeti told me
when I spoke with him about it, once you have examined the Piano Etudes
more closely. He was right, as it turned out.
2.13 pater lAvant-garde: Retrospective and Forward-Looking Elements in the Horn Trio
This is not a personal crisis, but, I believe, a crisis of my entire generation: the generation that in Darmstadt and in Cologne in the second half of the fifties developed something
new, something original. Gradually we are becoming endangered by academicism. And since I am an anti-academic, I
want personally to fight against this danger within myself
that is, not to continue to compose in the old avant-garde clichs, but also not to lapse into a back-to-earlier-styles. Especially in the last few years, I have been trying to find an answer for myself personally a music that is not a rumination
of the past, not even of the avant-garde past.231
I have in mind a strongly affective, contrapuntally and metrically very complex music, labyrinthine in its ramifications,
with melodic figures audible through it, but without any
back-to gesture, not tonal, but not atonal, either. I dont
have a name yet to designate this compositional direction,
and I am not looking for one, either. What I have in mind is a
spiritualized, strongly condensed art form. I am trying, beyond every kind of modernity, to recreate in music something
of todays sense of life.232

No matter from what direction one approaches the Horn Trio of 1982, the
unvarying impression is that one has to do with a key work. If one looks at it
from the vantage point of the sensational experimental works of the sixties
or else from that of the Second String Quartet, it each time exhibits a different
physiognomy: Ligeti seems to be using an entirely different musical language.
It is therefore no wonder that many listeners at the premiere in Bergedorf on
August 7, 1982, were wholly taken by surprise. To Sabine Tomzig, the critic
of the Hamburger Abendblatt, the composition appeared more melodic, more
perspicuous than earlier works, and with all its formally impressive constructivity, surprisingly inspired by feeling;233 and Ute Schalz-Laurenze, of the


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, referred to diverse links to tradition, both in

forms and in the contrasting expressive characters.234
The truth is that, along with numerous retrospective traits, the Horn Trio exhibits an astonishing amount of originality. It is among the works that point
to the future and represents a turning-point in Ligetis compositional work.
Let us first try to pinpoint the retrospective aspect of the piece. The quaternary of the movements is only seemingly a symptom of tradition. The
work was originally conceived in five movements: the slow fourth movement
was to be followed by a virtuoso finale. More important than the fourmovement design are the characters of the movements, which give rise to associations with past music: an introductory movement of a tender character
(Andantino con tenerezza), a dance-like second one (Vivacissimo molto ritmico), a
march-like third (Alla Marcia) and a lament finale. One feels reminded, on the
one hand, of Beethovens chamber music and, on the other, of the symphonic tradition of Late Romanticism, of Mahler and Tchaikovsky. Retrospective is, secondly, the formal design of the movements. The first and third
movements, to ones surprise, are constructed according to the all-toofamiliar A-B-A schema (with a varied recapitulation); the second movements
has the markings of an ostinato, and the finale suggests the scaffolding of a
About the musical language of his Horn Trio, Ligeti, in an interview with
Monika Lichtenfeld, thought that it was different from that of his earlier
works: the melodic lines were developed far more strongly as independent
shapes.235 And to Ulrich Dibelius he said on July 15, 1983: My music should
become much more melodic, in a kind of non-diatonic diatonicism.236
The subterraneous strands that connect the Horn Trio with the tradition light
up in a flash when one looks more closely at some facets of the musical substance, that is, some of the idiomatic turns, from which a part of the melody
in the two outer movements springs. Of special significance in this respect
are, on the one hand, the horn fifth model and, on the other, the lamenting
chromaticism. The most distinguished historical example of the horn fifth
model occurs, of course, in Beethovens E-flat major sonata Les Adieux op
81a (Ex. 22).

Ex. 22: Beethoven, Les Adieux op. 81a


Ligeti unequivocally refers to that work, but uses the model in a significant
transformation, which he calls a skewed variant (schiefe Variante). A melodic-harmonic germ, he wrote in a commentary for the premiere major
third (g-b), tritone (eb-a), minor sixth (c-ab) in descending succession, a
skewed variant of the horn fifth is developed in all four movements into
transparent, metrically complex polyphonic structures237 (Ex. 23).

Ex. 23 Horn Trio: Skewed variant of he horn fifths

It is symptomatic for Ligetis delight in variation that the model appears in a

further transformation at the beginning of the Lament finale (Ex. 24).

Ex. 24 Lament finale additional transformation of the horn fifth

In speaking of retrospective traits in the Horn Trio, one must not forget the
lamenting chromaticism of the concluding passacaglia. Ligeti treats it in a
new, very imaginative way so as to create a very moving dirge. When he
spoke with Ulrich Dibelius about the movement in 1983,238 he referred to historical models: the Lament Bass and madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi, and
the concluding lament of Henry Purcells Dido and Aeneas. Several years later,
he remarked to Denys Bouliane that, for all his love of the lament bass, he
had been impressed rather by the Romanian dirges, the so-called Bocet. They
were, he said, structured somewhat differently than the [Romanian improvisational folksong type] Hora lunga, though often similar in both style and expression.239
One last retrospective element in the Trio is its marked cyclical conception.
There are conspicuous links between the four movements. The skewed variant of the horn fifth model that sets the character of the opening movement
recurs reminiscence-like in the second (mm. 273-276) and third (mm. 49-52,
65/66 and 66/67, here always on the piano), as well as repeatedly, in characteristic variants, in the Finale, including several times toward the end. In the
recapitulation of the Alla Marcia movement, moreover, the horn picks up the
signal-like motifs from the first movement.

How are we to interpret these symptoms? In an interview Ligeti gave eleven

years after the completion of the Horn Trio, he called the work a provocatively conservative piece, even as a piece in opposition to the established
norms of the avant-garde. The mainspring in creating the work, he said, was
the pater lavant-garde, as he had dared to write A-B-A forms and melodies which was chalked up against him as treason.240
To understand these statements fully, one has to remember that, in their striving for a total renewal of musical language, the serialists also were anxious to
create new forms and concerned about the open work of art. They criticized the fact that Schnberg had based his dodecaphonic works on such traditional forms as the sonata and the rondo. Thus one can understand that Ligetis turning to melody and to elementary musical forms was bound to stun
adherents of the erstwhile Avant-Garde.
We must not, however, interpret Ligetis stylistic reorientation in the early
eighties as being regressive. What he had in mind, he protested in the conversation with Monika Lichtenfeld, was by no means a retrospective glance at the
late 19th century.241 If one studies the Horn Trio in detail, one can observe embryonic compositional innovations that Ligeti was to develop fully in subsequent works. To these innovations we will now give our special attention.
Most conspicuous in the Andantino con tenerezza is the regularity of the overall
formal structure. The symmetry of the A-B-A design (the recapitulation is
strongly varied, above all rhythmically) extends also to the pronounced period
formation something new in Ligeti. While the outer parts are each composed of four clearly delimited periods, the shorter B part consists of three
periods. A mark of the movement is the echo technique, the old questionand-answer game, which is realized in a completely new, poetic manner. Each
of the four periods in the outer parts bears the imprint of four signal-like
horn calls, with the third call being answered by an echo-like passage of the
now stopped horn. The part of the violin, though quite independent in substance, is similar in structure: the echoic passages are to be bowed sul tasto
[over the fingerboard], flautando.
A matter apart is the threefold change in tempo in the B part: three times a
Pi mosso ( = 112) alternates with a section a tempo ( = 110). Decidedly echoic passages are absent from this part. However, there is something echo-like
about the interjections of the leading horn in the a tempo passages. The manner in which the end of the B part coincides with the beginning of the recapitulation is extraordinarily artful, and it is precisely at this point that we en147

counter rudiments of a poly-temporality an idea that would fascinate Ligeti

later on: the violin and the horn here play in a different tempo ( = 100) than
the piano ( = 112). Incidentally, as the sketches make unmistakably clear, Ligeti originally planned to base the finale of the trio on both a polymetric and a
polytemporal structure. The following meters and metronomic notations
were provisionally assigned to the three instruments: violin 5/4 = 75; horn
3/2 = 40; piano 4/4 = 60 a plan, to be sure, that was to undergo major
The second movement (Vivacissimo molto ritmico) can, to begin with, be called a
study in polymetrics. Ligetis commentary for the premiere states:
The second movement is a very fast, polymetric dance, inspired by diverse kinds of folk music of non-existent ethnicities, as though Hungary, Romania and the entire Balkans were situated somewhere between Africa and the Caribbean. The movement exhibits a complex
hemiolic formation, similar to the hemiolas in Schumann and Chopin,
due to the distribution of the basic pulse of eight beats into 3 + 2 + 3,
3 + 3 + 2, etc. Since different distributions always sound simultaneously in the three instruments, the result is a very rich polymetric

The movement is, moreover, an invention on the ostinato, whose character

of a perpetuum mobile is a predominantly diatonic, ascending figures of
eighths, played, in diverse variants, almost without interruption. If one focuses on the treatment of this rhythmic ostinato, the following division of the
movement becomes visible and audible:
Mm. 1-10

: Introduction

11-144 : A part (the ostinato figure beginning on c sounds unchanged

initially 92 times and then 39 times)
145-225 : B part (mm. 169-79 the figure with d, mm. 191-224 with a#)
226-269 : A part (mm. 226-248 the figure with c, mm. 249-262 with g)
270-272 : General pause
273-294 : Coda (with the horn fifth model of the first movement)
For the melodic structure of the Vivacissimo, two twelve-tone rows are decisive. The notes of which they consist are constantly given different rhythms
and accents, and at times are also combined in dyads and chords or clusters,
so that in listening one will most likely not perceive the individual executions

of the rows as variants. The first row (f c d e f# a# c# d# g a b g#), played by

the right hand of the pianist, is heard in mm. 15 ff. and later in mm. 226 ff. at
the beginning of the recapitulation. The other row (e d f# f db eb bb c g b a
g#), intoned initially in mm. 27 ff. by the violin, is taken over by the left hand
of the pianist in mm. 75 ff.
The first two movements of the Horn Trio form the greatest contrast imaginable to each other. If in conceiving the Andantino con tenerezza Ligeti had the
idea of a far distant, tender and melancholy music in mind, the Vivacissimo
molto ritmico, bearing as it does, the expression marks dashing, sparkling, light,
dance-like, floating, strikes one as quasi impish. The earliest sketches for the
Horn Trio (dated December 1981) tellingly include the catch words Jekel
(Hungarian for symbol) Puck - Oberon evidently an allusion to Shakespeares
Midsummer-Nights Dream. Would it be too much to say that the Andantino refers to the King of the Elves (whose instrument is the magic horn), the Vivacissimo to the fabulous goblin of the comedy?
The third movement of the Horn Trio, Alla Marcia, invariably makes the same
impression on the listener: its outer parts, very energetically intoned, sharply
rhythmic, and sounding both hard and dissonant (cross-grained), make for a
strong contrast to the evenly flowing, homophonic, mellow and consonantseeming middle part (Pi mosso).The march-like parts are also more interesting
in terms of compositional technique, inasmuch as in them Ligeti tries out two
procedures that will become virulent in his later music: the procedures of isorhythmy and of metric displacement.
It may sound paradoxical, but one can comprehend the construction of the
march-like parts more easily if one calls to mind the technical principles of
the isorhythmical motets of the 14th and 15th century, the Talea and the Color.
The parts are each 30 measures in length and are divided into ten isorhythmic
periods (taleae), all of which have the same rhythmic structure (Ex. 25).

Ex. 25 3rd movement, Alla Marcia: isorhythmic period

This rhythmic model recurs ten times unchanged in the piano part, though
each time implemented with different sounds. How complex the construction
is, to be sure, one begins to realize once one takes the violin part into ac149

count. Piano and violin initially march in lockstep, but from m. 11 on, the
violin begins to limp. Its part is dislocated at first by one sixteenth, then (at
m. 17) by two, and at m. 23 by three sixteenths. The result is an ingenious
canon, greatly confusing to the listener that, too, may explain the impression of contrariness the music evokes.
The emotional climax of the work is the Lament-Adagio a movement of
which Josef Husler rightly remarked that nowhere else in Ligeti has grief,
pain and resignation been sung out so undisguisedly.242 Here is Ligetis own
commentary on the finale:
Whereas the first three movements are mainly diatonic, the concluding movement is a chromatic variant of the previous ones, in the form
of a passacaglia. A five-bar harmonic model a variant of the horn
fifth germ provides the scaffolding, while descending chromatic melodic formations are the lianas that increasingly grow through the scaffolding, until the sequence of five chords is completely dissolved. A
very gradually occurring dramatic intensification in the growth of the
weeping and lamenting melodic lianas provides the basis of this
formal process. This intensification leads to the transformation of the
piano into a percussion instrument. The echo of this imaginary, gigantic drum lingers in the pedal tones of the horn; the horn-fifth germ also echoes as a reminiscence in the piano and the violin, but is oddly
defamiliarized - the photo of a landscape that has meanwhile gone up
in nothingness.

The movement commences pianissimo and closes moriendo a niente. The dramatic intensification referred to by the composer takes the form of a tremendous crescendo poco a poco (mm. 52-76), with the piano here and there being treated as a percussion instrument. The expression marks are telling: mit
uerster Wildheit, schwarz (with extreme wildness, black) (mm. 71-73) and quasi
tamburo (drum) (m. 72). The conclusion (from m. 77 on) evokes a sense of
vacuum: while long-held, lowest pedal tones are played by the horn, the cantilenas of the violin are located in the highest registers.
The more closely one studies the Horn Trio, the more distinctly emerge the
traits that point to the future. The techniques of polymetrics, polytemporality,
of the ostinato, of isorhythm and metric displacement developed here occur
repeatedly again in later works. And Ligeti will have recourse to the type of
the lamento movement in both his sixth Etude and in the Piano as well as the
Violin Concerto.
The composition of the Horn Trio was commissioned by Hamburgs Hauni
Works, with a glance at Johannes Brahms, the great son of the Hanseatic city

In the previously cited commentary, Ligeti wrote:

I dedicated by Horn Trio as an homage to Johannes Brahms, whose
Horn Trio floats in the musical heaven as the incomparable instance
of this genre of chamber music. There are, however, neither quotations from nor influences by Brahmsian music in my piece my trio
was written in the late twentieth century and is, in construction and
expression, music of our time.

2.14 Notes on the Hlderlin Fantasies

Why I picked Hlderlin: he is a favorite poet, and not only
to me. But for the composing I actually chose the poetic
fragments because of their wonderful imagery and their emotional aura. [] Some phrases I have treated in a madrigalesque manner, for example the wind onomatopoeia in
Hlfte des Lebens [Midlife]. In the Abendphantasie, an
association with Altdorfers Alexanderschlacht [Battle of Alexander at Issus], its grandiose scenery of cloud formations
with the suns rays breaking through them, also played a role:
that may be an altogether arbitrary association of mine; I do
not know whether Hlderlin ever saw the Alexanderschlacht.243

Friedrich Hlderlins richly reflective lyricism has not nearly been set to music
as often as, say, Goethes, Mrikes or Eichendorffs. That is owing to its elevated diction, the high demands it makes on the reader, its wilful syntax and
its partly abstract content certainly not to a dearth of musical qualities: its
pronounced sonority is rightly celebrated. Since the seventies the interest in
Hlderlin has become more intense again, which may explain Ligetis turn
toward him. His choice of the poems on which he based the Drei Phantasien
he dedicated to Eric Ericson is, to say it at the outset, a most felicitous one.
The three poems fit as well together as if they constituted a cycle. Central to
them is the contrast between illusion and truth, between appearance and reality, between a happy past and a painful present. Idyllic, visionary verses alternate with agonized eruptions. The dominant theme is the solitude of the
homeless, whom winter and age await.
Ligeti also proved to be skillful in abridging the poems. In Hlfte des Lebens (Midlife) he dropped two lines, Wenn aus der Ferne (When from
afar) and Abendphantasie he shortened by about one half, deleting portions
that speak less to us today. And the overall title of the choruses, Phantasien,
clearly refers not to any structural aspects of the compositions, which are put
together with remarkable rigor, but to the imagery of the poems.

The Three Fantasies, composed in 1982, are written for 16-voice, mixed, unaccompanied chorus (4 sopraos, 4 altos, 4 tenors and 4 basses). Having thus the
same cast as Ligetis Lux aeterna, they suggest a comparison with the earlier
work of 1966. Such a juxtaposition, however, will yield more differences than
likenesses. Although in the Phantasien Ligeti remains faithful to micropolyphony a basic principle of his work he treats it in a new, original manner. He
also makes use of additional techniques. Altogether, one thus has to speak of
new conceptions. The fundamental differences to Lux aeterna can be grouped
into four points:
1. In Lux aeterna, the voice-leading is for the most part strictly canonic:
chordal passages occur only exceptionally. In the first and third of the
Phantasien, on the other hand, canonic and chordal parts are evenly balanced.
2. As paradoxical as it may sound, micropolyphony in Lux aeterna serves
the formation of expanses of sound and the transformational technique. A listener who does not have a score in hand will hardly notice
the canonic texture of the voices. The technique of canonic interweaving creates novel harmonies, which become gradually dim and then
clear up again. By contrast, the horizontal, linear dimension is more
prominent in the Phantasien, as well as more clearly perceptible.
3. The chief idea of Lux aeterna, according to Ligetis own statement, was
the idea, translated into musical forms, of the eternal light.244 In the
Phantasien, on the other hand, Ligeti seeks to do justice to the changing
images of the poems. The structural diversity reveals itself as a mirror
image of the contrasting expressive color values.
4. The musical structure of the Phatasien is substantially more complex
than that of Lux aeterna. In the three choruses, Ligeti is not content
with the chromatic possibilities of the tempered scale, but frequently also takes in quarter tones, which function as transitional notes. Even
more symptomatic is the preferential leading of the voices in contrasting blocks: strictly canonic voice combinations often overlap with
differently structured ones. Micropolyphony is, as it were, coupled with,
or grounded in, individual voices or else more chordal formations.
Hlderlins poem Hlfte des Lebens is composed of two antithetical stanzas. The first stanza conjures up the idyllic image of a lake landscape with yellow pears, wild roses and graceful swans; the second gives expression to the
fear of winter, which drives the already solitary speaker into total isolation:
The walls stand speechless and cold, the weathervanes shriek in the storm

blast. The setting takes this antithesis into account; more, it artfully makes
explicit the drama only implied in the poem. The idyllic picture of the beginning is portrayed in downright impressionistic soft focus (dolcissino, later espressivo and caloroso). Then, in mm. 13-16, when the canonically led womens voices tell of the kiss-drunk swans, there follows a brief, but very intense agogic
(accelerando) and dynamic (crescendo) heightening, at whose climax the tenors
and, one bar later, the basses burst out Weh mir! (Woe is me!) in triple forte
(tutta la forza). Most of the lines in the second stanza are then strictly chordal
in multiple forte. One exception is the phrase im Winde (in the wind), which
Ligeti emphasizes quasi with tone-painting or onomatopoeia and treats almost
in concertante fashion: on both syllables of the word Winde he erects an
eight-voice canon twenty bars in length (mm. 29-48), which describes an unfolding or moving form. The motif starts on the small a-sharp and rises like
an ascending vortex in dynamic crescendo higher and higher until all of the
womens voices reach the two-line c. The concluding words klirren die
Fahnen (clatter the vanes) are set homophonically again, with the two final
cords to be recited like two shrieks, but in exact pitch.
Wenn aus der Ferne tells the story of a tender love that ends in separation.
The first eleven stanzas revel in memories of a happy past. Only the twelfth
(penultimate) stanza brings the painful admission: Ah, woe is me, those were
such lovely days. But mournful twilight followed thereafter. Knowing, as we
do, of Ligetis predilection for the idea of music from afar (e.g., in Lontano),
one can well imagine that the poem would appeal to him largely because of its
first line. Within the Three Fantasies, this second one (Andante con tenerezza) represents the slow movement. The basic mood of the composition, corresponding to that of the poem, is soft. At only one point (mm. 46-48), the outburst
Ach, wehe mir, does Ligeti set quasi dramatic accents. The form of the
composition is eminently polyphonic: the piece receives its characteristic
physiognomy from multi-voiced canonic structures and the counterpoint of
the vocal blocks described. Ligetis method occasionally reminds of the old
contrapuntal motet, in which it was customary to base every line of the text
on a separate theme and to treat it canonically. Typically for Ligeti, however, the themes, which at first sight seem so independent, turn out, upon
closer inspection, to be ingenious rhythmic and intervallic variants of an urmodel, as Ex. 26 will illustrate. That explains why the passage es waren
schne Tage (mm. 49 ff.) after the wehe mir sounds almost like a recapitulation.


Ex. 26 Second Fantasy, Wenn aus der Ferne: a core in five themes

The poem Abendphantasie owes its title to the dream that spring might
blossom in the evening sky, and the wish that in the golden world of the purple clouds love and sorrow might dissolve into light and air for the tortured
speaker. But once gain the wishful thinking proves to be illusory: But, as if
chased by such foolish asking, the magic flees; darkness falls, and lonely under
the heavens, as ever, am I. In setting this text Ligeti followed every suggestion of the poem. Lines and single words are interpreted according to their
semantics, poetic images are transmuted into musical ones. Compositional
technique, preferred pitch level, dynamics, agogic, expression everything is
engaged in the service of interpreting the text. Chordal and canonical passages
frequently take turns, and in the canonical ones Ligeti is fond of letting each
voice enter a half-tone higher (mm. 4-11, 40-42). Individual words, such as
dark, youth, cheerful, age, are given emphasis by diverse means. The word
purpurne (purple) receives a concertante treatment similar to that of the
words im Winde in the first fantasy. Common sounds are at times replaced by falsetto ones. As in the first fantasy, the agogic is subject to drastic
changes. Several expression marks correspond to the image content. Thus the
recitation of the strongly alliterative lines und mge droben in Licht und
Luft zerrinnen mir Lieb und Leid! (and may up there dissolve in light and air
both love and pain) is to be dancelike effusive. The chorus closes, to be
sure, morendo in a low bass region.
Complex and dense structure, rich tonal imagination and subtle textual interpretation beyond all doubt make these three Hlderlin settings rank high
within Ligetis overall vocal oeuvre.


