Ligeti in Fluxus Author(s): Eric Drott Source: The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring, 2004), pp.

201-240 Published by: University of California Press Stable URL: Accessed: 09/10/2010 17:36
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Ligeti in Fluxus


Ligeti's long and varied career was his brief flirtation with the Fluxus group. Following the successful premiere of his orchestral work Atmospheresduring the Donaueschinger Musiktage festival in 1961,' Ligeti composed a handful of pieces that are exceptional within his oeuvre: the short, self-mocking orchestral work Fragment(1961); his graphically notated organ work Volumina(1961); the textless theater piece Aventures (1962); and three pieces that would ultimately be included in Fluxus Trois Bagatellesfor David Tudor publications and performances-the (1961), Die Zukunft der Musik-eine kollektive Komposition(1961), and PoemeSymphonique too metronomes (1962). With the exception of for these pieces share a commerce with some of the more radical Fragment, or experimental techniques circulating in the contemporary music world at the time. Graphic scores had become prominent over the course of the 1950s, a reflection (and, at times, tacit critique) of musical notation's steady reification. The theater piece, Aventures, was representative of the growing tendency among composers to explore the gestural, non-semantic dimension of language in their vocal works, at the same time that it linked into contemporaneous movements in sound
I wish to thank Robert Morgan, Patrick McCreless, Kristina


ne of the morecuriousepisodesin Gy6rgy


Muxfeldt, Sumanth Gopinath, Phil Rupprecht, and Marianne Wheeldon for their helpful comments on the (many) earlier versions of this essay. According to Ligeti, the premiere was met with "a great scandal and great applause at the same time." Ligeti, cited in Marina Lobanova, GyirgyLigeti:Style,Ideas, Poetics, trans. Mark Shuttleworth (Berlin: Ernst Kuhn, 2002), 383.
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and concrete poetry. And finally, all but one of Ligeti's Fluxus pieces partook of the nascent text-score format; both Die Zukunft der Musik and Poeme Symphonique discard conventional musical notation, opting instead to treat the musical score as a purely textual artifact. Despite the existence of this link, which lends an otherwise disthe parate group of works some semblance of internal coherence, as a whole fits uneasily into the more conventional contour of group Ligeti's output. As a result, the artistic choices Ligeti made during this period have struck some commentators as puzzling. As Richard Toop notes, "After Atmospheres, Ligeti was ... well placed to assume a prominent place in the avant-garde. Yet far from hastening to follow up on the success of this work, he seems to have gone out of his way to undermine any idea of himself as 'the next great composer.' "2 Particularly problematic are his three Fluxus pieces, since the prevailing ethos of art should be rejoined with life-finds the Fluxus group-that little common ground with the views Ligeti would later espouse on the matter. In an interview from 1974 he states: "I see myself as the extreme antithesis toJohn Cage and his school."3 Or, more to the point:


At the end of the fifties and beginning of the sixties came the happening movement from America. I was interested in an ambiguous way. I made some happenings-you know my piece for 00oo metronomes?but I had the feeling that I am not a happening[s] person. You know the Fluxus group? I am not belonging there. After a time I had the feeling they take their job too seriously. And I am not serious like people like LaMonte Young and George Brecht or even Cage. I will tell you exactly what is between me and these happening people. They believe that life is art and art is life. I appreciate very much Cage and is many people, but my artistic credo that art-every art-is not life. It is something artificial. And for me all the happenings are too dilettante.4
Richard Toop, GyirgyLigeti (London: Phaidon, 1999), 80. Most commentators on Ligeti's music tend to view his Fluxus works as frivolities, in line with Ligeti's later assessment of the pieces. Besides Toop, see for instance Paul Griffiths, GyirgyLigeti (New York:

56. Ulrich Dibelius is an interesting exception. Dibelius argues that these and other works composed from 1961 to 1965 are key to understanding Ligeti's aesthetic: "They should be understood as ironic inversions of real and existent relationships, as a sort of exaggerated negative mirror of his own aesthetic position" (sollten sie als ironische Umkehrungen real existierender Verhiiltnisse, als eine Art Spiegelung, der eigenen aisthetischen Position im Negativbild der Ubertreibung verstanden werden). Ulrich Diim belius, Gydrgy Ligeti:eineMonographie Essays(Mainz: Schott, 1994), 753 Ligeti, " 'Meine Musik ist elitire Kunst': Gy6rgy Ligeti antwortet Lutz Lesle," Musica 28/1