2.15 Construction and Imagination: Principles of the Piano Etudes

My ideal of piano music and probably the ideal of all pianists is embodied in Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, but also in
much of the earlier piano music, e.g. Scarlatti. The distinguishing mark of this genuine piano music is that the musical
structures seem to emerge immediately from the keys and the
position of the ten fingers, that is to say, are not developed
abstractly but are derived quite sensuously from depressing
the keys.
In reality, piano music is my main area. For the piano
etudes, the sound worlds of Debussy and Ravel played a major role [] although my piano etudes are not at all Chopinesque or Lisztean, and not Debussy-like either.245
In the piano etudes, too, there are things that are based on
the European tradition, especially that of the 19th century; to
be precise, my great love for the piano music of Schumann
and Chopin and the concept of the hemiola not only 3 x 2
and 2 x 3 but diverse other asymmetric hemiolic formations
with the so-called Bulgarian rhythms, which Bartk has used
in the Mikrokosmos, the Southeast European folk music generally, and my knowledge of salsa from the Caribbean and
samba from Brazil playing a role as well. Yet you will find in
the piano etudes neither folkloristic material nor really
Chopin-Schumann-Brahmsian 19th century. The entire sphere
of Schumann-Chopin, plus ethnic cultures like folklore from
Latin America, genuinely African ethnic music and Nancarrow all that has somehow been amalgamated and formed
into something entirely different.246

In seeking to account for the enormous popularity of Ligetis piano etudes,

written between 1985 and 1994, one has to consider that, besides their originality and expressivity, they reflect, perhaps more clearly than his other works,
the tradition of the genre. What exactly is their position in the history of the
piano etude?
If we trace the evolution of the genre in the 19th and 20th century, we are confronted mainly with two different conceptions. The piano etudes of Frdric
Chopin, Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann are conspicuous for their concertante style and their demanding musical content. They do not just serve the


perfecting of pianistic skill but have musical value per se. By contrast, a number of 20th century composers were bent on dealing with both pianistic and
compositional problems. In other words, they regarded the etude as an exercise for themselves, in which they sought to set up a certain compositional
problem and to solve it adequately. Thus defined, the etude represents a challenge to the discipline and the ability of the composer the challenge of
bringing a maximum of art to bear on more or less limited tone material.
It is in this sense that we have to understand the Douze tudes of Claude Debussy and a number of the pieces in Bla Barks Mikrokosmos, all of which
are conceived as inventions on individual intervals e.g., the second or the
seventh. Olivier Messiaens Quatre tudes de Rythme, which center on diverse
rhythmic problems, belong in this category as well.
Ligetis etudes are to be viewed against this background. Considering the
enormous technical demands they make on the player, it makes sense to describe them as a kind of Gradus ad Parnassum for master pianists. At the same
time, however, they constitute a kind of compendium of Ligetis more recent
compositional techniques. Each etude represents, as it were, the solution of a
certain compositional problem, mainly tone-systematic, polymetric, polyrhythmic ones, besides others. Some etudes, like the second and the eighth,
can be described as inventions on a specific interval the fifth. In many others, Ligeti works with note material fixed in advance. For some time he
thought of calling the pieces tudes polymtriques or polyrythmiques, but he abandoned the idea, evidently because the designation appeared rather narrow to
Except for the tenth etude (Der Zauberlehrling The Sorcerers Apprentice), all of them bear French titles a homage to the renowned Liszt and
Debussy tradition (significantly, the sketches contain references to Chopins
opus 10, Liszts Campanella etude and Debussys Pagodes). The titles allude to musical and poetic themes as well as to technical concepts. The synaesthetic relations so typical of Ligetis music obtain here as well.
In January of 1993, Ligeti disclosed to me that the two volumes of etudes
were designed cyclically, with contrary conclusions. While the sixth etude
Automne Varsovie) was a somber piece, which ended on a plunge into
the abyss, he said, the final one was to conclude with a radiant section, a kind
of paradisiacal vision. After various rearrangements, to be discussed below, he
realized this conception. Interestingly enough, the titles Dsordre, Vertige
and Joie appear in the left margin on the first page of the facsimile clean
copy of the tudes pour piano.247 Dsordre is the definitive title of the first

etude, Vertige that of the ninth. Joie, however, certainly circumscribes

the poetic and emotional climate of the last etude.
Ligeti began work on the First Etude in November of 1984. His notes in the
sketches reveal a great deal about the original conception of the piece. Of
primary importance are the headings En blanc et noir and Pulsation.
En blanc et noir refers to the piano keyboard and means that the right hand of
the pianist is to play on the white keys and the left on the black ones. In musicological terms, the tonal system of the etude can be defined as a combination of the seven-note diatonic scale (b - c - d - e - f - g a) and the (anhemitonic) pentatonic one (d# - f# - g# - a# - c#). The listener perceives this combination as a suspension of the equal temperament.
The term Pulsation indicates that Ligeti started with the idea of a continuously
pulsating music. The asymmetrical rhythmic division of 5/8 (= 3 + 2) + 7/8
(= 3 + 4) was to have served originally as the model for this pulsation. The
definitive version of the etude, however, is distinguished by an enormous polyrhythmic complexity and differs fundamentally from this relatively simple
rhythmic order. Thus one can understand why Ligeti eventually dropped the
title Pulsation, even Pulsation irregulire, and gave his piece the title Dsordre.
The disorder and chaos suggested by the definitive title result from the immensely complex rhythmic conditions. At the beginning for three bars
both hands play the same rhythm: 3/8 plus 5/8. But already in the fourth
measure, the voices diverge. The figuration of the right hand counts seven,
that of the left eight, eighths. The result is a rhythmic canon between the two
voices: at first at an interval of one eighth, then of two and later of three
eighths (Ex. 27).

Ex. 27 First Etude for Piano: rhythmic canon


The melody set in octaves in the right hand forms the theme of the etude,
which is sequenced fourteen times, each time a half-tone higher, so that the
fourteen theme repetitions traverse exactly two octaves.248 A more detailed
analysis of the resulting fourteen periods will yield instructive observations
about design and structure of the piece. The first three periods are of the
same length, numbering 109, 108 and 109 eighths. In the fourth period, a
rhythmic heightening commences, and in the seventh period a dynamic one
(crescendo from single to triple forte). At the same time, the periods become
shorter: 4th period = 80 eighths, 5th and 6th period = 42 eighths each, 7th period = 41 eighths, 8th period = 39 eighths, 9th period = 37 eighths, 10th period
= 29 eighths. The climax of the etude is an sfff in m. 98.The immediately following second part proceeds at the forte level without dynamic modification
and comprises three periods of approximately equal length and a fourth
shorter one: 11th period = 113 eighths, 12th period = 112 eighths, 13th period
= 112 eighths, 14th period =- 93 eighths.
Like many of Ligetis pieces, Dsordre, too, exhibits a quasi stereometric shape.
The tonal expanse with which the piece commences is located in the middle
region of the diapason and then gradually opens in both directions: while the
right hand occupies the tonal realm up to the extreme height, the left take
possession of the lower region down to the lowest depth. This opening of the
pitch range goes hand in hand with the noted tonal heightening. A second,
shorter development starts at m. 98. Here, too, the hands drift apart, though
no longer as strongly. Only in the last two bars, where the music fades away,
they move parallel.
Whenever one listens to Dsordre, associations with extra-European music
crop up, which Ligeti no doubt had in mind, as the sketches contain references to the heterophony of the Banda Linda and to gamelan music.
The Second Etude, Cordes vides, can be called an invention on the fifth. The
construction of the piece is based from the first to the last note on the fifth
interval. What is especially admirable here is the inventiveness of the composer, who organizes the entire tonal universe according to the principle of the
fifth, without for one moment lapsing into monotony.
The piece gains its lan from its highly differentiated polyrhythmic organization. As a sketch that extends to only a few measures indicates, Ligeti originally thought of superimposing the meters 6/7 and 7/8. The final version exhibits far more complex relations. A remnant of the original conception survives, however, insofar as in the first nine bars, the articulation of the sequences of fifths in the left hand suggests a latent 7/8 meter, while the right

hand prefers a variety of groupings, namely, motifs consisting of 6 + 6 + 4

+ 9 + 5 + 6 + 4 + 6 + 7 + 7 + 4 + 8 eighths (Ex. 28).

Ex. 28 Second Etude for Piano: polyrhythm

Another essential aspect of the pieces rhythmic complexity is the gradual

rhythmic acceleration that commences in m. 12 and reaches its climax in mm.
29-32, after which the rhythmic current issues into a fully composed ritardando. This acceleration of the rhythmic momentum, however, is not uniform
but proceeds, as it were, in two strands, as the following outline will show:

1-11 eighths in both hands

12-21 eighths in one hand, triplet eighths in the other
21-23 triplet eighths in one hand, triplet sixteenths in the other
24 triplet sixteenths in both hands
25-29 sixteenths in one hand, triplet sixteenths in the other
29-32 eighths, triplet eighths and triplet sixteenths in the left hand,
cascade-like figurations of thirty-seconds in the right
32-38 fully composed ritardando


The piece contains also some poetic references that are worth noting. In the
above-mentioned sketch, it bears the title Quintes and in brackets the heading
Cordes vides, meaning essentially open strings, a reference to the tuning of
the violin and the viola, which in mm. 11-14 is actually alluded to in dotted
eighths (dotted eighths do not occur anywhere else in the etude). Then, at the
end of the piece, we hear a seemingly distant horn-like signal (cantabile, quasi
un corno da lontano) and immediately thereafter, as though as a reminiscence,
again the unstopped strings of the violin and viola significant allusions creating a subliminal connection to the Horn Trio.
Touches bloques, the Third Etude, is an invention on a specific pianistic technique, that of the mobile key blocking, which Henning Siedentopf developed,249 that is, the silent depressing and holding of certain keys.
The basis of the first section of this tripartite etude consists of diverse long,
for the most part chromatically rising and falling eighths figures. What makes
this figuration unusual is that certain notes in it, which are fully written out,
are not sounded, since certain keys are blocked. The result is frequent short
rests and hence an irregular, intricate, capricious rhythm, which accounts for
the enormous charm of this music.
The middle section Poco meno presto (ma presto assai, impetuoso) stands in
starkest imaginable contrast to the outer parts. It is dominated by shorter figures of two to five notes that are separated by caesuras and are to be performed in unison with isolated characteristic grating seconds (Reibesekunden).
Moreover, the technique of the mobile key blockage is altogether absent.
The Fourth Etude, suggestively entitled Fanfare, is actually a study of the ostinato. An unchanging figure, consisting of the notes c - d - e - f - f# - g# - a# b and metered in the Bulgarian-rhythm of 3 + 2 + 3 eighths, runs throughout
the piece, recurring in 208 of the altogether 212 bars. This ostinato is dotted
by fanfares fanfare-like melodic phrases (as Ligeti calls them in the facsimile autograph), which frequently remind of trumpet and horn signals, and
all of which are developed from a distorted horn fifth model (Ex. 29).
The tension of this Etude results not only from the differing lengths of the
ostinato figures and the horn fifth models the former consist of eight
eighths, the latter of eleven but also from the artfulness, with which the latter is treated. It undergoes countless metamorphoses, appears in ever new
variants, which, though similar to each other, are never alike. The variations
in the model involve both the diastematic (intervallic) and the rhythmic component, as well as the number of voices. Thus it resounds in a two-voice version at the beginning, later (mm. 63 ff) in a three-voice, and following that

(mm. 75 ff.) in a monophonic one; in m. 88, then, another two-voice version

enters. As for rhythmic changes, the model is both diminished and augmented, reduced to five or seven eighths (mm. 146 ff. and mm. 116 ff., respectively) and then again enlarged to 14 and 20 eighths (mm. 188 ff.); in addition it
also gets furnished with prefixes and addenda.

Ex. 29 Fourth Etude for Piano: ostinato plus horn fifths

Of special importance in this Etude is the illusion of spatial perspective. Since

the ostinato remains mostly in the background, the fanfare-like motifs
come to the fore. At the very beginning of the etude, we find the note: Dynamic balance: always emphasize the melodic phrases, the ostinato always
remains in the background. The distance, to be sure, from which one hears
the fanfare motifs, does not remain constant but varies. They sound from afar
(da lontano, mm. 116 and 202), closer (m. 123), farther off (m. 130) and
very close (mm. 187-201) spatial illusions evoked largely by the dynamic,
which extends between multiple piano and multiple forte.
Ligetis sketches for the Fourth Etude and his first complete autograph of the
composition enable us to realize that from the start he connected the idea of a
homage Bartk with the conception of the Fanfares, vascillating, as he did, between entitling the piece Fanfares or Bartoque pour fter Bartk. Interestingly
enough, two related ideas are notated in an early draft: one is headed Fanfares,
the other, Bartoque, exhibits Bartokisms, that is, an accumulation of those
Reibesekunden so characteristic of Bartks savage style. And it seems telling
in this connection that Ligeti originally thought of supplying the first and
fourth notes of the ostinato figure with such seconds. Ex. 130 shows the beginning of the discarded sketch, in which a particularly striking aspect is that

the fanfare motifs in the right hand are embedded in a 7/8 meter, in contrast
to the octal rhythm of the ostinato (Ex. 30).

Ex. 30 Sketch for the Fourth Etude for Piano: proximity to Bartk

In a conversation Ligeti had with Denys Bouliane in 1987, he thought that his
new composition contained, besides almost Stravinsky- and Webern-like
objective pieces also very emotional ones, naming as representatives of the
two types Dsordre, the first, and Arc-en-ciel, the fifth etude, the latter a piece,
he said, that built a kind of bridge between Chopin and jazz.250 The observation appears plausible in light of the fact that this Andante molto rubato is an extraordinarily sensitive and expressive piece rich in mellow sounds, which is to
be recited con eleganza, with swing, dolce, con tenerezza, sempre legato and molto espressivo.
A close look at the piece indeed reveals an affinity, on the one hand, with
Chopin, the first number of whose Etudes opus 10 seems to have been in the
composers mind in conceiving his own etude, and on the other, with the stylistic world of a sentimental kind of jazz fond of seventh chords of every
stripe. A painstaking study of the harmonics of Arc-en-ciel will certainly find
that it is frequently based on a layering of thirds, though one could not speak
of any kind of inherent regularity. It is also notable in this connection that
one repeatedly encounters jazzy triads-with-sixte-ajoute (m. 11, left hand, first
sixteenths; m. 19 first eighths, m. 21 right hand, first sixteenths).
As for the rhythmic organization of the etude, one might be tempted to call
the piece a study of the hemiola. While the right hand orients itself on the 3/4
meter, the left hand goes with a 6/8 beat (Ex. 31).


Ex. 31 Fifth Etude for Piano: hemiolas

This simple proportion, however, forms no more than the frame of a composition that attains a high degree of complexity and not only in a rhythmic
respect. Arc-en-ciel- presents an outstanding example of how Ligeti departs
form his own rules and creates complicated relations by means of countless
irregularities, including triplets, quintuplets and sextuplets in the right hand
and above all syncopated formations, which in mm. 3/4, 9/10 and 17/18
suggest a 3/8 meter.
The spatial shape is no less instructive. The piece begins piano as a relatively
narrow tonal band in the higher register, then gradually captures the entire
tonal space, attains the greatest fullness of sound in the middle and concludes
in the higher register, the music quasi vanishing into the highest height. The
volume relations likewise reveal a systematic disposition. The dynamic climax
of the 23-bar piece, a triple forte, occurs exactly in the middle, i.e., in mm.
11/12. Several suddenly broken-off crescendos determine the musical scene
in both the first and the second half, but with a difference. Whereas each new
crescendo in the first half exceeds the preceding one in intensity, the tendency
of the second half is mostly retrograde, This, too, makes the piece appear
somehow arc-like.
The rainbow is at once a natural phenomenon, an aesthetic image and a symbol. In the Old Testament, it serves as the sign of Gods covenant with man
(Gen. 9:1-17), as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Among 20 th-century

composers, Olivier Messiaen had a special predilection for the image of the
seven-colored bow: Arc-en-ciel is a title that occurs repeatedly in his works.251
The question whether the rainbow image in Ligeti has a symbolic connotation
beyond its aesthetic fascination must remain open.
About Automne Varsovie we have Ligetis own detailed comments,252 in
which he hinted that he regarded the piece as the most important, along with
Dsordre, among the etudes of the first volume. In a conversation with Detlef
Gojowy, he called it both a lament piece and a fugue253 - a rather terse
commentary that supplies only a first aid in orientation. Closer analysis reveals
that it applies a whole series of original technical ideas.
Of prime importance is a very fast pulsating movement of sixteenths, mostly
in octaves or note repetitions a motion that only in the middle stops out for
a few bars (mm. 55-61). Owing to the great speed of the basic pulse the expression mark reads Presto cantabile, molto ritmico e flessibile = 144 the tonal
fields generated will mostly be perceived as tonal expanses by the listener.
Such expanses are formed at the beginning by the tonal background, against
which the lament theme is set off, and, at the beginning of the second part
(mm. 62 ff.), a kind of overarching tonal foreground. The division of the
piece is conspicuously symmetrical, each half numbering 61 bars.
Lament themes play a surprisingly large role in Ligetis later work. Laments
occur in the Horn Trio as well as in the Piano and the Violin Concerto, and the
Sixth Etude here under discussion is labeled great lament (nagy lamento) in
the drafts. The theme, which is modified time and again, consists primarily of
descending half- and whole-tone intervals, but occasionally also exhibits ascending intervals, which are frequently furnished with a sforzato mark. The
sorrowful character of the music is unmistakable not surprisingly the
sketches contain the characterizing notes dolente and molto dolente.
Automne Varsovie can be compared to a fugue insofar as the theme is treated
in an imaginatively polyphonic manner. Except for the tonal fields and some
mixtures (parallel chords), the composition is written in one, two, three and
even four voices. After repeated intonation in the descant, the theme is then
taken over by the bass (mm. 13-15) and later by one of the middle voices
(mm. 18-20). Yet the etude differs fundamentally from the traditional fugue
insofar as the lament theme is transformed melodically as well as rhythmically
not to mention that the thematic entrances do not occur at certain intervals
fixed in advance. At the outset, for example, the lament theme follows a fivepulse rhythm, that is to say, the distance between the individual notes of the
melody measures five pulses. When the theme reappears in the middle voice

(mm. 18-20), it is diminished to a three-pulse schema. Since the listener will

not be able to perceive the 5 : 3 ratio precisely, he seems to hear a slower and
a faster melody. The result is something new and original: the illusion of multiple tempo levels something one could also call polytempics or polytemporality. On the basis of this principle, Ligeti superimposes up to four different tempos.
In the course of the etude, the lament theme undergoes every conceivable
treatment. It appears in its original form and in contrary motion, gets diminished and augmented. Characteristically, the diminutions and augmentations
are based not on half or double note values but mostly on prime number
proportions such as 11 : 7, 7 : 5 and 5 : 3. In mm. 99 ff., for example, we encounter the ratio 7 : 5 : 4. The inverted theme in the tenor range has the seven-pulse rhythm, the theme in the alto the five- pulse and the theme in the
descant the four-pulse rhythm.
Conceived on July 11, 1985 and dedicated to Ligetis Polish friends, the sixth
etude, as the composer himself pointed out, has a political connotation. More
plainly than the final title Automne a Varsovie, the rejected titles tude de Varsovie and Automne de Varsovie indicate that the piece refers to the critical situation
in Poland in the early eighties. The lament and the plunge into the abyss at
the end remind us of the dark phase of Polish history under Jaruzelski, who
choked off liberal impulses, forbade the free labor union Solidarno and imposed a state of war on the country.
In a commentary to the Seventh Etude of 1988/89, Ligeti remarked that its
title, Galamb borong, was meant to evoke an imaginary gamelan-like music at
home on an island not found on any map. For those who understand Hungarian, he continues, the title will also have an altogether different meaning Galamb in Hungarian means as much as dove, darling or sweetheart
but that one is irrelevant to the character of the music: what matters is solely
the verbal sound of the title.254 To understand these explanations, it helps to
remember Ligtis penchant for the imaginary especially when one learns that
he had originally planned to give the etude the subtitle Les gongs de l le Kondortombol, Kondortombol being the name of a fantasy island.
As we know, the tone system according to which many Indonesian gamelan
orchestras are tuned is the Javanese slendro, an equidistant pentatonic scale,
whose degrees comprise ca. 240 cents each.255 European composers of the
late 19th and early 20th century who wrote for piano had to translate the slendro
of necessity into the tempered pentatonic scale as, e.g., Claude Debussy did
in his piece Pagodes from the Estampes (1903).

Gamelan-Bonang (re the Seventh Etude: Galamb borong)

Ligeti based his seventh etude not on pentatonic scales but on an original
combination of the two possible whole-tone scales. Thus the right hand plays
exclusively in the whole-tone region b - a - g - f - eb - db and the left hand in
the whole-tone region e d - c - bb - ab - gb. Ligeti explained this as follows:
The music itself is composed in an oblique equidistant tonal system.
The usual tuning of the piano permits twelve-tone and six-tone equidistance, but not the five-tone one (as in the Javanese slendro), whose
intervals can not be found in the well-tempered tuning. But I now
have invented another kind of slendro-like tone system, which is neither chromatic nor diatonic, but also not whole-tone: it is covertly
present in the usual tempered tuning of the piano, but has not been
performed before Galamb borong.

Paradoxically, although all twelve ones are omnipresent in this piece and are
often made to sound simultaneously by the pedal, the music sounds consonantal or quasi-consonantal.
A listener who receives Galamb borong against the background of the Indonesian music of Java and Bali will discover numerous gamelan-like features in
the piece. The noted ethnomusicologist Jaap Kunst classifies the instruments
of the gamelan orchestra according to their functions into five groups: the
bearers of the core melody, then instruments that perform a counter-melody,
and finally phrasing, paraphrasing and tempo-supporting instruments. Of
special importance are the metallophones, which present the core melody, the

gongs, which assume tasks of phrasing, and the so-called panerusan, which execute finely spun figurations.256 In a similar way, three layers can be distinguished in the sound structure of Galamb borong: melodic lines, which at times
take on the character of a core melody, luxuriant interlacing scrollwork in the
form of an uninterrupted motion of sixteenths, and long-held gong-like
sounds in the bass region. The scrollwork is executed by one of the two
hands or by both hands. As for the melodic lines, they either stand out from
the scrollwork or they are produced by the accentuated crest notes of the figurations, whose regular pulsation also reminds of Central-African music.
Thus Ligeti in some respects throws a bridge from Bali to Africa; the fantasy
island Kondortombol lies somewhere in between on his imaginary map.
Like the second, the Eighth Etude is an invention on the fifth. But whereas it
was used there as a melodic interval, here it is employed as a simultaneous
one. There are also notable differences in character between the two pieces: in
contrast to the second etude, which sounds altogether mellow, the tone character of the eighth is metallically hard. (The expression mark is Vivace risoluto, con vigore.)
Ligeti at first thought of giving the etude the simple title Quintes but then decided on the heading Fm. In a commentary, he provided the following explanation:
In contrast to the 7th etude, the Hungarian word in the title of the 8th
etude is relevant in terms not only of sound but also of meaning. The
music has a metallically hard character, dominated harmonically by the
fifth but also by other harmonics. Fm is the Hungarian word for metal, but it has an emotionally more intense aura than the German
(French, English) word. Fny sounds like fm and means light: fm to a
Hungarian speaker is brighter, more radiant, stronger-sounding than

As noted, empty fifths predominate in the piece. They often combine into
tetrachords and every so often also show up as trichords in the form of three
double fifths, e.g., f2 / c3 / g3 (m. 8) or d2 / e2 / a2, a compressed double fifth,
as it were (m. 19). It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the etude is
exclusively constructed of fifths. Other intervals are occasionally in evidence
as well.258 In this respect, the second etude is worked more rigorously and puristically.
The complexity of the composition results primarily from its polyrhythmic
structure. It is based on two differently rhythmic patterns, which recur repeatedly and suggest comparisons with medieval isorhythmic periods. Where168

as the talea of the right hand consists of 18 eighths (3 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 4 =

18), the left hand comprises 16 (4 + 2 + 2 + 4 + 4 = 16). Phase displacements result in appealing combinations. Every twelve bars (each bar numbers
12 eighths) the ends of the periods coincide, resulting in a division of the
main part into five cycles: mm. 1-12, 13-24, 25-36, 36-48, 49-57. The fifth cycle, which brings on a powerful crescendo from triple piano to fourfold forte, is
reduced to nine bars.
Fm closes with a longish coda (mm. 58-76), which has very much the character of a music in slow motion. Although the tempo remains the same, the motifs and fifths of the main part now appear pianissimo, rhythmically augmented
and in diverse rearrangements and modifications. The energy and verve that
distinguishes the main part is replaced by a striking pallor and faintness. The
tone image seems unreal, the music sounds from afar (da lontano), becoming
softer and slower (diminuendo and rallentando), until it expires altogether. The
listeners impression confirms it: main part and coda of the piece are related
to each other like present and recollection.
Two essential aspects of Ligetis aesthetics are illustrated by the Ninth Etude,
Vertige, with particular vividness: his conception of music as frozen time,
and the fact that his creative work is not only conditioned by poetry but also
frequently embedded in biological contexts. Thu the idea of quasi vertiginous
states is transmuted into music in this piece, with the corresponding musical
images being perpetuated. The basic idea of the etude, Ligeti stated, was a
constant slipping and collapsing, and he added: the temporal process is frozen, the collapsing becomes a state.259
In technical terms, Vertige can above all be called a study of chromaticism and
the perpetuum mobile. The tonal background of the piece is formed by a
continuously flowing motion of eighths in several voices. In Ligetis own
Technically speaking, descending chromatic scales form the basis of
the piece. Before one such run is complete, the next one begins, so
that there is an interference of wave motions: the individual waves
overlap and break. While the chromatic runs are regular within themselves, their combination, because of the constantly changing intervals
between entrances, creates a chaotic pattern. As in a puzzle picture
[Vexierbild], our perception keeps alternating between the runs as motion and their interference as a static image.

What has been said above can be specified by looking at the first five
measures as follows. The basic, chromatically descending line comprises six169

teen notes, from the one-line b to the small ab. Before yet that run reaches its
end, that is, after eight eighths, the second waves sets in and, after another
seven eighths, a third wave follows. Further seven eighths onward, the game
starts over again, but now the intervals between the entrances of the individual waves measure five, seven and five eighths (Ex. 32).

Ex. 32 Ninth Etude for Piano: interference of wave motions

Upon a detailed analysis of the piece, one cannot help marveling at the high
degree of complexity attained in the handling of the chromatic line model. It
gets shifted, transposed and altered diastematically in various ways. In line
with the poetic theme, the structure of the interferential waves is not regular
but downright chaotic, and the two-, three- and four-voice combinations resulting from the overlapping of the lines wander through the entire tonal
space: from the lowest depth to the extreme height.
Another important element in the construction of the piece, however, is the
melodic phrases that now and then supervene upon the perpetuum mobile.
They radically differ in structure from the chromatically descending lines,
containing, as they do, greater note values, as well as chains of thirds, fifths
and fourths; they often sound like defamiliarized, dissolved dominant ninth,
eleventh and thirteenth chords and mark the points of collapse (Ex. 33).
As one can see, the bass steps get increasingly larger (minor second - minor
third - major third - tritone - fourth) and slower (3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 9 eighths), creating a sense of falling ever lower down though the direction of these me170

lodic phrases, which also appear in higher ranges, is not always falling, but at
times also rising.

Ex. 33 Ninth Etude for Piano: points of collapse

Although the continuous motion of eighths never stops, the piece clearly exhibits a division into two parts of 82 and 59 bars respectively. At the end of
the first part, the perpetuum mobile takes on a flickering character in the
highest register. Then, in m. 83, a new train commences. After both hands
have for eight measures played unison figures in the two extreme reaches of
the instrument, a crescendo in contrary motion commences: while the left
hand comes climbing up, the right hand descends until finally the distance between the two hands is minimal.
Begun in Hamburg in July/August of 1994 and completed in Vienna, the
Tenth Etude, which bears the suggestive title Der Zauberlehrling (The Sorcerers Apprentice), has a special place in the dramaturgy of the second cycle inasmuch as it represents the scherzo. Accordingly, the characteristic expression
marks read prestissimo, staccatissimo, leggierissimo, and the player is to make an effort to attain the speed of the Continuum. The piece, which throughout has
traits of a toccata and has an airy character, resembles a perpetuum mobile.
Of the four sections, into which it is latently divided, some proceed in a regular rhythm, others do not. If the first two sections (mm. 1-37, 38-65) are held
to a regular meter (4 + 4 + 4 or 4 + 3 + 2 + 3 eighths), the third section
(mm. 66-97) exhibits asymmetrical accents, and the fourth section (mm. 97118), producing a great dynamic and agogic heightening, begins regularly but
closes quasi in chaos.

Two things are especially noteworthy here: the increasing density of the structure and the rapid discharge at the end. Inevitably one recalls the events that
Goethe describes in his famous ballad of the same title, although Ligeti told
me that he thought of Goethes poem only after he had already begun work
on the piece: briefly he had considered giving the etude the title Mtamorphose.
As paradoxical as it may seem at first, the basic idea of the Eleventh Etude
its definitive title was En suspens (see Facsimile 10) is the contrariness and at
the same time complementarity of the two hands, which differ in form in every respect that of tone system, meter, and character. While one hand contents itself with the white keys, the other plays only the black ones. This manner of organizing the tonal supply is not new in Ligeti: we remember it both
from Dsordre and from Galamb borong. The etude is also polymetric, inasmuch
as the right hand adheres throughout to a 6/4 meter, while the left one follows a quaternary one (4 x 3/8).
The difference in sound between the two hands is substantial: the right hand
sounds much mellower than the left. This is owing not only to the difference
in register and melodic line, but also to the respective frequency of the preferred intervals: while thirds and sixths pile up in the right hand, the left hand
exhibits with striking frequency, at least at the beginning, perfect fourths, major seconds and major ninths, accounting for the acrid sound of the left-hand
part. It is thus instructive to know that Ligeti, who stewed a good deal about
what title to give to his piece, also considered the terms Engrenage (Interlocking), Souplesse (Suppleness) and Convexe-Concave. If one plays the two hands
one after the other, one may indeed get the impression as though the contour
of the right hand was curved more inward and that of the left hand more to
the outside. Playing both hands together will evoke a sense, not only of great
pliancy and suppleness, but also of a marvelous complementarity. The definitive title of the etude, however, seems appropriate to the hovering character
of the piece and its questioning open-endedness.
After Ligetis ideas about the texture and the character of the twelfth etude
had taken concrete form, he contemplated five possible titles: Bandage, Roseau
(Reed), Entrelacs (Plaiting), Croisement (Crossing) and Miroirs (Mirrors). After
prolonged pondering, he finally settled on Entrelacs (Facsimile 11). A close
look at the etude confirms that the final title is indeed the most fitting, as the
piece in fact suggests plaiting.
Formally, the composition clearly reveals a division into three parts of the
schema A-B-A. While the two outer parts (mm. 1-30, 54-91) resemble each


other, the middle section (mm. 30-54) contrasts with them in both theme and
In terms of the tonal system, Entrelacs is one of the most rigorously worked
etudes. As in Galamb borong, each hand here, too, is confined to a six-tone row
the right hand on the notes d - e - f - g - a - b, the left hand to the row c - db
- eb - gb - ab - bb. In the third part the hands exchange their tonal supplies.
The most interesting perspectives on the etude, however, open with regard to
its rhythmic organization. The piece is based on an uninterruptedly pulsating
motion of sixteenths, with each bar comprising twelve sixteenths. (N.B., in
this etude, too, as in Ligetis music generally, the bars serve the purpose of
synchronization and orientation and should not be regarded in terms of the
traditional beat and accent metric.) The accentuation of certain pulses according to certain rules results in plaiting patterns and intricate polyrhythms. If
one looks closely at the first part, a quasi hierarchical system can be discerned.
At the beginning, the accentuated tones are given half-notes. Later on, quarter-notes, eighths and finally even sixteenths are accentuated as well. To each
relation of the note values corresponds a mathematical one. Here is an outline
of the plaiting patterns of the first part.
half notes


13 pulses r. h.,

every 17 pulses l. h.

quarter notes


7 pulses r. h.,

every 11 pulses l. h.

eighth notes


4 pulses r. h.,

every 5 pulses l. h.

sixteenth notes every

3 pulses l. h.

This shows that, except for the four, Ligeti is again working with prime numbers here.
The middle part is a good deal more complex than the first one. In mm. 3546, the right hand performs a cantabile melody (cantabile, in rilievo) in what
seems to be a free rhythm. By contrast, the left hand sticks closely to the
plaiting pattern, such that accentuated half notes are heard every 17 pulses,
quarter notes every 7 pulses and eighth notes every four or five pulses. From
m. 47 on, however, the plaiting pattern reigns also over the right hand: every
13 pulses, we hear an accentuated half note here, every five pulses an eighth
note (only in mm. 47/48) and every three pulses an accentuated sixteenth
(mm. 49-54).
In the third part, the system of the plaiting pattern of the first part is partly
continued, partly modified. Mm. 64-71 form an exterritorial enclave in the
right hand, which points back to the cantabile section of the middle part. In
addition, the following regularities can be observed. Every 13 pulses in the

right hand and every 17 pulses in the left, half notes are accentuated. If quarter notes occur in the left hand, they obey the seven-pulse principle. Accentuated eighth notes in both hands appear in a rhythm of three or four pulses.
Finally, marked sixteenth notes in the left hand underlie the three-pulse principle. The etude concludes on a chord of perfect fifths: Eb - Bb - f - c1 - g1.

Gyrgy Ligeti at the piano in his Hamburg apartment (ca. 1970)

In 1993, Ligeti pondered extensively over the concluding piece of the second
cycle, as he told me in conversation. For the start, he had in mind a bright,
radiant piece as a contrast to Automne Varsovie something analogous to
Debussys L isle joyeuse. The grand piano was to sound like a whole orchestra.
At the time he was deeply immersed in the imaginary world of Shakespeares
Tempest: Prosperos magic island fascinated him, and Calibans line The isle is
full of noises, sounds and sweet airs kept coming to his mind. Shortly after
this conversation, he departed for the United States. Invited to Santa Monica
by the Getty Foundation, he witnessed the California winter of a century in
early February: floods, mudslides and much human misery that appalled him.
Thus the intended paradisiacal vision turned into Lescalier du diable, a totally
black piece that received the final number 13.

In this piece, Ligeti set himself the task of working principally with chromaticism but disguising that ingeniously by means of various tricks. The piece
presents itself as a series of homophonic and polyphonic, rhythmically intricate inventions on the chromatically ascending scale. Characteristically, most
of the inventions begin pianissimo, even pi pianissimo, in the low register and
gradually rise to multiple forte. As soon as a climax is reached, the music, as it
were, plunges into the abyss, and a new ascent begins immediately. In an interview, Ligeti spoke of the vain endeavor to get to the top and remarked he
could have entitled this dark menacing piece also Sisyphus. As in a
nightmare, one always slides back: one would like to get somewhere but one
never arrives.260
Although there are no clear caesuras, a latent division into eight sections is
recognizable, with certain correspondences between the fourth (mm. 76-95)
and the eighth (mm. 127-160) section being particularly conspicuous. Both
have toward their end the expression mark minaccioso e maestoso, and both require tutta la forza of the player. The note like bells, gongs, tamtams in mm.
137/138 corresponds to the direction wild ringing of bells in mm. 87/88, and in
both a bell-like thirds motif is repeated several times: twelve times in mm. 9095 on the degrees f3 - d3, and five times in mm. 142-145 on the degrees g2 - e2.
No less striking is the fact that these intonations are framed by bell-ringing on
the tritone (diabolus in musica): five times in mm. 87/88 (bb - e) and seven times
in mm. 145-148 (on the low notes eb - a) obvious evocations of the demonic.
On September 27, 1993, I visited Ligeti again in his Hamburg apartment. He
was then working intensively on the etude that was to be the concluding piece
of the second cycle and was later given the number 14 (see Facsimile 12). He
wanted to call it, he said, Columna infinita (infinite pillar) after a sculpture by
the renowned Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) a pillar
35 meters high that stands in a town in the Carpathian Mountains in Southern
Romania. This etude, he added, was a tonal piece based on the note c.
When I got to see the finished composition a while later, I realized that that
remark had been an ironic exaggeration. It is true that that low c at the beginning of the piece is emphasized so heavily that one might think a tonal center
was being established. Moreover, the etude also closes with the five-line c being struck frequently. In view of the etudes complexity, however, traditional
concepts like both tonality and atonality are bound to fail altogether.


Facsimile 10 11th Piano Etude, En suspens: draft of the first page


Facsimile 11 12th Piano Etude, Entrelacs: draft of the first page


Facsimile 12 14th Piano Etude Columna infinita first page, draft


Columna infinita evokes an impression of enormous robustness and monumentality.

Of all the piano etudes, it is the least dynamically differentiated: very loud from beginning to end, it starts right away with a triple forte (sempre con tutta la forza). The
remaining expression marks signify that from the middle onward, even that volume
is to be exceeded. The entire piano region is conspicuously excluded. Even more
striking is the fact that the massive expanses of sound in both hands they relate
to each other like cresting waves form constantly rising contours. The process of
a relentless turning up of the screw, in the detail as well as in the whole, is the
trademark of the etude.
The final four piano etudes (Nos. 15-18) were composed between 1995 and 2001.
Except for the second of these (No. 16), they are wholly or partly subject to the
canon technique, which here is in the service of an extreme virtuosity that demands
the utmost of the pianist. Looking at the notation one can easily recognize the canonic parts. But to the ear they are hardly perceptible, because the rhythm half
notes in No. 15, eighths in Nos. 17 and 18 is wholly uniform.
The Fifteenth Etude (White on white) is a strictly diatonic work, which is played almost entirely on the white keys, yet does not sound tonal. Its first part (Andante con
tenerezza), composed throughout of half notes and strictly three-voiced, excels by its
wonderful canon and by mellow, mild sounds, the second part, on the other hand,
by its brio and rhythmic vitality.
The sixteenth etude, Pour Irina, is bipartite in design as well. The reference is to Irina Karaeva, the wife of the noted pianist Piere Aimard, who was part of Ligetis
immediate circle of friends, and who played his etudes with bravura. The first, sedate part in quarter notes (Andante con espressione, rubato, molto legato) is based on a
hexatonic system (dbebfgb bbcdb); the missing note ab sounds only once near
the end. The second part (Allegro con brio, sempre legato) gradually intensifies agogically. It moves at first in eighth notes and finally (Molto vivace) in sixteenths. The piece
ranges over the entire tonal expanse: both hands initially play in the middle region
but then, in the Allegro vivace, move apart and finally wind up in the high register.
The Seventeenth Etude bout de souffle, Out of Breath is worked almost to the
end as a strict canon in eighth notes and at a temporal distance of one eighth. The
last etude, Canon, is likewise a strict canon, at an interval of two eighths.


2.16 Quasi-Equidistance and Polyrhythm:

Coordinates of the Piano Concerto
In the Piano Concerto I developed new conceptions of
harmony and rhythm.
In the Piano Concerto, I now present my aesthetic creed:
my independence both of the criteria of the handed-down
avant-garde and of those of the modish post-modernism.261

Among the works that occupied Ligeti for several years is the Piano Concerto
written for the American conductor Mario di Bonaventura. The earliest
sketches for the work date from the summer of 1980. But it was only in 1986
that Ligeti was able to complete the first three movements, and the last two
movements were not composed until 1987. Between 1980 and 1985, he made
several starts, but these never got beyond diverse beginnings. At least nine
different beginnings were rejected. It was only after the completion of the
first several piano etudes in 1984 and 1985 that his plans for the Piano Concerto
began to take definitive form.
Looking closely at the sketches, one gets a sense of the enormous mental labor Ligeti invested in this work. There are more drafts for the Piano Concerto
than for any other work: jottings on diverse slips and strips of paper, numerous full pages covered with verbal notations, and a whole stack of music
leaves and sheets. They vividly document the fact that Ligeti reflected intensively about every aspect of the projected work. Initially he seems to have
been indecisive about the exact number of movements, which in the sketches
varies between four and seven. Fairly soon, however, the plan of a fivemovement structure appears to have become stabilized, in which the sequence was to be determined by the twofold contrast principle of fast-slow and
hard-soft (Hungarian kemny and puha).

FS 13 Piano Concerto, Presto luminoso notations


Ligetis Piano Concerto is a work of the greatest originality. Even so his notations in the sketches help us to realize that in conceiving the work he incorporated impressions from diverse areas (see Facsimile 13 and 14). The stimuli
were numerous: works of occidental art music (especially Liszt, Stravinsky
and Shostakovich), Conlon Nancarrow and Oscar Peterson, African polyphony, folk music of Southeastern Europe, dance like the Caribbean salsa and
Brazilian samba, and finally Paul Klee, Paul Czanne and Constantin Brancusi. What interested him in Liszts Annes de plerinage and his Dante Sonata was
the piano technique, in Stravinskys Sacre du printemps the polymetrics, in Shostakovichs Eighth Symphony the cystoscopic accumulation of dissonances.
But the imaginary ethnological music landscape he had in mind was located
somewhere between Africa, the Balkans and the Caribbean.

FS 14 Ligetis jottings for the Piano Concerto


Ligeti called the Piano Concerto his most complex score and the least transparent to the ear. And indeed, the wealth of interrelations in this work discloses
itself only after several hearings. Its enormous complexity manifests itself in
every technical dimension, in the intricate polyphony, the subtle instrumentation, and above all in its harmony, meter and rhythm.
It had been his endeavor, he proclaimed, to get away from both chromaticism
and equal temperament, to leave tonality as well as atonality behind. Though
he sympathized and experimented with microtonality, he does not seem to
have written any rigorously constructed microtonal works in the strict sense
of the term, exceptimg only the Ramifikations of 1968/69. Neither is the Piano
Concerto such a work. He could not bring himself to retune the piano accordingly. Instead, he found, after some experimentation, a new original way between microtonality and equal temperament. His declared ideal became that
of a quasi-equidistance: the music should suggest the illusion of equidistance.
It is generated within equal temperament, yet does not belong to it in terms of
its sound.
Ligeti found a model for his idea of quasi-equidistance in Javanese, Melanesian and African music musical cultures he had felt drawn to for a long time.
As we have noted, the Javanese slndro is a five-degree, roughly equidistant
scale, with intervals of 240 cents each though the instruments of the gamelan
orchestra are not precisely tuned while the plog is a seven-degree tonal system with non-equidistant intervals.
In the Piano Concerto, the idea of quasi-equidistance is implemented in diverse
ways: by the introduction of new, not equidistant intervallic modi, by the
coupling of diatonic and pentatonic scales, by the combination of two wholetone scales and by other means. In three of the works five movements (the
first, second and fifth), the tonal supply is derived wholly or in part from the
combination of diatonicism and tonic (anhemitonic) pentatonics. In visual
terms, one hand of the pianist plays on the white keys, the other on the black.
The listener perceives this combination as a suspension of temperament.
Along with quasi-equidistance, polyrhythmics proves a dominant principle of
the Piano Concerto. The polymetric and polyrhythmical techniques Ligeti had
developed in the Piano Etudes are here pushed to the limits of the possible.
The special appeal of the music of he first movement (Vivace molto ritmico e preciso) resides above all in its polyrhythmical imbroglios, which will affect the listener as much as they will confuse him.
In an effort to elucidate these implications, Ligeti referred to the talea concept
of late medieval music. Both the piano part and the string part at the begin182

ning of the concerto, he explained, are based on firm, recurrent rhythmic periods that are divided asymmetrically. The period of the piano part (notated in
12/8 time) measures 2 bars and consists of 30 pulses divided into groups
of 11, 13 and 6 units. The period of the strings playing pizzicato (notated in
4/4 time), on the other hand, comprises 3 measures and consists of 24 pulses
grouped in units of 13 and 11 pulses. The simultaneity of the periods of different length and different rhythmic patterns results in a tricky polyrhythm
(Ex. 35).

Ex. 35 Piano Concerto, 1st movement: unequal isorhythmic periods

Upon closer analysis, the movement clearly divides into four sections of 30,
30, 36 and 33 measures. Of these, the first is structured rigorously according
to the two talea-like periods described, with the first period recurring altogether twelve times, the second ten times. The other three sections are based on
different rhythmic patterns.
The opening two sections of the piano part, equally long and measuring 30
bars each, seem like two trains of sound that move in contrary directions. The
first commences in the middle register and gradually invades the upper one
up to extreme height, with the sound becoming increasingly thinner, lighter
and more ethereal. The second train, too, begins in the middle register but

then evolves toward the depth, with the sound growing more massive, voluminous and booming. The two trains demonstrate in a particularly concrete
way how time can unfold in space, or, to put it differently, how time becomes
Another observation in this connection: while the piano part in the first
movement is frequently in the foreground of the musical space, it is by no
means always so. Often in the course of the movement it recedes to the middle level and even into the background. In all four sections, highly expressive
lines of individual brasses, e.g. the horn or the trombone, and of the strings
come up to the sound level of the piano. The listener perceives these lines
now as foreground voices and now as background ones. A prominent leggiero
theme of the piccolo flute also comes to the fore in the third section (mm.
71-80) and later in the fourth one as well (Ex. 36).