Robson Books, 1997),


and Pierre Michel, Gyrrgy Ligeti (Paris: Minerve, 1995), 55-

Ligeti, in "Ligeti Talks to Adrian Jack," Music and Musicians 22 (July 1974), 30. As his later statements evince, Ligeti's attitude toward Cagean experimentalism has hardened over the years. In an interview from 1978, Ligeti provides a possible historical explanation for the general disenchantment he felt with regard to Cage and the post-Cagean


1974), 39-


Given such posterior disclaimers, perhaps Richard Toop is right when he suggests that Ligeti's contributions to Fluxus can be chalked up to the appeal of the group's "irreverence and novelty."5Perhaps Ligeti felt an urge to mock the insularity and pretentiousness of the Darmstadt scene. Or perhaps he was at the time more sympathetic to the group than his subsequent protestations in support of aesthetic autonomy would lead one to believe. Whatever the cause (or causes) behind his erstwhile contributions to the group, the contributions themselves shed light on the complex interactions between those composers who sought to transform music at the level of form, style, or subject-matter and those who sought to transform it at an institutional and social level. To reconsider Ligeti's Fluxus pieces is not necessarily to bestow upon them some fresh aesthetic valuation-in a sense, the pieces themselves defy such a valuation. Rather, the three pieces may be regarded as symptoms of the tensions that existed within the field of contemporary music circa 1960, tensions that pitted the broad mass of modernist composers against the smaller fraction of those who sought to transform the position of music and the other arts within society as part of a larger strategy of transforming society as a whole. In this essay I will draw on Peter Bfirger's theory of the avant-garde in order to help clarify such tensions. My aim in interpreting Ligeti's Fluxus pieces in terms of the distinction Bfirger draws between avant-garde and modernist impulses is not to reinforce his binary oppositions, nor is it to deconstruct these oppositions entirely; the former tack runs the risk of hardening flexible positions into rigid categories, while the latter runs the different (but no less treacherous) risk of obscuring very real divisions of aesthetic
avant-garde: "A typical feature of the 6os was colourfulness: the discovery of fin de siecle tastes, of ornaments; that was the time of flower power, of hippies.... All this colour brought with it in Western Europe some kind of free and easy mentality in the 6os. Since 1972, or 1973, since the oil crisis, the 7os brought another change of mentality. The colourful, hippy mentality is still with us but is much less significant. The soul has gone out of Happenings and of Cage's principle about the identity of life and art." In Gy6rgy Ligeti in Conversationwith Peter Varnai,Josef Hdusler, Claude Samuel and Himself trans. Gabor J. Schabert, Sarah E. Soulsby, Terence Kilmartin and Geoffrey Skelton (London: Eulenberg Books, 1983), 75. (That Ligeti dates the failure of the avant-garde project from the economic crisis of the early 197os is significant. This crisis apparently marked the triumph of the capitalist world system, which in turn put to rest the last vestiges of what Perry Anderson has called the "imaginative proximity of revolution" so crucial to the utopian imagination of the avant-garde.) More recently Ligeti has restated his general antipathy toward the avant-garde in harsher tones.Whereas before he took care to soften his disagreement with Cage by noting his personal respect for the man, he now no longer pulls his punches: "I was not impressed with him. Almost everyone was impressed, Cage was honored like a holy man ... ,but I had come from a communist dictatorship in HunSie gary. For me there was no unity between life and art." Ligeti in 'Trdumen in Farbe?' mit Roelcke (Vienna: Paul Zsonay, 2003), 99Gydrgy Ligeti im Gesprdch Eckhard 5 Toop, Ligeti,82.