Ex. 36 Piano Concerto, 1st movement: Leggiero theme of the piccolo flute

Gyrgy Ligetis music suggests closeness and distance, depth and height,
breadth and narrowness. It therefore requires a spatial, or as it were perspectival listening.

If the first movement impresses the listener by its enormously dense polyphony and nearly boundless rhythmic energy, the second (Lento e deserto) surprises him by a maximum of expressivity (Facsimile 15). It also differs considerably in terms of tonal system, as it is based predominantly on a nine-tone modus consisting of identically structured trichords (Ex.37).

Ex. 37 2nd movement: nine-tone mode

FS 15 Piano Concerto, Lento beginning of the 2nd movement, score draft

This mode, supplemented from time to time by the three missing notes (f, a,
and db), is transposed to various degrees and determines, besides the melody,
largely also the harmonics of the movement. The tension of the latter describes the following arc. A pedal point on the note f, held for 28 measures in
the double basses, suggests solitude. Over this foundation, expressive sighing figures sound in the winds, which evoke a sense of lamentation (mm. 131).262 The plaintiveness is reinforced by strange timbres and rarely used instruments, as well as by the way of playing: the piccolo flute plays in an extremely low register, the bassoon, conversely, in an extremely high one; swanee whistle (lotus flute) and alto ocarina join in; in many instances, portamento

is prescribed. After this preliminary section, the piano, in mm. 32-40, intones
a theme that will play a major role in the rest of the movement. The peculiar sound effect of this passage results from the combination of the extreme
sound registers (Ex 38).263

Ex. 38 2nd movement, Lento e deserto: Theme in mixtures (parallel chords)

Immediately thereafter, (mm. 42-59), the theme is picked up fortissimo by the

piccolo flute, the oboe and the clarinet and treated canonically in accordance
with the micropolyphonic technique. This peculiar imitational treatment
produces strident dissonances the labeling stridente in the score is no exaggeration (Ex. 39).

Ex. 39 2nd movement, Lento e deserto: micropolyphony

Major events in this movement furthermore include the siren glissando followed by an alarm whistle in mm. 58-61. Both act as pungent signals connoting alarm, war, terror and brutal authority. After the siren glissando, the dy186

namic, tonal and emotional climax of the Lento is reached on the tritone e-bb
(m. 60). Departing from the rule of the nine-tone mode, the piano now enters
with the combination of diatonicity (white keys) and tonal (anhemitonic) pentatonics (black keys). The runs of parallel fifths that the right hand of the pianist here plays on the white keys in the highest register are supported by mixtures on the black keys in the left hand, with the same tones at times occurring two octaves lower and shifted by a half-tone (Ex. 40). The damned-up
tension is prolonged (mm. 60-79). The final strains of the movement with the
chromonica (chromatic harmonica) sounds are melancholically nostalgic.

Ex. 40 2nd movement, Lento e deserto: runs of fifths, damned-up tension

Ligetis music, when it is determined primarily by the rhythmic element, has

always had an affinity with pulsation to all appearances even at a time before he had begun to occupy himself with exotic music. But it can hardly be
denied that the idea of pulsation is brought to bear more pronouncedly in his
more recent works, those postdating that preoccupation. It underlies the first
Piano Etude, the head movement of the Piano Concerto, and extended stretches
in the third and fourth movement of the latter, with the pulsation being mostly irregular, that is, the accents being distributed asymmetrically.
The affinity with exotic music of the third movement (Vivace cantabile) is most
obvious in the preference for pulsation and in the way in which the bongos
and the xylophone are treated. The piano part, which is clearly dominant in
this movement, resembles a perpetuum mobile and in some places a string of
pearls in its uniform figuration of sixteenths. An asymmetrical distribution of

accents and the intonation of individually rhythmicized melodic voices produce a complex polyrhythmical structure. Ligeti, with his soft spot for the illusionary, called the movement the most authoritative example to date of illusionary rhythm and illusionary melody. No less notable in this Vivace cantabile, however, is its peculiar union of agility and lyricism. The movement borrows its melodic substance largely from the Lento e deserto.
A characteristic of the movements physiognomy is the tonal background at
the beginning. While one hand of the pianist executes a continuous figuration
in sixteenths, the other adheres to an ostinato pulsating minor thirds motif in
dotted eighths. After the latter has been taken over by the flute, the right
hand of the pianist plays a dirge-like melody, whose notes as a rule follow
each other in a rhythm of seven pulses. Structure and progress of the movement are so complex that it would require a very long treatise to describe
them with a measure of precision.
There are, besides, numerous indications to suggest that the Vivace cantabile
incorporates ideas developed originally for a movement to have been called
Corrente. It was to be quiet: (halk), soft (puha) and flitting (suhan) and
vanish into nothingness traits that apply in part also to the Vivace cantabile.
Close occupation with the Piano Concerto also make clear that the work is indebted to the idea of recursiveness. Certainly the three middle movements
exhibit significant motivic-thematic linkages. The motivic figures of the Lento
are picked up and further developed in the two succeeding movements. Ligeti
spoke rather incidentally about the recursive structure of the fourth movement and also mentioned that its motivic formations resembled earlier motivic figures without any formation being ever repeated exactly (Ex. 41).
In contrast to the third movement, which leaves the listener with an impression of undisturbed continuity, the fourth (Allegro risoluto) is distinguished to a
marked degree by discontinuity. The few motivic elements from which it is
developed Ligeti called them kaleidoscopic particles are borrowed in
part from the two preceding movements and are initially presented as quasi
unrelated to each other. Of special importance, however, is a new, signal- or
fanfare-like motif, which will undergo numerous metamorphoses. As the
movement progresses, moreover, its elements begin to rotate: the structure
becomes ever denser. Ligeti illustrated the process by comparing it to a vortex; he also stated that in conceiving this movement in particular he was stimulated by pictures of fractal formations. No less revealing is the fact that he
regarded the Allegro risoluto as the central movement of the concerto. In the
sketches he called it a variant of the Lento e deserto. One will realize that there

are important subterraneous relations between these two movements if one

attends to the motivic connections between them and notes the peculiar fact
that only these movements feature the whip and the whistle.

Ex. 41 Piano Concerto: motivic-thematic linkages in the middle movements

The emotional climate of the movement is unique, spreading, as it does an

atmosphere of menace: one feels reminded of Arnold Schnbergs heartstirring cantata Ein berlebender aus Warschau (A Survivor from Warsaw) op.
46. The music is rich in startling moments: isolated brutal strokes of the small

drum, the Basque drum, the big drum and the whip assault ones ears and
shock the listener. A long crescendo of the piano (the suggestive expression
mark reads sempre crescendo tutta la forza con parossima estremo ancora pi feroce)
leads to the climax in mm. 141 ff.: the big drum comes in with strokes whose
volume decreases step by step from fff all the way to pppp. The portentous key
words hajsza (chase), gewaltttig (violent) and panik found in the notes to this
movement (Facsimile 16) suggest that this Allegro risoluto reflects traumatic experiences of the war or post-war period.

FS 16 Notes on the 4th movement, Allegro risoluto: cues of war memories?

For the finale (Presto luminoso), Ligeti had a luminous sound in mind from the
start: the earliest notations repeatedly include the catchwords radiant
(ragyogs) and luster - sparkle (csillogs - villogs), as well as once the code
hyper-Dur (hyper-major). In accordance with these notations, Ligeti said of
this movement that it had the mark of a persistent consonance, though all
twelve tones were present. This impression results largely from the use of a

whole-tone scale, which dominates in the first and the last section. The tonal
system on which the piano part is based in the first section (mm. 3-22) combines the two whole-tone scales. Speaking concretely, the right hand plays one
scale (c - d - e gb - ab - bb), the left hand the other (db - eb - f - g - a b).
Both chromaticism and whole-tone character seem suspended (Ex. 42).

Ex. 42 Piano Concerto, 5th movement: whole-tone scales in right and left hand

In the second section (mm. 23-46), the whole-tone scale is replaced by the
combination of diatonicism and pentatonics recalled from the first movement. The unmistakable character of luminosity in this movement is due not
only to the tone system on which it is based but above all also to the instrumentation with its bright timbres. For moments we also hear shrill sounds in
the woodwinds (mm. 41-46), and shortly before the end Ligeti places a dramatic accent: the brasses are to play minaccioso, brutale, ma jazzy. These passing shadows, however, hardly darken the altogether bright impression the
sound of the Presto creates.


2.17 The Violin Concerto

Many layers of conscious and unconscious influences are
combined into an organic homogeneous whole: African music with fractal geometry, Maurits Eschers puzzle pictures
with non-tempered tuning systems, Conlon Nancarrows polyrhythmic music with the music of the ars subtilior. But so that
some-thing new and complex results, I always endeavor to
amalgamate these external impulses with my inner image and
In the orchestra of the Violin Concerto I included, besides
the normal orchestral instruments, both violin and viola with
scordatura and instruments with inexact pitches like ocarinas,
a recorder and swanee whistles. I also indicated where I
wanted a natural horn and natural trombone or where the
woodwinds were to play minute pitch deviations. I looked for
imprecise intonation and a muddy sound.264

Both the Piano and the Violin Concerto occupy a special place in Ligetis oeuvre:
for one thing because of their enormous complexity, and for another because
these works incorporate an astonishing plenitude of ideas. Both bring into focus reflections of many years, in both Ligeti succeeded in fashioning a unique
synthesis of the heterogeneous. If he had tried to get away from temperament
already in the Piano Concerto, in the Violin Concerto he embarked on new ways
of overcoming the well-tempered system.

P. Picasso, Three Dancers: inspiration of a passage in the Violin Concerto


In November of 1988, Ligeti disclosed to me that he was planning a violin

concerto. From the start, he had the idea of letting the soloist play on two instruments, one with natural tuning and one with scordatura; he wanted the
same arrangement for the string soloists in the orchestra (two violinists, two
violist and two cellists).

FS 17 Violin Concerto: notes for the third movement


FS 18 Violin Concerto: notes for the Finale

A study of the voluminous sketches makes possible a nearly airtight reconstruction of the works genesis. Like the Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, too,
evolved in two stages: the premiere of the three-movement version took place
in Cologne on November 3, 1990. Two years later, on November 8, 1992, the
revised, five-movement version premiered in Cologne.
Ligeti wavered for some time about the number and sequence of movements.
In the extant outlines, the number varies from three to eight; as late as March
of 1990, he still toyed with the idea of making the work one of seven or eight
movements, differentiating them into fast and slow ones and pondering the
inclusion of two scherzos, one muted and chromatic, the other Romanianpolymodal. His ideas frequently revolved about a flowing movement (Fluidum), an energetic, metallic one (energikus fmes), a lament and a passacaglia.
One of the numerous outlines fixes the basic character of the movements as


1. fluid
2. resolute
3. cleste tragique parody
4. elegant gbaya pizz. tetel265
5. galimathias
Another outline differentiates the movements in terms of tonal system:
1. Vivace luminoso
2. Passacaglia: lento appassionato


3. Presto


4. Andante

staticus, microtonalis

5. Vivacissimo


Ligeti with Saschko Gawriloff at a concert rehearsal (1990)

The first version of the Violin Concerto consisted of the following movements:
a Vivace luminoso, a Passacaclia and the Presto fluido. But Ligeti was greatly dissatisfied with the original head movement and altogether recomposed it. A mere

glance at the score of the rejected composition suffices to realize that it was
substantially more impenetrable than the subsequently composed movement.
Two additional movements were written for the definitive, five-movement
version: the Aria-Hocket-Chorale and the Finale. The Aria stood in second
place, while the Passacaglia was shifted to fourth place.
The work has undoubtedly gained a great deal from these major changes. One
has to agree with Saschko Gawriloff, to whom the concerto was dedicated,
when he describes the first (fragmentary) version as an orchestral work between symphony and rhapsody with obligatory solo violin, whereas he regarded the complete version as a masterpiece a masterpiece, whose five
movements are so different in structure and content as hardly any other composition in contemporary music.266
If one hears the first movement of the Violin Concerto (Praeludium: Vivace luminoso) for the first time, one may get the impression of constant improvisation.
Upon studying the score, however, it will be seen that the piece is constructed
quite rigorously, and that the peculiar appeal of the music results from the
strong contrast between the improvisational element and the precise rhythmic
It is striking, to begin with, that the soloist throughout the entire movement
does not get to play a single cantilena but preludes from beginning to end. It
is likewise remarkable that the tonal background is formed by expanses of
flageolet-playing in the strings. An NB in the score sets forth the following instruction:
Regarding the natural flageolet tones of both the solo violin and the
strings in the orchestra (except for the double bass): during the entire
1st movement, if the flageolet notes do not always fully intone, they
should not be replaced by artificial flageolets, as the glassy, shimmering character of the movement is based on the natural flageolets, and
the not-always-secure intonation produces the impression of fragility
and hazard.

Tension is added to the composition by an intricate rhythmic figure consisting of 3 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 2 + 2 eighths, which initially (mm. 34-40) is presented by the woodwinds playing in mixtures (parallel chords) and supported
by the pizzicato-playing strings. Appearing in diverse variants, the figure plays
a major role in the course of the movement: in mm. 45-49 and 51/52, it resounds in the scordated violins and here and there in the scordated violas. In
m. 56, it crops up like a fanfare in the scordated violins, and in mm. 57/58
in the trumpet and the trombone.

The following formal outline will show that despite all of its rhapsodic freedom, the design of the movement is recapitulative:


Introduction, based on open strings and natural flageolets


marimbaphone episode (new timbre)


molto ritmico: exposition of the precise rhythmic figure in the

wood winds and the pizzicato-playing strings


a kind of development


like the beginning (~ mm. 1 ff.)


like section III (~ mm. 34 ff.)


epilogue: come un pianto

A major conceptual characteristic of the movement is the changing ethnic

coloration of the music: while the solo part sounds throughout gypsylikeRomanian, the marimba episode267 seems Far-Eastern and the rhythmically
accentuated passages evoke African music.
Of all the movements of the Violin Concerto, the second is the most perspicuous and the one most strongly indebted to tradition. Even the title Aria,
Hocket, Chorale appears retrospective, and one feels reminded of the music of
the Baroque and the Middle Ages. A closer look at the composition will indeed yield some historicizing traits. Thus the modally conceived theme of the
Aria268 borrowed from the third of Ligetis Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet
recalls Baroque models in its diatonicity, simplicity and cantabile character,
and one is surprised to discover that, like early Baroque arias, the movement
is divided into several strophes. The more deeply one penetrates into its structure, however, the more one will be astounded by the imagination and the art
with which the theme is treated. Traditional compositional techniques like the
cantus firmus and the hocket are worked in new ways, and the complexity of
the fabric in many places hardly falls short of the intricacies of the other
movements. There can be no doubt that the music of this movement, which
Ligeti himself, in conversation, referred to as his contribution to postmodernism,269 is no less new and no less original than that of the other
In drafting the first version, Ligeti was thinking of an aria con variazioni, as a
note in the sketches has it. In the final version, the various sections frequently

merge into each other: clear caesuras are not always detectable. Even so, it is
easy to recognize that the theme undergoes six very imaginative variations. It
is subtly altered and treated canonically, contrapuntally and chorale-like, as the
following outline will show.
Strophe 1 (mm. 1-43): theme intoned by the solo violin alone; from m. 28,
support from the first viola.
Strophe 2 (mm. 43-74): canonic treatment of the theme canon between
flute and solo violin on the fifth scale degree; from m. 65, the solo violin is
accompanied by two horns played like natural horns.
Strophe 3 (mm. 74-85): Chorale I: the freely diminished theme fortissimo, harmonized by the ocarinas in mixtures (parallel chords).
Strophe 4 (mm. 84-129): Faster tempo ( = 152) and highly contrapuntal fabric: the theme as cantus firmus in the trumpet, a counter-voice in the trombone,
two different hocket-like voices in the flutes and in the high strings playing in
Strophe 5 (mm. 129-157): A two-layer structure: the Aria theme in the horns
in 3/4 time (tempo primo = 114); the counterpoint of the solo violin in 4/4
time and the faster tempo ( = 152).
Strophe 6 (mm. 157-181): Chorale II (molto solenne): the theme harmonized in
mixtures in the flutes, ocarinas and swanee whistles; the multiply divided violins play a simultaneous hocket quasi chitarra.
Interlude (mm. 180-192): Maestoso misterioso pp (horns, trumpets and trombones).
Strophe 7 (mm. 192-235): Theme in the solo violin (da lontano: semplice e malinconico); conclusion dying away.
Roughly in the center of the movement (4th strophe) Ligeti placed his most
ambitiously worked contrapuntal passage. Here the theme is intoned as cantus
firmus in pound notes. The trombone recites a counter-voice, likewise in
pound notes, while the flutes and the high strings in mixtures play two hocket-like mutually complementary contrapuntal voices in smaller notes (Ex. 43).
The two chorale variations (strophe 3 and 6) are no less artful in their workmanship. What stands out is for one thing the mixture-type harmonization
and instrumentation of the chorale with ocarinas and, for another, the use of
the hocket technique. Ligeti derived impulses for its treatment both from Machaut (Hoquetus David) and medieval polyphony and from Central African music. He had, as previously noted, been fascinated by the vocal and instrumen198

tal music of the Banda Linda ever since he first encountered recordings of it
in 1982. In the famous horn music of this African tribe, which accompanies
an initiation rite, the hocket technique consists in the interweaving and overlapping of differently structured rhythmic figures, which are adapted to the
notes of the tonal (anhemitonic) pentatonic scale.270

Ex. 43 Violin Concerto, 2nd movement: cantus firmus (trumpet, trombone),

hocket (flutes, violins)


Highly contrapuntal construction and poetic-imaginative conception need not

exclude each other here: the movement begins lonely and low with the solo
violin, gradually rises up to solemnity (solenne), and after a misterioso interlude,
dies away again with the melancholy solo violin and the equally malinconico
alto flute.
An altogether different physiognomy is exhibited by the third movement
(Presto fluido), whose basic characteristic is fluidity. A flowing motion pervades
the entire movement: the multiply divided strings play, from beginning to
end, chromatically descending passages, which at first comprise fifteen notes
and then get progressively longer (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24 notes, etc.). They
are composed canonically in such a way that an extremely dense texture of
chromatically moving voices results. This texture provides the background for
a long, flowering melody of the solo violin a melody whose dodecaphonic
structure one hardly notices upon first hearing. Little by little additional salient melodic figures join in: in m. 26, a cantabile melody of the first horn, in
m. 36, a molto capriccioso phrase of the clarinets, and in m. 39 and m. 45, respectively, an alla danza motif in the flute and then the clarinet.
The music begins softly and gradually grows more intense. The chromatic
passages of the strings, seeming a first to come from far away, get progressively closer, that is, louder. A climax is reached in m. 50, where, in a kind of
free recapitulation, the solo violin picks up the melody with which it started
con violenza and in fourfold forte. A fluid crescendo of the violins, the flute and
the clarinets increases to such a degree that the solo violin can no longer assert itself but is covered up by the orchestra. Its sound disappears as if into a
thicket, the score states at m. 58. With a scordated, barely audible note (like
a distant flare-up), it takes its leave of the orchestra, and with it the melody,
too, disappears for a stretch of ten bars (mm. 60-70): only the flowing motion
remains audible in the strings and woodwinds, at first as a mere murmur, later
increasingly louder. In m. 70, the trumpet and the trombone enter in consonant sixths with a new melody, whereupon the flowing music plunges chromatically and very loudly from high to low. The end caves in, Ligeti jotted
down in the sketches, adding the graphic indication of a slanting plane. The
more suggestive expression mark in the score reads: Precipitoso: come un cataclismo precipitous: like a waterfall.
The movement is prescribed to last only two minutes. This duration, the
score says, is not to be extended, for only thus the tempo is correct. The
fast tempo is required in order to convey the sense of flux. The phrase
Heraklit-Forma, which occurs once in the sketches, appears to refer to this
movement, whose import is the Heraclitean panta rhei, everything flows.

The fourth movement, a passacaglia marked Lento appassionato, presents an

image of both order and chaos, regularity and seeming randomness. A close
study of the score will show that the music increasingly departs from the
regularity of the beginning as the movement progresses. The passacaglia
theme, relatively simple in its structure, is two-voiced and extends to six bars
(Ex. 44).

Ex. 44 Concerto for Violin, 4th movement: theme of the passacaglia

While the upper voice consistently rises chromatically, the lower voice moves
mostly in contrary motion. The following intervals constitute the scaffolding: minor second - minor third - perfect fourth - perfect fifth - perfect
fourth - minor seventh.
In accordance with the nature of the passacaglia, this theme is much-repeated,
but never in the original form: each repetition occurs in a transposed form.
The whole is designed in such a way that a rising chromatic line, beginning
with the note c1 and ending on the note f4, runs, with few exceptions, through
the entire piece. At the same time, the original two-voiced structure condens201

es progressively. The themes two-voiced scaffolding remains unchanged only

during its first four expositions (mm. 1-24). Thereafter, deviations and irregularities multiply. In two places (mm. 56-64 and 85-102), any attempt to recognize the underlying compositional principles will be in vain: chaos reigns to
both ear and eye. Here is an outline:
Mm. 1-6

: c1 - db1 - d1 - eb1 - e1 (piccolo clarinet)

: f1 - gb1 - g1 - ab1 - a1 (muted trumpet)

13-18 : bb1 - b1 - c2 - db2 - d2 (horn)

19-24 : eb2 (trumpet) e2 - f2 - gb2 - g2 (oboe)
25-29 : ab2 - a2 - bb2 - b2 (piccolo clarinet)
30-35 : c3 - db3 - d3 - eb3 - e (oboe)
36-39 : f3 - gb3 (piccolo clarinet) gb2 - g2 (2nd violin)
40-45 : ab2 - a2 - bb2 - b2 (cello) - c3 (clarinet)
46-51 : db3 - d3 (flute) - eb2 - e2 (double bass)
52-55 : f3 (flute) gb2 (piccolo clarinet) g2 - ab2 (trumpet)
56-64 : impenetrable (chaotic) structure
65-74 : f3 - gb3/f#3 - g3 - ab3 - a3 - bb3 - b3 (recorder, swanee whistle)
75-84 : c4 - db4 - d4 - eb4 - e4 - f4 (piccolo fl. and soprano ocarina)
85-102 : impenetrable (chaotic) structure
A unique sound effect marks the beginning of the movement, which persists
for 25 measures in the pianissimo sphere, with long-held, imperceptibly changing harmonies determining the musical image, and the solo violin coming in
unforgettably with long notes in the highest frequencies (m. 6). The music
strikes the listener initially as unreal, fragile, ethereal. One can well see why, in
first conceiving the movement, Ligeti had the association of a glassy dream
landscape and also thought of Lewis Carrolls Through the Looking-Glass.
It is characteristic of the course of the movement and the musics poetic conception that this glassy dream landscape is progressively threatened and finally destroyed. In mm. 36/37 and 41/42, there are feroce interjections by the
violas and the double basses. In mm. 43-46, the oboe, the bassoon and the
trombone, accompanied by a Basque drum, intone a syncopated figure that is

to be played very rhythmical, choppy and even coarse. In mm. 75/76, the
solo violin and nearly all the strings take over the feroce interjection. From m.
79 on, the initially bated music starts to grow in excitement, rising up to extreme passion (appassionato). In mm. 88-98, shrill dissonances are produced by
the wind instruments, which, reminding of Ligetis cystoscopy model, lead
to a regular explosion (ff on the great drum) in mm. 96-98. That is followed in
the score by one of Ligetis favorite directions: stop suddenly, as if torn off
(Ex. 45).

Ex. 45 Concerto for Violin, 4th movement: the glassy landscape is destroyed

The finale, Appassionato: agitato molto, has, like the opening movement, a rhapsodic tendency. In contrast to the three middle movements, no unified structural principle is perceptible here. The music rather presents itself as a sequence of variegated pictures. Its character changes with surprising frequency

in agreement with the telling catchwords tohuwabohu (chaos, hurly-burly) and

galimathias (confused chatter) in the sketches. The following grouping of the
movement is suggested by the conspicuous changes in character.
x 1st section (mm. 1-1):
lamenting melody in he woodwinds (piccolo flute and oboe), with contrasting
interjections by the solo violin
x 2nd section (mm. 12-26):
renewed start of the lamenting melody in the woodwinds (initially flute, piccolo clarinet, clarinet, then piccolo flute, flute and clarinet) and in the solo violin; progressive condensation of the fissured movement
x 3rd section (mm. 26-34):
fresh sound image (use of xylophone and whip); dominance now by bassoon,
trombone, high notes of woodwinds and solo violin, which enters feroce in m.
28; the section ends with seven drum strokes
x 4th section (mm. 45-44):
bizzarro, con violenza: Bartkian double stops on the solo violin (reference to
Picassos La danse in the sketches)
x 5th section (mm. 44-51):
contrasting sound quality created by a grazioso-leggiero melody of the piccolo
x 6th section (mm. 51-64):
unison signal (in the sketches: gigantic shofar)
x 7th section: (mm. 65-81):
lamenting melody now in the solo violin (after the manner of a free recapitulation); later duet with the alto flute
x 8th section (mm. 81-92):
transition to the cadenza
x 9th section: (m. 93):
free cadenza
x 10th section (mm. 94-101):

As the outline shows, the first two sections consist mainly of lamenting melody. The motifs of the solo violins highly excited early interjections in mm. 4
ff. (with terror, quasi shrieking, feroce) are derived from this melodic material
and are described as follows in the sketches: Violin solo: chromatic stutters
[plural] with shreds of the lament. From m. 12 and 13, the bassoon and the
trombone respectively come forward with motifs articulated amazingly fast
(leggiero capriccioso) like rapid speech in the sketches one repeatedly encounters the note sputtering (Hung. hadars).
To gain a sense of the contrastive wealth in this movement, one has to listen
to it over and over. One can hardly imagine a stronger contrast than that between the 4th section con violenza, which Ligeti associated with Picassos La
danse (Ex. 46 and fig. p. 192), the 5th section with its grazioso-leggiero melody
played by the piccolo clarinet in the highest register (taken over from the rejected original head movement), and the immensely terse, pithy unison signal (like a gigantic shofar) of the 6th section. The 7th section then picks up
the lamenting melody of the beginning, functioning quasi as a recapitulation.
The cadenza has the following somewhat lengthy note attached to it in the
The cadenza can last one to two minutes. It is to be always hectic (a
continuation of the appassionato agitato molto) but may use melodic
materials from all five movements ad lib. Toward the end it should be
prestissimo, with alternating arco and left-hand pizzicato in absolutely
mad virtuosity.
The cadenza has no real conclusion; as per arrangement between the
soloist and the conductor, it is to be suddenly interrupted by the orchestra (at R). This interruption is to happen quasi extempore, splitsecond, while the soloist is playing in high positions (on the 1st string)
in maximal tempo. At the entrance of the high wood block, the solo
violin falls abruptly silent.

The brief postlude has the effect of an acrobatic gesture. It is the reaction of
the orchestra (clapping, etc.) to the soloists performance, Ligeti explained to


Concerto for Violin, 5th movement: Con violenza of the solo violin
(cf. Picasso, La danse, below)


2.18 The Horn Concerto

Ligeti composed this work in 1998 and 1999. The Hamburg Zeit Foundation
Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius commissioned it, requesting that the premiere
take place in Hamburg and that the title reflect a connection with the Hanseatic city. Ligeti did not hesitate to comply with both wishes. The world premiere, on January 20, 2001, did indeed take place in Hamburg; the soloist was
the prominent hornist Marie Louise Neunecker, who already years before had
asked the composer for a horn concerto. Ligeti, moreover, gave the new work
the title Hamburgisches Konzert, in analogy to the Brandenburgische Konzerte of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The major innovation in the horn concerto is its sound, resulting from an
original combination of the system of natural tones (the harmonic series)
and the well-tempered system. Thus the soloist plays partly on a natural horn
and partly on a valve horn. The score, moreover, prescribes no fewer than
four natural horns, all of which sound the tones of the harmonic series. The
work is written for a chamber orchestra comprising instruments of diverse
genres (among other things two basset horns). The results are iridescent, hovering sounds. A listener puzzled by the use of five horns should consider the
exceptional tonal amalgamation of these instruments.
The following table presents the tones of the harmonic series together with
their deviations from the pitches of the tempered system:271

The work was originally designed to be in six movements; later, Ligeti added a
seventh. The conspicuous brevity of the movements is owing to the strenuousness of playing the horns, though perhaps also to Ligetis manifest sympathy with Anton Webern, the great master of the musical miniature. The
movements have in part multiple headings, which refer either to compositional techniques (hocket, aksak, mixture, canon) or to traditional genres
(prelude, aria, chorale, capriccio, hymn).

The first movement, entitled prelude and bearing the expression mark Adagio
espressivo, begins with cluster-like pianissimo sounds in half-notes and does not
exceed the mezzo forte range. Only six measures before the end (at letter C), we
hear a sudden explosion: a stringendo in triple forte moving upward from below
and bearing the note wie verrckt (like crazy). It is followed by a remarkable concluding sound, a soft cluster, beginning pp and ending in a fourfold
pppp morendo.
The second movement, Signals, Dance, Chorale, is divided into three sections, in accordance with the three headings: Signals (mm. 1-7), Dance (mm.
8-15) and Chorale (mm. 16-32). The history of horn music obviously began
with signals serving for communication in war and in the chase. Ligetis signals, however, have nothing in common with the traditional fourths and fifths
intervals but are shaped by modern diastematics, although the first three signals are conspicuously answered by regular echoes.

The Dance is distinguished by dense polyphony. The final section is indeed

chorale-like in its strict use of four voices but is divided not into four-beat
lines but into phrases of different lengths.
The third movement is unusual. In contrast to its three headings (Aria,
Aksak, Hocket), its formal division is bipartite. While the first part consists
of an aria (mm. 1-11), the second represents a coupling of aksak and hocket.
(mm. 12-33).272 In the Aria, the melody is given to the solo horn, while bongos and strings accompany it. In the second part, the aksak rhythm, for which
Ligeti had a predilection, is combined with the hocket technique, in that bongos, strings and marimbaphone provide the rhythmic foundation, while the
short melodic segments of the hocket are given to the woodwinds.
The Turkish term aksak, meaning irregular, denotes a fast rhythmic system
that is based on a matrix consisting of a juxtaposition of binary and ternary
quantities, such as 2+2, 2+2+3, 2+3+3. This matrix underlies the so-called
Bulgarian rhythm as well as the Greek kalamatianos.273 In his late Hamburg
years, Ligeti took a vivid interest in the polyphonic music of the 14 th century
and especially in the so-called hocket a technique made famous above all by

Guillaume de Machaut. In this technique, two voices alternate with single or

short groups of notes, mostly in a rapid tempo, one pausing while the other
The fourth movement is headed Solo, Intermezzo, Mixture, Canon and is
accordingly constructed in four sections: Solo (mm. 1-28), Intermezzo (mm.
29-41), Mixture (mm. 30-65) and Canon (mm. 66-137). The very cantabile solo
of the concertante horn is followed secondly by a Vivo feroce in asymmetric
rhythms and triple or quadruple forte the kind of wild music Ligeti was often fond of. Mixture, as we have noted before, refers to the sequencing of
parallel chords, a technique that has been known since the organ music of the
Middle Ages, but was also used by Debussy (La cathdrale engloutie) and Ravel
(Bolero). The fourth, highly virtuoso section (prestissimo) is constructed as a canon and is reserved to the woodwinds, the xylophone and the strings, while the
five hornists pause.
In the fifth movement, Spectra, Ligeti confronted the type of spectral music that flourished in Paris since 1970, and whose principal representative
was Grard Grisey. There are two kinds of spectra: the harmonic and the inharmonic. While the harmonic are grounded on the harmonic series, noises
form the basis of the inharmonic. In a commentary, Ligeti pointed out that
the inharmonic spectra had not been made use of to date.274 How complex
the structure of this piece is one will realize only upon considering that the
solo-playing valve horn produces exclusively well-tempered tones.
The Italian word capriccio, mood or whim, in occidental music and visual art
denotes a work of whimsical, playful, facetious character. Though etymologically derived from Latin caput, head, rather than capra, goat, as popularly
thought, it may have become colored by its phonetic similarity to the latter, an
animal known for its capricious leaping behavior. Interestingly enough, Ligetis sixth movement, entitled Capriccio, thus opens with motifs notable
for their leaping fifths.


The piece is bipartite. The first part (mm. 1-24) makes a rather robust impression. The marks rigoroso (m. 11) and trotzig, defiant or obstinate (m. 16), provide hints for the recital of the solo horn. The second part (mm. 25-50) presents a strong contrast. It is held throughout to a pianissimo, and the melody of
the soloist is to be recited initially dolcissimo and dolente and later cantabile espr.
Self-critical as he was, Ligeti must have felt at some point that the Capriccio
was not well suited as a finale and therefore composed a seventh movement,
the Hymn. The expression mark here reads Andante maestoso e misterioso. The
horns are to be muted, the strings to be bowed between bridge and tailpiece.
The rhythm regularly follows a pattern of half + dotted half notes. The piece
begins pianissimo and concludes, from m. 11 on, crescendo poco a poco up to a triple forte.
Of most of the Horn Concertos movement it can be said that they fuse contrasting musical characters in such a way that one is hardly conscious of any
ruptures or discontinuities. The Ligeti accent remains unmistakable throughout.


Afterword: Beyond Avantgarde and Postmodernism

In todays musical composition, as well as in the other arts,
there is a dichotomy between modernist and postmodern (or
Avant-garde and Postmodernism). I regard myself to be outside either one. Although I once loosely belonged to the
Darmstadt Circle, I am no adherent to the Avant-garde was
never a dogmatic advocate of any orientation.275
I think both Avant-garde and Postmodernism have become
obsolete. But I nevertheless believe in a modern art independent of any ideology, corresponding to the intellectual situation, the coloration and sense of life of the late 20th century.276

Numerous art-theoretical discussions in the late 20th century circled about the
relations between Avant-garde, Modernism and Postmodernism. Not only
artists writers, architects, painters and musicians weighed in but so did
philosophers and sociologists. It will come as no surprise that the dispute
yielded no consensus, involving, as it did, fundamental questions, diametrically opposed positions and varying definitions.
The term avant-garde, borrowed from military nomenclature, refers to the
vanguard of a militant troop, whose task it is to advance into unfamiliar territory. Gianmario Borio names as constants of the concept besides the feeling, and passing existence, of group solidarity an experimental groping
about and a utopian lan for the unknown.277 An additional key aspect of all
avant-garde movements beyond that is an unconditional belief in progress,
not only in science and technology but also in art.
European music history of the 20th century knows of several avant-garde
movements. Among the most important ones must be reckoned the Second
Viennese School around Schnberg from 1908 with its advance into atonality
and dodecaphony, and the Darmstadt Circle around 1960, which favored serialism.
Whereas the term avant-garde cannot be called imprecise, the concept of
postmodernism is a rather iridescent one, a passepartout concept according
to Umberto Eco,278 which is used with both a positive and a negative connotation. To Jean-Franois Lyotard279 and Wolfgang Welsch,280 Postmodernism
is by no means an anti-modernism but the intellectual heir of Modernism: it
fulfilled what the latter postulated. Other thinkers, by contrast, conceive of
Postmodernism as a reactionary counter-position to Modernism. In 1980,

Jrgen Habermas, who regards Modernism as a project of enlightenment,

thought that now as ever minds are divided as to whether to continue to
hold fast to the intentions of the Enlightenment, however fractured, or else to
give up the project of Modernism as lost.281 Literary critics like Leslie Fiedler,
in turn, have lauded Postmodernism for having closed the rift between the
artist and the public.282
By his own admission, Ligeti had belonged more or less loosely to the
Avant-garde during the late fifties. Soon after arriving in Cologne, he joined
the circle around Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig, who
together with Pierre Boulez, Henri Pousseur, Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio,
Bruno Maderna, Mauricio Kagel and Franco Evangelisti represented the musical Avant-garde of the time. The chief aim of the group, whose art was not
understood either by the officials or by the public, was to erect a counterculture. This solidarity, however, Ligeti remarked, presupposed that we
took over certain rules, certain stylistic features and kinds of behavior.283
In the following decades, Ligeti repeatedly expressed severe misgivings about
both Avant-garde and Postmodernism, He insisted that the Avant-garde had
become conformist and obsolete and regarded Postmodernism as not in
accordance with the times. A key motive for distancing himself from the contemporary Avant-garde was his conviction that the social utopians connected
with it had become irrelevant at least since the descent of the Iron Curtain.
Avant-garde art had outlived itself, because both the social and the technological situation had changed. Morever, Ligeti, who swore by innovativeness,
thought it questionable to continue composing after the old Avant-gardist
methods cluster technique, micropolyphony, and the like.
No less decisively Ligeti rejected musical Postmodernism in its various shades
and hues. On May 18, 1983, he delivered the following statement in Stuttgart:
I see in several of my contemporaries a total turning back not only to tonality, but also to a set of musical gestures stemming from earlier times, such
as the turn of the century. I do not have to talk about that in detail, it is generally known; and I observe similar tendencies in some of he younger composers.
And he hastened to add that he was critically opposed to the Neo-Romantic
and Neo-Expressionist trends. He elaborated by stating that he still wanted to
write a rigorously constructive music and that it was essential for him to
maintain distance to himself; an all-too direct expression seemed taboo
to him.284

Ten years later, on May 28, 1993, he declared in an interview in the noted
German weekly Die Zeit:
I am against postmodernism in all the arts, because I reject the restoration of an art that is agreeable and that reaches a great mass of people, who utter sighs of relief: Enough of this Modernism already. I
regard this as a lie as much as I do the endeavor to continue the
Avant-garde. It signifies the restoration of a sensibility that was pertinent in the 19th century. But we are not living at the end of the 19th
century. Today one has to make an art that contains what is relevant

Ligeti critically confronted many of the artistic directions of our time. He reflected about the musical situation of the present and sought for a way out of
the dilemma of Avant-garde vs. Postmodernism. The works he created since
1982 document his independence of the norms both of the traditional Avantgarde and of modish Postmodernism.
In his later years, Ligeti confessed to be fascinated by computer science and
artificial intelligence and expected substantial new impulses for his work from
informatics. But he never hesitated to add that he did not consider leaving the
act of composition to the computer: composing, he was firmly convinced,
was an act that presupposed the human genius.
Of Ligetis multifaceted oeuvre it can be said in conclusion that its traits are
unique and unmistakable and that it resists pigeon-holing in any of the fashionable variants of the New Music. Located beyond both Avant-garde and
Postmodernism, it belongs to Modernism, and it represents the Modern even
when it alleges to be bound by tradition.
As an eminently critical spirit, Ligeti made the highest demands on himself,
his colleagues and his pupils. Some of his own works, too, did not withstand
his sharp critical judgment in the long run. Thus he subjected his surrealistic
stage work, Le Grand Macabre, to a radical revision. My last extensive conversation with him took place in September of 1999 in Hamburg. He was already
ill then and, partly as a result of that, very pessimistic. He prognosticated the
end of culture, lamented the decline of quality in production and the cult of
mediocrity. In his youth, he had admired the experimental spirit, currents like
Surrealism and Dadaism. What happened to our dreams? he asked.
Gyrgy Ligeti died in Vienna on June 12, 2006.



3 Part Three:

3.1 Abbreviations









sterreichische Musikzeitschrift


Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Kassel, 1949-1986)


Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik


3.2 Notes
Part One: Personality and Fundamental Aspects of the Work
Biographical Sketch
1 Ligeti in a conversation with Ursula Gnther and the author, November 14, 1988, in
2 Ligeti in a radio interview with Gerhard Uhlig, November 9, 1989.
3 Ibid.
4 Ligeti, Viele Plne aber wenig Zeit (letter to Ove Nordwall, December 28, 1964), Melos 32 (1965), 251 f.
5 Ja, ich war ein utopischer Sozialist. Gyrgy Ligeti in Conversation with Reinhard
Oehlschlgel, Musik Texte 28/29 (March 1989), 85-102.
6 Ligeti, Musikalische Erinnerungen aus Kindheit und Jugend, in Carl Dahlhaus, ed.,
Festschrift fr einen Verleger. Ludwig Strecker zum 90. Geburtstag (Mainz, 1973), 54-60.
7 Ligeti, Neue Musik in Ungarn, Melos 16 (1949), 5-8.
8 Ursula Strzbecher, Werkstattgesprche mit Komponisten (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag
910) (Munich, 1973), 37-52; p. 43.
9 Karl H. Wrner, Karlheinz Stockhausen. Werk + Wollen 1950-1962 (Kontrapunkte, vol. 6)
(Rodenkirchen/Rhein, 1963), 39.
Questions of Identity
Gyrgy Ligeti in Hans Jrgen Schulze, ed. Mein Judentum (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag Sachbuch 10632) (Munich, 1986), 196-207. Cf. Peter Petersen, Juden im Musikleben
Hamburgs, in Arno Herzig, ed., Die Juden in Hamburg 1590 bis 1990 (Hamburg, 1991),
11 Gyrgy Ligeti Edition 2, Sony Classical 01-062305-10 SK 62305, Track 4.
12 Ligeti, Mein Judentum, op. cit., 197 f.
13 Ligeti, Apropos Musik und Politik, in Darmstdter Beitrge zur Neuen Musik XIII (Ferienkurse 72) (Mainz, 1973), 42-46.
14 Meine Musik ist elitre Kunst. Gyrgy Ligeti antwortet Lutz Lesle, Musica 28 (1974),

Towards an Intellectual Physiognomy

Stilisierte Emotion. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch mit Denys Bouliane, Musik Texte
28/29 (March 1989), 52-62; p. 57.
16 Ibid., 60.
17 Ligeti, Aspekte der Webernschen Kompositionstechnik, Musik-Konzepte, special issue,
Anton Webern II (November 1984), 51-104; pp. 54 f.
18 Monika Lichtenfeld, Gesprch mit Gyrgy Ligeti, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 145
(1984), 8-11; p.11.
19 Ove Nordwall, Gyrgy Ligeti. Eine Monographie (Mainz, 1971), 93, 96.
20 Kindlers Literatur Lexikon, 3 (Munich, 1974), 1046 f.
21 Nordwall, Ligeti, 19, n. 3
22 Armin Sandig, in the brochure for the Ligeti Exhibition at North German Radio, May
27, 1993.


Wolfgang Burde, Im Banne des imaginren Reichs Kilviria. Notizen zu graphischen

Notaten Ligetis, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 154 (Jan 1993), 42-47; Burde, Gyrgy Ligeti. Eine
Monographie (Zurich, 1993) 13 f.
24 Denys Bouliane, Geronnene Zeit und Narration. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch, Neue
Zeitschrift fr Musik 149 (May, 1988), 19-25; p. 22.
25 Ligeti, Apropos Musik und Politik (see n. 13), 43.
26 Meine Stellung als Komponist heute, in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Monika Lichtenfeld, 2
vol. (Mainz, Tokyo, New York, 2002), 2:114 f.
27 Gesammelte Schriften, 1:262.
28 John M. Chowning, Music from Machines: Perceptual Fusion & Auditory Perspective
for Ligeti; Jean-Claude Risset, Computer. Synthesis, Perception. Paradoxes; in Fr
Ligeti. Die Referate des Ligeti-Kongresses Hamburg 1988 (Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft, vol. 11 (Laaber, 1991), 231-243 and 245-258.
29 Burde, Ligeti, 22 f.

A Non-Puristic Music
Lutz Lesle, In meiner Musik gibt es keine Weltanschauung. Gesprch mit Gyrgy Ligeti, Das Orchester 36 (1988), 885-890; p. 888.
31 Werner Klppelholz in Conversation with Gyrgy Ligeti, in Was ist musikalische Bildung?
(Musikalische Zeitfragen 14) (Kassel, Basel, London, 1984), 66-75; p. 70.
32 Karlheinz Stockhausen, Elektronische und instrumentale Musik, Die Reihe 5 (Vienna,
1959), 50 ff.
33 Pierre Boulez, Wille und Zufall. Gesprche mit Clestin Delige und Hans Mayer (Stuttgart, Zurich, 1977), 135 f.
34 Nordwall, Ligeti, 41.
35 Ibid., 138.
36 Ibid., 138.
37 Hans Werner Henze, Musik und Politik. Schriften und Gesprche 1955-1984 (Munich, 1984),
191. Cf. Peter Petersen, Tanz- Jazz- und Marschidiome im Musiktheater Hans Werner
Henzes. Zur Konkretisierung des Stilbegriffs musica impura, Musiktheorie 10:1 (!995), 7386.

Metaphors, Allusions and Synaesthesias

Ligeti, Zustnde, Ereignisse, Wandlungen, Melos 34 (1967), 165-169; p.165.
39 Musikalische Zeitfragen 14 (1984), 70.
40 Interview with Josef Husler, Southwest Radio Baden-Baden, July, 1968. Quoted from
Nordwall, Ligeti, 136.
41 Ibid., 137.
42 Olivier Messiaen:

Every impression turns into music for me. A photograph of stalagmites

and stalactites suggests a melody to me, a stained-glass church window inspires me with a sequence of chords and timbres.
Quoted from Aloyse Michaely, Die Musik Olivier Messiaens. Untersuchungen zum Gesamtschaffen (Hamburger Beitrge zur Musikwissenschaft, special issue) (Hamburg, 1987), 10.


Nordwall, 138.
Melos 34 (1967), 165.
45 Albert Wellek, Musikpsychologie und Musiksthetik. Grundri der systematischen Musikwissenschaft (Frankfurt a.M., 1963), 103, 166ff.
46 Erkki Salmenhaara, Das musikalische Material und seine Behandlung in den Werken Apparitions, Atmosphres, Aventures und Requiem von Gyrgy Ligeti (Regensburg, 1969), 177188.
47 Ligeti to Ove Nordwall, February 22, 1967; quoted from Nordwall, Ligeti, 87 and 90.
48 Nordwall, 126 f.
49 See Claudia Bullerjahn, Assoziationen fr Kenner? Zu Ligetis auermusikalischen Anspielungen, erlutert am Beispiele des Orchestestcks Lontano (1967), Zeitschrift fr Musikpdagogik 51 (Sept. 1989), 9-23.
50 Nordwall, 133.
51 As is well known, numerous Impressionist pieces bearing certain titles (e.g. Debussys
Estampes and Images) were inspired by visual impressions. Clearly the titles were
meant to direct the listeners imagination in a certain direction as well. Only an associative listening is in keeping with music thus constituted.

Innovativeness: Aspects of Compositional Technique

Quoted from Nordwall, 128.
53 Theodor W. Adorno, sthetische Theorie (Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 7) (Frankfurt a.M.,
1970), 48.
54 Fragen und Antworten von mir selbst, Melos 38 (1971), 509-516.
55 Sie the list of phones attached to the score.
56 Melos 34 (1967), 165.
57 Melos 38 (1971), 510.
58 These rules were published by Salmenhaara (139-141). See Karl-Josef Mller, Gyrgy
Ligeti (1923). Lontano fr groes Orchester (1967, in Dieter Zimmerschied, ed., Perspektiven Neuer Musik. Material und didaktischeInformation (Mainz, 1974)), 286-308.
59 Quoted from Salmenhaara, 141.
60 Arnold Schnberg, Komposition mit zwlf Tnen, in Stil und Gedanke. Aufstze zur
Musik, ed. Ivan Vojtech (Gesammelte Schriften 1) (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer, 1976), 7296; p. 76.
61 Quoted from Nordwall, 144.
62 Peter Niklas Wilson, Empirische Untersuchungen zur Wahrnehmung von Geruschstrukturen
(Schriftenreihe zur Musik, vol. 23) (Hamburg, 1984), 12 f.

Motion Types, Tonal Gestures and Expressive Characters

63 In a conversation with Herman Sabbe (Interface 8 [1979], 26), Ligeti stated that his
strong interest in the mechanical had been awakened by an early literary experience. When
he was five, he said, he had been given a book by Gyula Krudy to read, a book that had
fascinated him. He could clearly remember a novel whose heroine was the widow of a
meteorologist, professor of physics and mechanical engineer. It had impressed him as a
child that this woman lived in an isolated house that was full of clockworks, manometers,
hygrometers and all kinds of machinery.


Ligeti to Ove Nordwall, April 17, 1966. Quoted from Nordwall, 8.

Herman Sabbe, Clocky Clouds and Cloudy Clocks Europisches Erbe in beschmutzter Zeitlupe, in Otto Kolleritsch, ed., Gyrgy Ligeti. Personalstil Avantgardismus
Popularitt (Studien zur Wertungsforschung, vol. 19) (Vienna, Graz, 1987), 134-144.
66 Melos 41 (1974), 42.
67 Bertolt Brecht, ber gestische Musik, in Werke. Groe kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, vol. 22 (Schriften 2, Pt. 1) (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1993), 329-331. This
brief article was written in 1937/38.
68 Theodor W. Adorno, Versuch ber Wagner (Frankfurt a.M., 1952), 39 ff.
69 Ligeti to Bo Wallner, August 11, 1962. Quoted from Nordwall, 76.
70 Ligeti uses the term Ausdruckscharaktere, expressive characters, himself in his performance instructions/expression marks for Aventures, m. 38.

Time and Space. Imaginary Space

Ligeti, commentary on Vertige (1990), in program booklet of 1990 Gtersloh Ligeti Festival, p.12.
72 Nordwall, 124 f.
73 Ibid., 125.
74 Ligeti, commentary on the Piano Concerto, Feb 2, 1988; reprinted in the program of the
1994 Gtersloh Ligeti Festival, 11-14.
75 See Helga de la Motte-Haber, Musik und bildende Kunst. Von der Tonmalerei zur Klangskulptur (Laaber, 1990).
76 Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Intervall und Zeit. Aufstze und Schriften zum Werk, ed. Christof
Bittner (Mainz, 1974), 11 ff.
77 Cf. Hans Albrecht, Art: Impressionismu, in MGG, vol. 6 (Kassel, 1957), col. 1056.
78 Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophie der neuen Musik (Frankfurt a.M., 1958), 178.
79 Musik-Konzepte, special issue, Anton Webern II (1984), 54 f.
80 Hans-Joachim Erwe, Interview mit Gyrgy Ligeti. Zeitschrift fr Musikpdagogik 37
(Nov 1986), 3-11; p. 10.
81 Richard Wagner, Die Musikdramen (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 6095) (Munich,
1978), 833 f.
82 Ernst Bloch, Zur Philosophie der Musik (Frankfurt a.M., 1974), 239, comments: The special meaning of the line is that what is spatially at rest, as something achieved to begin
with, is placed above the temporal step and even wants to accelerate the latter by slowing
it in the act of finding (transl.).
83 Pierre Boulez, Points de repre. Essais, 2nd ed., ed. J.-J. Nattiez (Paris 1985), 427-432; p.
427. Transl. as Orientations by Martin Cooper (Cambridge, Mass., 1986), 240-244.
84 Salmenhaara, 187 f.
85 In Salmenhaara, the first two words of the note read endloser Markt (endless market). Ligeti told me on May 22, 1988, with reference to Salmenhaaras book, that in
sketches for the Requiem he often used the Hungarian word tr, which means space,
spatiality though, in a different context, also place and market place. Salmenhaara
often translates incorrectly.
86 Ligeti, Form in der Neuen Musik, Darmstdter Beitrge zur Neuen Musik, vol 10 (Mainz,
1966), 23-35.


Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, transl. Maren Jolas (Boston, 1964, 8.
Musik-Konzepte, special issue, Anton Webern II (1984), 89.
89 Salmenhaara, 148.
90 Hartmuth Kinzler, Allusion Illusion. berlegungen anllich Continuum, in Kolleritsch, Ligeti, 75-105; p. 87.
91 Ivanka Stoianova, ber Klangverstelungen und die Formbewegung, in Kolleritsch,
Ligeti, 222-232; pp. 226 f.

New Sound Images New Semantemes. Cystoscopy,

Vacuum and Music of the Spheres
92 See my Musik als Botschaft (Wiesbaden, 1971), 108.
93 Nordwall, 108.
94 In 1966, during the genesis of the Cello Concerto, Ligeti became ill and had to be hospitalized.
95 Booklet accompanying the record album WER 60095, p. 22.
A Double-Bottomed Relation to Tradition
Monika Lichtenfeld, Gesprch mit Gyrgy Ligeti, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 145
(1984), 8-11; p. 10.
97 Darmstdter Beitrge zur Neuen Musik 10 (1966), 27.
98 Nordwall, 128, 131, 143.
99 Clemens Khn, Das Zitat in der Musik der Gegenwwart mit Ausblicken auf bildende Kunst
und Literatur (Hamburg, 1972).
100 In his thoughtful article, Vorausblick in neue Vergangenheit. Ligeti und die Tradition, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 154 (Jan 1993), 5-7, Herman Sabbe summarizes Ligetis relation to tradition with the words: he does not quote but assimilates.
101 Klaus Kropfinger, Ligeti und die Tradition, in Rudolf Stephan, ed., Zwischen Tradition
und Fortschritt. ber das musikalische Geschichtsbewutsein (Verffentlichungen des Instituts fr
neue Musik und Musikerziehung Darmstadt, vol. 13) (Mainz, 1973, 131-142.
102 Walter Benjamin, Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (Frankfurt,
1977), 13-16.
103 Salmenhaara, 187.
104 Gustav Mahler und die musikalische Utopie. Gesprche zwischen Gyrgy Ligeti und
Clytus Gottwalt, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 135 (1974), 7-11, 288-01.

Diversity of Inspirational Sources. A Universalist Concept of Art and Music

MusikTexte 28/29 (March, 1989), 57.
106 For details, see Nordwall, 168.
107 MusikTexte 28/29 (March, 1989), 55.
108 The rejected head movement of the Violin Concerto had a similar dance-like theme: alla
danza capriccioso, mm. 38-41 and, as a grazioso version, mm. 56-59.
109 More about this in the chapter on the Violin Concerto.


New Ways of Transcending the Tempered System

110 Nordwall, 140.
111 Ligeti on the Violin Concerto. Conversation with Louise Duchesneau, Hamburg, October 1992; reprinted in Gtersloh 94: Musikfest fr Gyrgy Ligeti, 23-25.
112 Ferruccio Busoni, Entwurf einer neuen sthetik der Tonkunst. With annotations by Arnold
Schnberg and an afterword by H. H. Stuckenschmidt (Frankfurt a.M., 1974), 54-56.
113 Harry Partch, Genesis of a Music. An Account of a Creative Work, its Roots and its Fulfillment,
2nd ed. (New York, 1979; 1st ed. 1949).
114 Gyrgy Ligeti ber eigene Werke: Ein Gesprch mit Detlef Gojowy aus dem Jahre
1988, in Fr Gyrgy Ligeti. Die Referate des Ligeti-Kongresses Hamburg 1988 (Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft, vol. 11) (Laaber, 1991), 349-363; p. 355.
115 Manfred Stahnke, ber den Begriff Mikrotonalitt, abgeleitet aus dem Werk Gyrgy
Ligetis, in Gtersloh 90 Hommage Gyrgy Ligeti, 29-33, 30.
116 Ibid.
Backgrounds of Ligetis Popularity
117 Musica 28 (1974), 40.
118 Musikalische Zeitfragen 14 (1984), 68.
119 Hansjrg Pauli, Umgang mit Tnen, in Reihe Film 18, Stanley Kubrick (Munich, Vienna, 1984), 247-284; p. 264.
120 Peter W. Jansen, Kommentierte Filmographie, ibid., 106-134; p. 110.
121 Gerhard Arnoldi, Flstern aus der Sackgasse. Beifall und Pfiffe fr den Komponisten
Gyrgy Ligeti, Hr Zu, No. 49, December 6, 1969, p. 41.
122 Musikalische Zeitfragen 14, (1984), 69.
123 Ulrich Dibelius, Konsequenzen eines Klangbildners. Zur Musik von Gyrgy Ligeti,
in booklet attached to record album WER 60095 (Mainz, 1984), 5-14.
124 Burde, Ligeti, 245.
125 Peter Niklas Wilson, Empirische Untersuchungen, 10 f.
126 Musikalische Zeitfragen 14 (1984), 66 f.
127 sterreichische Musikzeitschrift 48 (1993), 297; 49 (1994), 5-8.

Part Two: Works

Composing in the Homeland

128 Commentary on the First String Quartet, in supplement to record album WER 60095
(Mainz, 1984), 15.
129 Nordwall, 188-201.
130 MusikTexte 28/29 (March 1989), 95.
131 Zsigmond Szathmry, Die Orgelwerke von Gyrgy Ligeti, in Kolleritsch, Ligeti, 213220; pp. 219 f.

Going beyond Serialism

Fragen und Antworten von mir selbst, Melos 38 (1971), 512.

Ibid., 510
134 Cf. Ernst Krenek, Vom Verfall des Einfalls (1959), in Krenek, Im Zweifelsfalle. Aufstze zur Musik (Vienna, Munich, Zurich, 1984), 190-197.


135 Herbert Eimert, Von der Entscheidungsfreihait des Komponisten, in Die Reihe 3
(Vienna, 1957), 5-12; p. 8.
136 Gyrgy Ligeti, Pierre Boulez. Entscheidung und Automatik in der Structure Ia, Die
Reihe 4 (Vienna, Zurich, London, 1958), 38-63.
137 This table was published by Gianmario Borio in his Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960.
Entwurf einer Theorie der informellen Musik (Laaber, 1993), 40.

Apparitions and the Dream of the Web

138 Zustnde, Ereignisse, Wandlungen, Melos 34 (1967), 165.
139 Ligeti, Artikulation. Eine Hrpartitur von Rainer Wehinger (Mainz, 1979).
140 Ernst Thomas, IGNM in Kln: Die Avantgarde trat hervor, Melos 27 (1960), 220226; p. 224.
141 Borio, Musikalische Avantgarde, 47, n. 49.
142 See the discussion by Salmenhaara, op. cit., 30-32.
143 Fragen und Antworten von mir selbst, Melos 38 (1971), 11.
144 Ligeti, Musik und Technik. Eigene Erfahrungen und subjektive Betrachtungen, in
Gnther Batel, Gnter Kleinen und Dieter Salbert, eds., Computermusik. Theoretische Grundlagen. Kompositionsgeschichtliche Zusammenhnge, Musiklernprogramme (Laaber, 1987), 9-35; p. 24.
145 Ern Lendvai, Einfhrung in die Formen- und Harmonienwelt Bartks, in Weg und
Werk. Schriften und Briefe, compiled by Bence Szabolcsi (Budapest and Leipzig, 1957), 91137
146 Nordwall, 123.
147 See my Gustav Mahler, vol. 3: Die Symphonien (Wiesbaden, 1985), 176-183; and Alban
Berg. Music als Autobiographie (Wiesbaden, Leipzig, Paris, 1992), 169-178 (Alban Berg. Music as
Autobiography, transl. Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch (Peter Lang, 2014), 142-151.
Atmosphres a Secret Requiem?
148 Ligeti about Atmosphres, quoted from Salmenhaara, 67 f.
149 According to Salmenhaara, 67.
150 Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 3 (1991) 357.
151 Quoted from Nordwall, 9.
152 Salmenhaara, 177-179.
153 In his essay, Ton-Cluster, Anschlge, bergnge, Die Reihe 5 (1959), 23-37, Mauricio
Kagel distinguishes five cluster types: 1. fixed tone clusters, 2. movable tone clusters, 3.
great tone clusters through addition, 4. small tone clusters through subtraction and 5. flageolet tone clusters.
154 Salmenhaara, 86.
155 Andreas E. Beurmann & Albrecht Schneider, Struktur, Klang, Dynamik. Akustische
Untersuchungen an Ligetis Atmosophres, Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11
(1991), 311-334; p. 317, diagram p. 318.
156 Circled letters = Ligetis own reference letters; Arabic numerals = sound fields according to Ligeti and Salmenhaara; Roman numerals = structural divisions according to Sigrid
Schneider, Zwischen Statik und Dynamik. Zur formalen Analyse von Ligetis Atmosphres, Musik und Bildung 7 (1975), 506-510.
157 For a detailed discussion, see the next chapter on Micropolyphony.


For details, see the chapter New Sound Images New Semantemes.
Harald Kaufmann, Strukturen im Strukturlosen, Melos 31 (1964), 391-398; reprinted
in Kaufmann, Spurlinien. Analytische Aufstze ber Sprache und Musik (Vienna, 1969), 107117; pp. 114 f.
160 Salmenhaara, 102.
161 Nordwall, 205.


Musik und Technik (n. 17, above), 24.

Ligeti, Wandlungen der musikalischen Form, Die Reihe 7 (1960), 6.
164 Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11 (1991), 354 f.

Language and Music in the Requiem

Herman Sabbe, Gyrgy Ligeti Illusions et Allusions, Interface 8 (1979), 11-34; p. 17.
Viele Plne aber wenig Zeit, Melos 32 (1965), 251.
167 Ibid.
168 Auf dem Weg zu Lux aeterna, sterreichische Musikzeitschrift 24 (1969), 80-88; pp. 82 f.
169 See Werner Klppelholz, Sprache als Musik. Studien zur Vokalkomposition seit 1956 (Herrenberg, 1976); Wilfried Gruhn, Musiksprache Sprachmusik Textvertonung. Aspekte des
Verhltnisses von Musik, Sprache und Text (Schriftenreihe zur Musikpdagogik) (Frankfurt,
Berlin, Munich, 1878; Gruhn, Textvertonung und Spachkomposition bei Gyrgy Ligeti, Musik und Bildung 7 (1975), 511-519.
170 According to Salmenhaara, 151, 195.
171 Harald Kaufmann, Von innen und auen. Schriften ber Musik, Musikleben and sthetik
(Hofheim, 1993), 252.
172 Salmenhaara, 187 f.
173 Kaufmann, Von innen und auen , 200.
174 Ernst Bloch, Das Prinzip Hoffnung, vol. 3 (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1959), 1292 f.

Lux aeterna
175 Strzbecher, Werkstattgesprche mit Komponisten (see n. 8, above), 51.
176 Nordwall, 78.
177 On 1/11/1993, Ligeti told me that Lontano was basically simply a parody (contrafactum) of Lux aterna.
178 Ligeti, Auf dem Weg zu Lux aeterna, 83.
179 Paul Op de Coul, Sprachkomposition bei Ligeti: Lux aeterna. Nebst einigen Randbemerkungen zu den Begriffen Sprach- und Lautkomposition, in Rudolf Stephan, ed.,
ber Musik und Sprache. Sieben Versuche zur neueren Vokalmusik (Verffentlichungen des Instituts fr neue Musik und Musikerziehung Darmstadt, vol. 14) (Mainz, 1974), 59-69.
180 Clytus Gottwald, Lux aeterna. Ein Beitrag zur Kompositionstechnik Gyrgy Ligetis,
Musica 25 (1971), 12-17.
181 Hans Michael Beuerle, Nochmals Ligetis Lux aeterna. Eine Entgegnung auf Clytus
Gottwalds Analyse, Musica 25 (1971), 279-281.
182 Das Orchester 36 (1988), 889.
183 Nordwall, 92 f.


Ibid., 92.
Uve Urban, Serielle Technik und barocker Geist in Ligetis Cembalo-Stck Continuum. Untersuchungen zur Kompositionstechnik, Musik und Bildung 5 (1973), 63-70, proposes a division into five parts: mm. 1-52, 53-86, 87-117, 118-149 and 150-205.
186 Das Orchester 36 (1988), 889.

New Conceptions of the Concertante: Notes on the Cello Concerto

Nordwall, 92.
Gerhard Kubik, Die Amadinda-Musik von Buganda, in Arthur Simon, ed., Musik in
Afrika (Berlin, 1983), 139-165; pp. 148 ff.
189 Commentary on the Cello Concerto, in Supplement to the record album WERGO
(1984), 21 f.
190 See Heinz von Loesch, Das Cellokonzert von Beethoven bis Ligeti: sthetische und kompositionsgeschichtliche Wandlungen einer musikalischen Gattung (Frankfurt a.M., 1992).
191 Bernd Alois Zummermann Interval und Zeit, 99, 89.
192 Supplement to record album WERGO (1984), 22.
193 Quoted from Loesch, 229.
194 See my Alban Berg. Musik als Autobiographie, 258-268; Alban Berg. Music as Autobiography,
195 Nordwall, 84.
196 Wolfgang-Andreas Schultz, Zwei Studien ber das Cello-Konzert von Ligeti,
Zeitschrift fr Musiktheorie 6 (1975), 97-104, views the first movement of the Cello Concerto
under the aspect of aesthetic causality and elaborates on its difference from the first
movement of Apparitions. The second movement he regards as a composition with patterns. Ligeti himself preferred to define the form of this movement as a succession of
197 For details, see the chapter on New Sound Images New Semantemes.

On the Three Pieces for Two Pianos

Ligetis introduction to the Three Pieces for Two Pianos, quoted from the program book of
the 42nd Summer Music Festival Hitzacker 1987, pp. 9-13.


Mad Word Theater: Le Grand Macabre

199 Ligeti, Zur Entstehung der Oper Le Grand Macabre, Melos/Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik
[NZfM] 4 (1978), 91-93.
200 Ligeti, Le Grand Macabre, sterreichische Musikzeitschrift 36 (1981), 569 f.
201 Wulf Konold, Ligetis Le Grand Macabre absurdes Welttheater auf der Opernbhne, in Otto Kolleritsch, ed., Oper heute. Formen der Wirklichkeit im zeitgenssischen Musiktheater (Studien zur Wertungsforschung, vol. 16) (Vienna, Graz, 1985), 136-153.
202 Michel de Ghelderode, Theater (Die Ballade from groen Makabren and other plays), transl.
from the French By Fritz Monfort (Neuwied am Rhein, Berlin-Spandau, 1963).
203 Melos/NZfM 4 (1978), 92.
204 Das Komische ist todernst Le Grand Macabre Abbilder der heutigen Welt.
Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch mit Jochem Wolff, in Program book for the Hamburg production 1978, pp. 48-50; p. 48.


205 It was followed by productions in Hamburg (October 15, 1978), Saarbrcken (May 3,
1979), Bologna (May 5, 1979), Nuremberg (February 2, 1980), Paris (March 23, 1981),
London (September 29, 1991), Vienna (January 20, 1994) and other venues.
206 Osterreichische Musikzeitschrift 36 (1981), 569.
207 Interface 8 (1979), 22 f.
208 Program book for the Hamburg production 1978, p. 50
209 Elke Krumm, Die Gestalt des Ubu im Werk Alfred Jarrys (Cologne, 1976).
210 The present discussion of Le Grand Macabre is based on the study particello of the
opera produced by Friedrich Wanek (B. Schotts Sons, Mainz, 1978). Ligeti made numerous changes and cuts in the libretto of his opera over the years. The text included in the
booklet to the CD, WERGO 6170 (Mainz 1991) represents the version he ultimately preferred.
211 sterreichische Musikzeitschrift 36 (1981), 570.
212 Ghelderode, Theater, 41-44.
213 Ibid., 13.
214 Program book for the Hamburg production, 1978, pp. 48 f.
215 Martin Esslin, The Theater of the Absurd, rev. ed. (Woodstock, New York, 1973), 6.

The Turning Point ca. 1980

MusikTexte 28/29 (March 1989), 57.

Ligeti nur die Phantasie mu gezndet werden. Zur Anwendung von Computern
in der Komposition, MusikTexte 28/29 (March 1989), 3 f.
218 John M. Chowning, Music from Machines: Perceptual Fusion & Auditory Perspective
for Ligeti, Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11 (1991), 231-258.
219 At a chamber concert on October 17, 1988, in Hamburg, Ligeti introduced the work
of Conlon Nancarrow in the presence of the Mexican artist. Eight of Nancarrows Studies
were played on that occasion the numbers 3a, 7, 10, 12, 24, 27, 36 and 43.
220 Simha Arom, Musiques Banda, Collection Muse de lHomme, Vogue LD 765 (1971);
Arom, Banda Polyphonies, Collection UNESCO Musical Sources, Philips 6586-032
221 Simha Arom, Aka Pygmy Music, Collection UNESCO, Musical Sources, Philips 6586016 (1973); Vincent Dehoux, Musique Gbaya. Chants penser, OCORA 558524 (1974).
222 Thus Ligeti in his preface to the English edition of Simha Arom, African polyphony and
polyrhythm (Cambridge, 1991), xvii.
223 Gerhard Kubik, Amadinda-Musik in Buganda und Kognitive Grundlagen afrikanischer Musik, in Arthur Simon, Musik in Afrika (1983), 148-152 and 344. See on this also
Kubiks Theorie, Auffhrungspraxis und Kompositionstechniken der Hofmusik der
Buganda. Ein Leitfaden zur Komposition in einer ostafrkanischen Musikkultur, Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11 (1991), 23-162.
224 Heinz-Otto Peitgen und Peter H. Richter, The Beauty of Fractals (Berlin, Heidelberg,
225 Benot Mandelbrot, Die fraktale Geometrie der Natur (Basel, Boston, Berlin, 1991).
226 Gottfried Michael Knig, Ligeti und die elektronische Musik, in Kolleritsch, Ligeti
(1987), 11-18. See also Musik-Konzepte 66 Gottfried Michael Knig (October 1989).


227 Rudolf Frisius, Konstruktion als chiffrierte Information. Zur Musik von Iannis Xenakis, Musik-Konzepte 54/55, Iannis Xenakis (Munich, 1987), 91-160.
228 MusikTexte 28/29 (March, 1989), 3.
229 Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 149 (May 1988), 19.
230 Ligeti, Computer und Komposition. Subjecktive Betrachtungen, in Tiefenstruktur.
Musik, Baukunst. Festschrift Fritz Winckel zum 80. Geburtstag (Berlin, 1987), 22-30; p. 27.

pater lAvant-garde: Retrospective and Forward-Looking Elements in the Horn Trio

231 Musik mit schlecht gebundener Krawatte. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch mit Monika
Lichtenfeld, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 142 (1981), 471.
232 Ligeti, work commentary on Drei Phantasien nach Friedrich Hlderlin, quoted from the
program book of The Witten Festival for New Chamber Music 1988, p. 53.
233 Sabine Tomzig, Weltpremiere in Bergedorf: Ligeti wird gefhlvoll, Das Orchester 30
(1982), 836 f.
234 Ute Schalz-Laurenze, Klagelandschaft, quoted from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
by Ken W. Bartlett, Gyrgy Ligeti 60. Geburtstag am 28. Mai 1983 (Mainz, 1983), 14.
235 Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 145 (1984), 10.
236 Ulrich Dibelius, Ligetis Horntrio, Melos 46 (1984), 44-61; p. 45.
237 Work commentary on the Horn Trio, quoted from the program book of the Gtersloh
Ligeti Festival 1990, pp. 12 f.
238 Melos 46 (1984), 57.
239 MusikTexte 28/29 (March 1989), 59 f.
240 Die Zeit, May 28, 1993, p. 57.
241 Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 145 (1984), 10.
242 Josef Husler, Trompe-lOreille, Allusion, Illusion ber einige Werke von Gyrgy
Liget, record album WER 60100 (Mainz, 1986).

Notes on the Hlderlin Fantasies


Ligeti to the author, August 2, 1983.

sterreichische Musikzeitschrift 24 (1969), 83.

Construction and Imagination: Principles of the Piano Etudes

Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11 (1991), 359.

Zeitschrift fr Musikpdagogik 37 (1986), 8.
247 Ligeti, udes pour piano premier livre, facsimile edition ED 7428, (Mainz, 1986).
248 Denys Bouliane, Imaginre Bewegung. Gyrgy Ligetis tudes pour piano, MusikTexte 28/29 (March 1989), 73-84; p. 74 f.
249 Henning Siedentopf, Neue Wege der Klaviertechnik, Melos 40 (1973), 143-146.
250 MusikTexte 28/29 (March 1989), 60.
251 Aloyse Michaely, Die Musik Olivier Messiaens, 378.
252 Work commentary on the tudes pour piano premier livre, printed in the program book
of the Gtersloh Ligeti Festival 1990, pp. 17-19.
253 Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11 (1991), 362.
254 Commentary on the tudes pour piano deuxime livre, printed in the program book of
the Gtersloh Ligeti Festival 1990, pp. 19 f.


Heinrich Husmann, Einfhrung in die Musikwissenschaft (Heidelberg, 1958), 99 ff.

Jaap Kunst, article Javanische Musik, in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart VI
(Kassel, 1957), cols. 1788-1791.
257 Program book of the Gtersloh Ligeti Festival 1990, p. 20.
258 Peter Niklas Wilson has drawn attention to the fact that in m. 68 (left hand) the fifths
are compressed into tritones; Interkulturelle Fantasien. Gyrgy Ligetis Klavieretden
Nr. 7 und 8, in Klaviermusik des 20. Jahrhunderts (Melos 51 [1992)]). 63-84; p. 71.
259 Program book of the Gtersloh Ligeti Festival 1990, p. 20.
260 Lutz Lesle, Seesturm, Chaos, Teufelsleiter. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch nach seiner
Amerikareis, Das Orchester 41 (1993), 784-788; p. 784.

Quasi-Equidistance and Polyrhythm: Coordinates of the Piano Concerto

Ligeti, introduction to the Piano Concerto (dated February 20, 1988), printed in the program book of the Gtersloh Ligeti Festival 1994, pp. 11-14.
262 The Lacrimosa from the Requiem begins similarly.
263 Ligeti tried out this sound effect already in Automne Varsovie (Etude No. 6), mm.

The Violin Concerto

264 Ligeti on the Violin Concerto (Hamburg, October 1992), in Program book of the Gtersloh Ligeti Festival 1994, pp. 23-25; p. 25.
265 Pizz. Tetel (Hungar.) = pizzicato movement.
266 Saschko Gawriloff, Ein Meisterwerk von Ligeti. Marginalien zur Entstehung des Violinkonzerts, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 154 (Jan. 1993), 16-18; p. 18.
267 The nine-tone scale on which the marimba episode is based goes g - bb - c1 - e1 - f#1 a#1 - b - c#2 - f2 - gb2 - bb2 - c3 - eb3 - f3 - ab3.
268 It is based partly on the Lydian and partly on the Mixolydian mode: g - a - b - c/c# - d e - f/f# - g.
269 Oral communication to the author on Jan 11, 1993.
270 See the transcriptions of a number of recordings in the book by Simha Arom citd
above, to whose English edition Ligeti contributed an informative preface.

The Horn Concerto

271 On the natural-tone row, see above all John Pierce, Klang. Musik mit den Ohren der Physik
(Heidelberg, Berlin, Oxford: Spectrum, 1991).
272 Aria and hocket are forms Ligeti tried out already in the Violin Concerto.
273 Cf. Constantin Brailoiu, Le rythme Aksak, Revue de Musicologie 33, nos. 99 and 100
(Dec 1951), 71-108; Simha Arom, Laksak. Principes et typologie, Cahiers de musiques traditionelles 17 (2004), 11-48.
274 The Ligeti Project, 37.


Afterword: Beyond Avant-garde and Postmodernism

Lutz Lesle, In meiner Musik gibt es keine Weltanschauung. Gesprch mit Gyrgy Ligeti, Das Orchester 36 (1988), 890.
276 Wohin orientiert sich die Musik? Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch mit Constantin Floros,
sterreichische Musikzeitschrift 49 (1994), 5-8; p. 7.
277 Gianmario Borio, Musikalische Avantgarde, 9.
278 Umberto Eco, Postmodernismus, Ironie und Vergngen, in Wolfgang Welsch, ed.,
Wege aus der Moderne. Schlsseltexte der Postmoderne-Diskussion (Weinheim, 1988), 75-78; p. 75.
279 Jean-Franois Lyotard, La condition postmoderne. Rapport sur la savoir (Paris, 1979).
280 Wolfgng Welsch, Unsere postmoderne Moderne, 3rd ed. (Weinheim, 1991).
281 Jrgen Habermas, Die Moderne ein unvollendetes Projekt, in Welsch, ed., Wege aus
der Moderne, 177-192; p. 184.
282 Leslie Fiedler, Cross the Border Close the Gap, quoted from Wolfgang Welsch,
Postmoderne, in Peter Kemper, ed. Postmoderne oder der Kampf um die Zukunft (Frankfurt a.M., 1988), 14.
283 La mich tun, was ich will. Eckehard Roelck im Gesprch mit Gyrgy Ligeti, Die
Zeit no. 22, May 28, 1993, p. 57.
284 Monika Lichtenfeld, Gesprch mit Gyrgy Ligeti, Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik 145
(1984), 8-11; p. 8.
285 Die Zeit, May 28, 1993, p. 57.

Gyrgy Ligeti with Pierre-Laurant Aimard

(photographed by Altug nl)


3.3 Register of Works

A systematic compilation of Gyrgy Ligetis early works is hampered by the
fact that, due to the composers flight from Hungary in December of 1956, a
number of works are lost or missing. We owe the first scholarly recording of
the early work to Ove Nordwall. Of the three work catalogs he put together, the first comprises Ligetis juvenile efforts (1938-1943) and his student
compositions (1942-1948). Catalog No. 2, covering the period between 1944
and 1956, lists no fewer than 74 scores, of which only sixteen appeared in
print in Hungary at the time. The following register catalogs all of Ligetis
works since 1957.
x Glissandi, electronic Music (May until August 1957), (1-track, realized at WDR Cologne)
x Pice electronique Nr. 3 (November 1957 until January 1958), realization started by Ligeti, but abandoned
x Artikulation, electronic Music (January until March 1958), Premiere 3-25-1958 in Cologne; Hrpartitur" by Rainer Wehinger,
Mainz 1970
x Apparitions for Orchestra (1958/59), Premiere June 19, 1960 in
Cologne; Publishing House: Universal Edition, Vienna 1964
x Atmosphres for large orchestra without percussion (February until
July 1961), Premiere 10-22-1961 in Donaueschingen; Publishing
House: Universal Edition, Vienna 1963
x Die Zukunft der Musik - Eine kollektive Komposition (August 1961),
The Future of Music
x Trois bagatelles, musikalisches Zeremoniell for one pianist (August 1961), Premiere 26. September 1962 in Wiesbaden; Reproduction of the Manuskript in: Ove Nordwall, Ligeti-dokument,
Stockholm 1968
x Fragment for chamber orchestra (October 1961, Revision 1964),
Premiere 23. March 1962 in Munich; Publishing House: Universal Edition, Vienna 1974
x Volumina for Organ (November 1961 until January 1962, Revision
April/May 1966), Premiere May 4, 1962 in Bremen; Publishing House
Peters, Frankfurt 1967

x Pome Symphonique, musical ceremony for 100 Metronomes

(November 1962), Premiere November 13, 1963
x Aventures for three singers and seven instrumentalists (May until December 1962, Revision 1963), Premiere 4-4-1963 in
Hamburg; Publishing House: Peters, Frankfurt 1964
x Requiem for solo soprano and mezzo-soprano, two mixed
choirs and orchestra (Spring 1963 until January 1965, Premiere
3-14-1965 in Stockholm; Publishing House: Peters, Frankfurt
x Nouvelles Aventures for three singers and seven instrumentalists
(1962 until December 1965), Premiere May 26, 1966 in Hamburg; Publishing House: Peters, Frankfurt 1966
x Aventures & Nouvelles Aventures, Action in 14 Pictures, phonetic
text by Ligeti (January / February 1966), Premiere 10-19-1966
in Stuttgart; Publishing House: Peters, Frankfurt 1967
x Lux aeterna for sixteen-part mixt choir a cappella (July/August
1966), Premiere November 2, 1966 in Stuttgart; Publishing
House: Peters, Frankfurt 1967
x Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (July until Dezember 1966), Premiere April 19, 1967 in Berlin; Publishing House: Peters, Frankfurt 1969
x Lontano for large Orchestra (May 1967) Premiere 10-22-1967 in
Donaueschingen; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1969
x Etude Nr. 1: Harmonies for Organ (Juli 1967), Premiere 14. October 1967 in Hamburg; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1970
x Continuum for Cembalo (January 1968), Premiere October 1968
in Basel; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1970
x String Quartet Nr. 2 (March until July, J968), Premiere December 14, 1969 in Baden-Baden; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz
x Zehn Stcke fr Blserquintett (August until December 1968),
Premiere January 20, 1969 in Malm; Publishing House:
Schott, Mainz 1970


x Ramifications for string orchestra or twelve solo strings (December 1968 until March 1969), Premiere (twelve strings) 4-231969 in Berlin; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1970
x Etude Nr. 2: Coule for Organ (July 1969), Premiere October
1969 im Stift Seckau / Steiermark; Publishing House: Schott,
Mainz 1969
x Kammerkonzert for 13 Instrumentalists (1969/1970), Premiere
October, 1970 in Berlin; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1974
x Melodien for Orchestra (1971), Premiere December 10, 1971 in
Nurnberg, Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1973
x Double Concerto for flute, oboe and orchestra (1972), Premiere
September 16, 1972 in Berlin; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz
x Clocks and Clouds for twelve-part female choir and orchestra,
phonetic text by Ligeti, Premiere October 15, 1973 in Graz;
Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1977
x San Francisco Polyphony for orchestra (1973/1974) Premiere January 8, 1975 in San Francisco; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz
x Monument. Selbstportrait. Bewegung, Three pieces for two pianos,
Premiere May 15, 1976 in Cologne; Publishing House: Schott,
Mainz 1976
x Rondeau. One-Man-Theater for an actor and tapes (1976),
Premiere 26. February 1977 in Stuttgart; Publishing House:
Schott. Mainz 1977
x Le Grand Macabre, opera in two acts, Libretto by Michael Meschke and Gyrgy Ligeti after La Balade du Grand Macabre by
Michel de Ghelderode (1974-1977, revised 1996), Premiere
April 14, 1978 in Stockholm; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz
x Mysteries of the Macabre for trumpet and piano (1988) or coloratura soprano, trumpet in C and chamber ensemble (1991) or
Orchestra (1992); Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1992/1994


x Macabre Collage, Suite for Orchestra (1991); Publishing House:

Schott, Mainz 1992
x Hungarian Rock, Chaconne for Cembalo (1978), Premiere May
20, 1978 in Cologne; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1979
x Passacaglia ungherese for Cembalo (1978), Premiere February 5,
1979 in Lund (Sweden); Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1979
x Trio for Violin, Horn and piano (1982), Premiere August 7, 1982
in Hamburg-Bergedorf; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1984
x Drei Phantasien nach Friedrich Hlderlin fr sixteen-part mixed
choir a cappella (1982), Premiere September 26, 1983 in Stockholm; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1983
x Magyar Etdk after Sandor Weres for 8-, 12- und 16-part
mixed choir a cappella (1983), Premiere: Etude 1 & 2, 5-181983 in Stuttgart; Etude 3 11-17-1983 in Metz; Publishing
House: Schott, Mainz 1983
x Etudes pour piano - premier livre (Nov. 1984 until Summer 1985),
Premiere: Etude 1 4-15-1986 in Bratislava; Etudes 2, 3, 6 1124-1985 in Warschau; Etude 4 & 5 11-1-1985 in Hamburg;
Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1986
x Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1985-1987), Premiere: Movements 1-3 October 23, 1986 in Graz; movements 4 & 5 February 29, 1988 in Vienna; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1986
x Nonsense Madrigals for six-part choir a cappella, texts by William
Brighty Rands and Lewis Carroll (1988/1989), Premiere: Madrigal 1-4 9-25-1988 in Berlin; madrigal 5 10-28-1989 in London; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz 1983
x Etudes pour piano deuxieme livre (1988 until 1994); Publishing
House: Schott, Mainz 1989 und 1993
x Concerto for Violin and Orchester, first version, three movements
(1990), Premiere 11-3-1990 in Cologne; second version, five
movements (1992), Premiere 10-8-1992 in Cologne; Publishing
House: Schott, Mainz 1992
x Sonate for Viola solo (1991-94), Premiere April 23, 1994 in Gtersloh; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz

x Hamburg Concerto for solo horn, four natural horns and Chamber Orchestra (1998/99, revised 2003); Premiere January 20,
2001 in Hamburg; Publishing House: Schott, Mainz
x Sippal, dobbal, ndihegedvel (With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles) for
mezzo-soprano and percussion (2000) after Sndor Weres
x Etudes pour piano troisime livre (1995-2001); Publishing House:
Schott, Mainz


3.4 Selected Bibliography

The interest in Ligeti and his music has steadily grown during the last forty,
fifty years. As a result, the secondary literature about him has also increased
voluminously. The authoritative bibliography by Pter Halsz, published as a
supplement to the Ligeti issue of the Hungarian periodical Muzsika (June
1993) includes no fewer than 426 titles, which are grouped into five categories: Ligetis own writings, commentaries on his works, interviews, accounts
of premieres, and secondary literature. The bibliography below does not claim
to be complete: it lists mainly the titles cited in this book, plus some items
that are missing in Halszs meritorious Bibliogrfia.
Writings of Ligeti
Neue Musik in Ungarn, in: Melos 16 (January 1949): 5-8
Pierre Boulez. Entscheidung und Automatik in der Structure 1a, Die Reihe 4
(Vienna, 1958): 38-63
Zur Klaviersonate III von Boulez, Die Reihe 5 (Vienna, 1959): 38-40
Wandlungen der musikalischen Form, Die Reihe 7 (Vienna, 1960): 5-17
Viele Plne, aber wenig Zeit, Melos 32 (1965): 251 f.
Form in der Neuen Musik, Darmstdter Beitrage zur Neuen Musik X (Mainz
1966): 23-35
Zustnde, Ereignisse, Wandlungen, Melos 34 (1967): 165-169
Auf dem Weg zu Lux aeterna, MZ 24 (1969): 80-89
Fragen und Antworten von mir selbst, Melos 38 (1971): 509-516
Apropos Musik und Politik, Darmstdter Beitrage zur Neuen Musik XIII
(Mainz, 1973): 42-46
Musikalische Erinnerungen aus Kindheit und Jugend, in: Carl Dahlhaus,
ed., Festschrift fr einen Verleger. Ludwig Strecker zum 90. Geburtstag. Mainz 1973.
Mein Judentum, in: Hans Jrgen Schultz, ed., Mein Judentum. Berlin/Stuttgart, 1978, 2nd ed. Munich, 1986. 196-207
Zur Entstehung der Oper Le Grand Macabre, Melos/NZfM 4 (1978): 9193
Le Grand Macabre, MZ 36 (1981): 569f.
Aspekte der Webernschen Kompositionstechnik, in: Musik-Konzepte. Sonderband Anton Webern II. Munich, 1983. 51-104

Musik und Technik. Eigene Erfahrungen und subjektive Betrachtungen, in:

Gunther Batel, Gunter Kleinen and Dieter Salbert, eds., Computermusik. Theoretische Grundlagen. Kompositionsgeschichtliche Zusammenhnge. Musiklernprogramme.
Laaber, 1987. 9-35
Computer und Komposition. Subjektive Betrachtungen, in: Tiefenstruktur.
Musik. Baukunst. Festschrift Fritz Winckel zum 80. Geburtstag am 20. Juni 1987.
Berlin, 1987 22-30
... nur die Phantasie muss gezndet werden. Zur Anwendung van Computern in der Komposition, MusikTexte 28 / 29 (March 1989): 3f.
Konvention und Abweichung. Die Dissonanz in Mozarts Streichquartett CDur KV 465, MZ 46 (1991): 34-39
Rhapsodische, unausgewogene Gedanken ber Musik, besonders ber meine eigenen Kompositionen, NZfM 154 (1993): 20-29
Kommentare ber seine Werke, in: Supplement to record album WER 60095,
Mainz 1984; Program of the 42nd Summer Music Festival Hitzacker 1987;
Program of the Gterslohe Ligeti Festival 1990 and 1994
Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Monika Lichtenfeld, 2 vols. Basel/Mainz 2007
Trumen Sie in Farbe? Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch mit Eckhard Roelke. Vienna,
Gyrgy Ligeti/Gerhard Neuweiler: Motorische Intelligenz. Musik und Naturwissenschaft,
ed. Reinhard Meyer-Kalkus. Berlin, 2007
Discussions with Ligeti
Geronnene Zeit und Narration. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch. NZfM 149
(May, 1988): 19-25
Stilisierte Emotion. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch. MusikTexte 28/29 (March
1989): 52-62
ERWE, Hans Joachim
Interview mit Gyrgy Ligeti, Zeitschrift fr Musikpdagogik 11 (November
1986): 3 -11
Gustav Mahler und die musikalische Utopie. Gesprche zwischen Gyrgy
Ligeti und Clytus Gottwald. NZfM 135 (1974): 7-11, 288-291

HANSEN, Mathias
Musik zwischen Konstruktion und Emotion. Musik und Gesellschaft 34
(1984): 472-477
nterview mit Gyrgy Ligeti. Melos 37 (1970): 496-507
Gyrgy Ligeti, in: Was ist musikalische Bildung? (Musikalische Zeitfragen 14)
Kassel, 1984. 66-75
Meine Musik ist elitre Kunst. Musica 28 (1974): 39 f.
In meiner Musik gibt es keine Weltanschauung. Das Orchester 36 (1988):
Seesturm, Chaos, Teufelsleiter. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch nach seiner
Amerikareise. Das Orchester 41 (1993): 784-788
Gyrgy Ligeti gibt Auskunft. Musica 26 (1972): 48-50
Musik mit schlecht gebundener Krawatte. NZfM 142 (1981): 471-473
Gesprch mit Gyrgy Ligeti. NZfM 145 (1984): 8-11
LIGETI, Gyrgy - GOJOWY, Detlef
Gyrgy Ligeti ber eigene Werke. Ein Gesprch mit Detlef Gojowy aus dem
Jahre 1988. Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11 (Laaber 1991): 349-363
LIGETI, Gyrgy - FLOROS, Constantin
Wohin orientiert sich die Musik? MZ 49 (1994): 5-8
Ja, ich war utopischer Sozialist. MusikTexte 28/29 (March 1989): 85-104
SAALFELD, Lerke von
Ich glaube nicht an groe Ideen, Lehrgebude, Dogmen NZfM 154
(1993): 32-36
SABBE, Herman
Gyrgy Ligeti, Illusions et Allusions. Interface 8 (1979): 11-34


Gyrgy Ligeti, in: Werkstattgesprche mit Komponisten (Deutscher Taschenbuch
Verlag 910). Munich, 1973. 37-52
VRNAI, Peter / HUSLER, Joseph / SAMUEL, Claude
Ligeti in Conversation. Eulenburg, London 1983
The island is full of noise. Gyrgy Ligeti im Gesprch. MZ 39 (1984): 510-514
WOLFF, Jochem
Das Komische ist todernst ... Le Grand Macabre Abbilder unserer heutigen Welt, in: Peter Dannenberg / Jochem Wolff, Program of the Hamburg
premiere of Le Grand Macabre on October 15, 1978. 48-50
About New Music
ADORNO, Theodor W.
Philosophie der neuen Musik. Frankfurt a.M., 1958
BLUMENRDER, Christoph von
Die Grundlegung der Musik Karlheinz Stockhausens (Beihefte zum Archiv fr Musikwissenschaft, vol. XXXII). Stuttgart, 1993
BORIO, Gianmario
Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960. Entwurf einer Theorie der informellen Musik (Freiburger Beitrge zur Musikwissenschaft, vol. 1). Laaber, 1993
BOULEZ, Pierre
Wille und Zufall. Gesprche mit Celestin Delige und Hans Mayer. Stuttgart/Zurich,
Orientations. Collected Writings, transl. Martin Cooper. Cambridge, Mass., 1986
(orig. Points de repre. Essais, ed. Jean-Jacques Nattiez. Paris, 1985)
BUSONI, Ferruccio
Entwurf einer neuen sthetik der Tonkunst. With annotations by Arnold Schnberg and am afterword by H. H. Stuckenschmidt. Frankfurt a.M., 1974
DAHLHAUS, Carl ed.,
Die Musik der fnfziger Jahre: Versuch einer Revision (Publications of the Institut
fr neue Musik und Musikerziehung Darmstadt 26). Mainz, 1985


DANUSER, Hermann
Die Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts (Neues Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft, vol.
7). Laaber, 1984
FLOROS, Constantin
Humanism, Love and Music, transl. Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch. Frankfurt a.M.:
Peter Lang, 2012.
New Ears for New Music, trasnl. Kenneth Chalmers. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang,
Alban Berg. Music as Autobiography, transl. Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch. Frankfurt
a.M.: Peter Lang, 2014
GRUHN, Wilfried
Musiksprache Sprachmusik Textvertonung. Aspekte des Verhltnisses von Musik,
Sprache und Text (Schriftenreihe zur Musikpdagogik). Frankfurt
a.M./Berlin/Munich, 1978
HENZE, Hans Werner
Musik und Politik. Schriften und Gesprche 1955-1984. Ed. With a preface by Jens
Brockmeier. Munich, 1984
Spurlinien. Analytische Aufstze ber Sprache und Musik. Vienna. 1969
Von innen und auen. Schriften ber Musik, Musikleben und sthetik, ed. Werner
Grnzweig and Gottfried Krieger. Hofheim, 1993
Sprache als Musik. Studien zur Vokalkomposition seit 1956. Herrenberg, 1976
Im Zweifelsfalle. Aufstze zur Musik. Vienna/Munich/Zurich, 1984
KURTZ, Michael
Stockhausen. Eine Biographie. Kassel, 1988
LOESCH, Heinz von
Das Cellokonzert von Beethoven bis Ligeti. sthetische und kompositionsgeschichtliche
Wandlungen einer musikalischen Gattung. Frankfurt a.M., 1992


Die Musik Olivier Messiaens. Untersuchungen zum Gesamtschaffen (Hamburger Beitrge zur Musikwissenschaft, special issue). Hamburg, 1987
MOTTE-HABER, Helga de la
Musik und bildende Kunst. Von der Tonmalerei zur Klangskulptur. Laaber, 1990
No. 19. Karlheinz Stockhausen ... wie die Zeit verging .... Munich, 1981
Nos. 39/40. Ernst Krenek. Munich, 1984
Nos. 54/55. Iannis Xenakis. Munich, 1987
No. 66. Gottfried Michael Koenig. Munich, 1989
No. 69. Henri Pousseur. Munich, 1990
Genesis of a Music: An account of a creative work, its roots and its fulfillments, 1st ed.
1949, 2nd ed. New York. 1979
Hans Werner Henze. Ein politischer Musiker. Zwlf Vorlesungen. Hamburg: Argument-Verlag, 1988
Hans Werner Henze. Werke der Jahre 1984-1993 (Klner Schriften zur Neuen
Musik, vol. 4). Mainz, 1995
Stil und Gedanke. Aufstze zur Musik. Ed. Ivan Vojtech, (Gesammelte Schriften
1). Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1976
Entwurf einer Musikgeschichte der sechziger Jahre, in: Rudolf Stephan ed.,
Die Musik der sechziger Jahre. Mainz, 1972. 9-25
STEPHAN, Rudolf ed.,
Die Musik der sechziger Jahre (Publications of the Institut fr neue Musik und
Musikerziehung Darmstadt 12). Mainz, 1972
ber Musik und Sprache (Publications of the Institut fr neue Musik und Musikerziehung Darmstadt 14). Mainz, 1974
Texte zur Musik, 6 vols. to date. Cologne: Du Mont, 1963-1989

THOMAS, Ernst, ed.,

Darmstdter Beitrage zur Neuen Musik. Mainz, 1958ff.
WILSON, Peter Niklas
Empirische Untersuchungen zur Wahrnehmung von Geruschstrukturen (Schriften zur
Musik, vol. 23). Hamburg, 1984
WRNER, Karl H.
Karlheinz Stockhausen. Werk+Wollen 1950-1962 (Kontrapunkte, vol. 6). Rodenkirchen/Rhein, 1963
Zimmermann, Bernd Alois
Intervall und Zeit. Aufstze und Schriften zum Werk, ed. Christof Bitter. Mainz,
Writings about Ligeti
AGEL, Jerome
The Making of Kubricks 2001. New York: New American Library, 1970
Die Deutungshoheit, in: Datum. Seiten der Zeit,
Berechnung fraktaler Strukturen in den Etden fr Klavier von Gyrgy Ligeti, 2003; htttp://bader-ligeti-factal-dimensions
BALAZS, Istvan
Weltuntergang, von unten gesehen. Der Groe Makabre Gyrgy Ligetis
Beitrag zum Musiktheater unserer Zeit, in: Leipziger Opernbltter. Season
1991/92, No. 2: 15-22
Singing Wolves and Dreaming Apples: The Cosmopolitan Imagination in
Ligetis Weres Songs. Ars lyrica, 21 (2012): 1-39 (the best study to these
Ligetis Laments: Nostalgia, Exotisme, and the Absolute. Aldeshot, 2011
BEUERLE, Hans Michael
Nochmals: Ligetis Lux aeterna. Eine Entgegnung auf Clytus Gottwalds
Analyse, Musica 25 (1971): 279-281

BEURMANN, Andreas E., and SCHNEIDER, Albrecht

Struktur, Klang, Dynamik. Akustische Untersuchungen an Ligetis Atmospheres, Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft, 11 (1991): 311-334
Imaginre Bewegung. Gyrgy Ligetis Etudes pour piano. MusikTexte
28/29 (March 1989): 73-84
Assoziationen fr Kenner? Zu Ligetis auermusikalischen Anspielungen, erlutert am Beispiel des Orchesterstcks Lontano (1967). Zeitschrift fr Musikpdagogik, No. 51 (September 1989): 9-23
BURDE, Wolfgang
Im Banne des imaginren Reichs Kilviria. Notizen zu graphischen Notaten
Gyrgy Ligetis. NZfM 154 (January 1993): 42-47
Gyrgy Ligeti. Eine Monographie. Zurich, 1993
DADELSEN, Hans-Christian von
Hat Distanz Relevanz? ber Kompositionstechnik und ihre musikdidaktischen Folgen. Dargestellt an Gyrgy Ligetis Orchesterstck Lontano. Musik und Bildung 7 (1975): 502-506
An der Kette gerasselt. Le Grand Macabre. Entstehung und Charakteristik
eines musikalischen Stils. in: Program of the Hamburg Premiere of Le Grand
Macabre, 1978: 44-47
Ligetis Horntrio. Melos 46 (1984): 44-61
Konsequenzen eines Klangbildners. Zur Musik von Gyrgy Ligeti, in:
Supplement to record album WER 60095, Mainz, 1984. 5-14
Gyrgy Ligeti. Eine Monographie in Essays. Mainz, 1994
DUCHESNAU, Louise, and MARX, Wolfgang, eds.
Gyrgy Ligeti. Of Foreign Lands and Strange Sounds. Boydell Press, 2011
Die spte Chormusik von Gyrgy Ligeti. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2001


Aspekte der Sprach- und Lautkomposition in den Vokalwerken Gyrgy Ligetis unter besonderer Bercksichtigung von Lux aeterna und Clocks and Clouds, M. A. thesis,
Hamburg, 1993 (typescript)
FEBEL, Reinhard
Gyrgy Ligeti: Monument Selbstportrait Bewegung (3 Stcke fr 2 Klaviere). Zeitschrift fr Musiktheorie 9 (1978): 35-50
FLOROS, Constantin
Gyrgy Ligeti. Prinzipielles ber sein Schaffen. Musik und Bildung 10 (1978):
484-488. Swedish in: Nutida Musik 24:3 (1980/81): 3-7
Ligetis Drei Stcke fr zwei Klaviere (1976), in: Program of the 42nd Summer
Music Festival Hitzacker 1987: 14-18; Swedish in: Nutida Musik 24:3
(1980/81): 8 f.
Ligetis Drei Phantasien nach Friedrich Hlderlin (1982). NZfM 146 (1985): 1820; Swedish in: Nutida Musik 26:1 (1982/83): 14-16, English in: Nutida Musik,
ibid.: 18-20
Hommage Gyrgy Ligeti. NZfM 149 (May 1988): 25-29
Gyrgy Ligetis pianokonsert. Nutida Musik 32:2 (1988/89): 21-25
Laudatio fr Gyrgy Ligeti. Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft 11
(1991): 11-19
Versuch ber Ligetis jngste Werke. Hamburger Jahrbuch fr Musikwissenschaft
11 (1991): 335-348
Floros, Constantin, Marx, Hans-Joachim und Petersen, Peter, eds., Fr Gyrgy
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HISS, Torsten
Zur Rhythmik der Etudes pour piano Premier livre von Gyrgy Ligeti. M.A. thesis
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KAKAVELAKIS, Konstantinos
Gyrgy Ligetis Aventures und Nouvelles aventures. Studien zur Sprachkomposition
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works with extensive bibliography)
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3.5 Index of names

Adorno, Th. W. 34, 41, 45, 220, 221,
Altdorfer, Albrecht 30, 31, 151
Arnoldi, Gerhard 68, 223
Arom, Simha 141, 227, 229
Arp, Hans 21

Bach, Johann Sebastian 1, 17, 29, 55,
58, 97, 207
Bachelard, Gaston 48
Barlow, Klarenz 143
Bartk, Bla 10, 11, 17, 20, 55, 59, 60,
73, 74, 81, 82, 156, 162, 163, 246
Bauer, Amy 242
Beethoven, Ludwig van 56, 58, 134,
145, 226, 240
Benjamin, Walter 56, 222
Benn, Gottfried 18
Berg, Alban 11, 12, 13, 19, 41, 44, 55,
60, 73, 84, 112, 117, 125, 224, 226
Berio, Luciano 70, 95, 212
Berlioz, Hector 27, 103
Bernhardt-Kabisch, Ernest 2, 224
Beuerle, Hans Michael 106, 225, 242
Beurmann, Andreas 86, 224, 243
Bizet, Georges 125
Blake, Peter 121
Bloch, Ernst 103, 221, 225
Bonaventura, Mario di 180
Borio, Gianmario 80, 211, 224, 230,
Bosch, Hieronymus 23, 30, 95, 100,
Botticelli, Sandro 129
Boulez, Pierre 13, 26, 27, 37, 46, 68,
77, 78, 212, 219, 221, 224, 236, 239
Bouliane, Denys 59, 146, 163, 219,
228, 237, 243
Brahms, Johannes 150, 151

Brancusi, Constantin 181

Brecht, Bertolt 41
Britten, Benjamin 17
Bruckner, Anton 30, 45
Brueghel, Peter 95
Burde, Wolfgang 68, 219, 223, 243
Busoni, Ferruccio 64, 223, 239

Cage, John 26
Carroll, Lewis 20, 62, 202, 234
Celano, Thomas von 95, 98
Cerha, Friedrich 13, 69
Czanne, Paul 23, 45, 46, 181
Chopin, Frdric 29, 114, 115, 116,
148, 156, 157, 163
Chowning, John 140, 219, 227
Ciconia, Johannes 94, 129
Clarke, Arthur C. 67

Dadelsen, Hans-Christian von 14,
Debussy, Claude 19, 29, 33, 45, 55,
57, 58, 60, 156, 157, 166, 174, 209,
Dibelius, Ulrich 68, 145, 223, 228,
Diederichs-Lafite, Marion 69
Dieth, E. 35
Duchesneau, Louise 1, 2, 45, 223
Dufay, Guillaume 59

Eco, Umberto 211, 230
Eichendorff, Joseph von 151
Eigen, Manfred 141
Eimert, Herbert 12, 13, 77, 224
Enescu, George 58
Englbrecht, Bernd 243
Ericson, Eric 151


Escher, Maurits Cornelis 22, 62, 106,

109, 192
Evangelisti, Franco 212
Eyck, Jan van 62

Hlderlin, Friedrich 20, 151, 152,

154, 228, 234
Honegger, Arthur 17
Huelsenbeck, Richard 21

Fant, Gran 84
Farkas, Ferenc 10, 11
Fiedler, Leslie 212, 230
Frescobaldi, Girolamo 74

Gawriloff, Saschko 195, 196, 229,
Gentele, Gran 117, 118
Gesualdo, Carlo 57, 59
Ghelderode, Michel de 117, 118, 121,
122, 128, 129, 226, 227, 233
Goethe, Wolfgang von 20, 122, 137,
151, 172
Goeyvaerts, Karel 77
Gojowy, Detlef 94, 165, 223, 238
Gottwald, Clytus 104, 106, 225, 237,
Grieg, Edvard 10
Grnewald, Mathis 30, 62

Hba, Alois 64
Habermas, Jrgen 212, 230
Handel, Georg Friedrich 17
Husler, Josef 30, 40, 150, 219, 221,
228, 238
Hausmann, Raoul 21
Haydn, Joseph 57
Henze, Hans Werner 17, 28, 219,
240, 241
Heraklit, Ephesius 200
Herzmanovsky-Orlando, Fritz von
20, 22, 121
Hindemith, Paul 17, 37, 73
Hitler, Adolf 17


Ives, Charles 57

Janco, Marcel 21
Jarry, Alfred 20, 118, 121
Jaruzelski, Wojciech 166
Jungheinrich, Hans-Klaus 28

Kadosa, Pl 11
Kafka, Franz 20, 22, 45, 121
Kagel, Mauricio 95, 138, 212, 224
Karbusicky, Vladimir 45
Kaufmann, Harald 88, 89, 98, 101,
225, 240, 245
Keats, John 30
Khachaturian, Aram 67
Kinzler, Hartmuth 49, 222, 245
Kirchhoff, Caroline 65
Klee, Paul 23, 181
Koblenz, Babette 14
Kodly, Zoltn 11, 88
Koenig, Gottfried Michael 13, 77,
143, 212, 245
Kontarsky, Aloys 114
Kontarsky, Bernhard 114
Krenek, Ernst 77, 223, 240
Kropfinger, Klaus 56, 222, 246
Krudy, Gyula 20, 21, 45, 220
Kubik, Gerhard 110, 141, 226, 227
Kubrick, Stanley 67, 69, 97, 223

Lachenmann, Helmut 17
Lendvai, Ern 224

Lichtenfeld, Monika 145, 147, 218,

222, 230, 238
Ligeti, Alexander 9, 10
Ligeti, Gabor 10
Ligeti, Vera 2
Liszt, Franz 27, 156, 157, 181
Lyotard, Jean-Franois 211, 230

221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 231,


Ockeghem, Johannes 94
Oehlschlgel, Reinhard 9, 218, 238
Offenbach, Jacques 125

Machaut, Guillaume de 94, 198, 209

Maderna, Bruno 13, 212
Mahler, Gustav 29, 30, 41, 45, 55, 56,
84, 145, 222, 224, 237
Mandelbrot, Benit 140, 142, 143,
Mann, Thomas 18, 20
Meczies, Aliute 118
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix 58
Meschke, Michael 51, 55, 118, 122,
124, 125, 126, 137, 139, 233
Messiaen, Olivier 12, 29, 33, 37, 77,
157, 165, 219
Mir, Joan 22, 23
Monteverdi, Claudio 125, 128, 146
Mrike, Eduard 151
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 57, 58,
Mller-Siemens, Detlef 14
Murnau, Friedrich 129
Musil, Robert 18
Mussorgsky, Modest 10

Paganini, Niccol 58
Palm, Siegfried 110, 111
Partch, Harry 64, 223, 241
Peitgen, Heinz-Otto 141, 142, 227
Peterson, Oscar 61, 181
Picabia, Francis 21
Picasso, Pablo 62, 143, 192, 204, 205,
Piranesi, Giovanni Battista 30, 32
Popper, Karl 41
Pousseur, Henri 13, 212
Prokofiev, Sergej 57, 58
Proust, Marcel 21
Purcell, Henry 146

Nancarrow, Conlon 14, 57, 140, 141,

143, 156, 181, 192, 227
Neruda, Pablo 28
Neuweiler, Gerhard 237
Nicolescu, Stefan 14
Nono, Luigi 13, 17, 91, 93, 212
Nordwall, Ove 20, 21, 30, 51, 73, 89,
94, 95, 98, 107, 112, 218, 219, 220,

Rameau, Jean-Philippe 55, 132
Ravel, Maurice 33, 57, 58, 156, 209
Reich, Steve 29, 115, 116
Richter, Peter H. 141, 142, 227
Riley, Terry 29, 115, 116
Rossini, Gioacchino 125
Sabbe, Hermann 41, 120, 220, 221,
222, 225, 238, 246
Salmenhaara, Erkki 29, 49, 85, 86, 89,
98, 220, 221, 222, 224, 225, 247
Sander, Heike 29
Scarlatti, Domenico 114, 156
Schalz-Laurenze, Ute 144, 228
Schmidt, Arno 18
Schnebel, Dieter 70, 95, 106


Schneider, Albrecht 2, 86, 224, 243

Schnberg, Arnold 12, 13, 17, 19, 37,
39, 60, 147, 189, 211, 220, 223, 239,
Schubert, Franz 14, 55, 59, 132
Schultz, Hans Jrgen 236
Schultz, Wolfgang-Andreas 14, 226,
Schumann, Robert 114, 148, 156
Schweinitz, Wolfgang von 2, 14
Schwitters, Kurt 20, 21
Scriabin, Alexander 33
Searby, Michael 247
Seibers, Mtys 88
Seurat, Georges 62
Shakespeare, William 149, 174
Shostakovich, Dimitri 19, 51, 57, 58,
Siedentopf, Henning 115, 161, 228
Sierra, Roberto 141
Simon, Arthur 141, 226, 227
Somogy, Ilona 9
Stahnke, Manfred 2, 14, 65, 70, 223,
Stalin, Joseph 17
Stockhausen, Karlheinz 12, 13, 26,
27, 37, 68, 77, 95, 212, 218, 219,
240, 241, 242
Stoianova, Ivanka 50, 222, 247
Strau, Johann 67
Strauss, Richard 27, 67, 117, 125
Stravinsky, Igor 11, 19, 45, 55, 57, 58,
60, 66, 73, 135, 163, 181
Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz 111,
Szymanowski, Karol 58


Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilitsch 145
Thomas, Ernst 79, 224
Tomek, Otto 12
Tomzig, Sabine 144, 228
Trojahn, Manfred 70
Tzara, Tristan 21

nl, Altug 2, 14, 230

Verdi, Giuseppe 10, 103, 125
Veress, Sandor 11
Vian, Boris 20, 22, 121
Vivier, Claude 62

Wagner, Richard 19, 30, 41, 45, 46,
47, 117, 125, 131, 221
Wagner, Wieland 46
Wallner, Bo 42, 221
Webern, Anton 12, 13, 19, 45, 48, 57,
60, 163, 207, 218, 221, 222, 236
Welin, Karl-Erik 115
Welsch, Wolfgang 211, 230
Wendt, H. F. 35
Weres, Sandor 16, 20, 22, 234, 235
Wrner, Karl H. 13, 218, 242

Xenakis, Iannis 57, 68, 143, 228

Zimmermann, Bernd Alois 44, 55,
110, 221, 242
Zimmermann, Udo 70