and ideology. Rather, I wish to explore the various points of contact and slippage between these two poles, since these points shed light on what it was precisely that various groups held in contention: whether music would remain a relatively autonomous field of cultural activity, or whether it should be folded into the broader horizon of everyday life. Fluxus Fluxus in its early stages (a period that stretched roughly from 1962 to 1964) occupied one of the more radical positions within the contemporaneous art world. It may best be understood as one node within a broader network of resurgent avant-garde activities that took shape in the late 195os and early 196os, a network that included such diverse tendencies as happenings, lettrisme, COBRA, and situationism. A in spurring this resurgence in the United States was John key figure Cage, whose popularization of chance techniques and indeterminacy exerted a tremendous impact on the individuals who would later participate in Fluxus. In many cases this impact was felt directly. Dick Higgins and George Brecht, for instance, took Cage's famed course in composition at the New School for Social Research in the late 195os, while Nam June Paik's conception of music was radically transformed by the concerts and lectures Cage gave at Darmstadt in 1958. Before it coalesced into a group, Fluxus wasjust a name-the name of a proposed publishing venture, where the works of a broad, inclusive, and international group of avant-garde artists, composers, and poets would be anthologized.6 The principal figure in organizing, collecting, printing and promoting these materials-in other words, the driving force behind the establishment of Fluxus as a collective artistic enterprise -was the graphic designer George Maciunas. His opportunity to assume the mantle of the New York avant-garde'sleading impresario came when the magazine Beatitudeeast collapsed in 1961, leaving a collection of scores, poetry, and essays that La Monte Young had put together for publication there without a home. Into this breach stepped Maciunas, who offered to put his design skills to work on the project, which would ultimately be published under the title An Anthology. Among the variety of innovative works presented in An Anthology, one particular genre-the event score-would later become central to
6 Evidence of Maciunas's inclusive conception of Fluxus can be seen in his original plans for the Fluxus yearboxes. Each of the seven yearboxes Maciunas initially intended to produce were to cover either a specific geographic region, or some historical antecedent to Fluxus; Yearbox no. 1 was to be the "U.S. Yearbox," no. 2 was to be the "West European Yearbox," no. 3 was to be the 'Japanese Yearbox," and so forth. See the plans for the yearboxes reprinted in Fluxus Codex,ed. Jon Hendricks (Detroit: The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1988), 104-22.



Fluxus. The event score typically presented a set of short, simple, and often prosaic instructions, outlining an action that in principle could be performed by anyone.7 Young's contribution to An Anthology,his Compositions 196o, are representative. For instance, his Composition I96o #2 instructs the performer to build a fire in front of an audience and let it burn. The event is striking for a number of reasons. First of all, Young transforms a nominally non-musical occurrence into music by fiat, or better, into a sort of mixed media performance, since the visual and performative dimensions of the piece are just as important as the audible component. In addition, there is an evidently transgressive quality to the work, owing partially to the fact that its performance would most likely break the fire code in a conventional theater. The piece further invokes a thinly sublimated form of violence or danger; in this interpretation, the fire could be understood as connoting arson, pyromania, or some other type of destructive, rebellious behavior. In other pieces from the same series, the event acts as a commentary on the social conventions surrounding musical performance. In Young's CompositionI96o #6 the performers are to "sit on the stage watching and listening to the audience in the same way the audience usually looks at and listens to performers." (As we will see later on, the critique of audiences for their passivity became an important theme in Fluxus events.) But even events that were less explicitly confrontational still tested the social conventions surrounding music and art in general. George Brecht's Drip Music, whose score is reproduced as Figure 1, provides a case in point. Dripping water-a familiar, quotidian, and oftentimes irritating sound-becomes the sole content of the piece. In some ways this event is more provocative than Young's, since it does not expressly push at the philosophical concepts and social customs that underlie musical production but encourages the reader (or would-be performer) to adopt a different attitude toward everyday auditory experience. The piece bears an affinity to Duchamp's readymades in its reduction of musical composition to an act of selection or framing. At the same time, the piece shows the clear influence of Cage's work, drawing in particular upon the idea that any environmental soundsource can serve as the basis for music, even a boring or irritating one. In DripMusic, the mundane rises to the category of music.
7 Owen Smith has succinctly described such pieces as "concrete, simply-structured events, dryly humorous and unabashedly literal." Owen Smith "Fluxus: A Brief History and Other Fictions," in In the Spirit of Fluxus, ed. Janet Jenkins (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1993), 28. For discussions of these and other Fluxus events from a musical perspective, see Douglas Kahn, "The Latest: Fluxus and Music," in In the Spirit of Fluxus, Music: Cage and Beyond, (Cambridge: Cambridge ioL-2o; Michael Nyman, Experimental Univ. Press, 1999), 72-88. For a discussion of Fluxus scores as textual objects, see Liz Kotz, "Post-CageanAesthetics and the 'Event' Score," October (Winter 2001): 55-89. 95




Before Maciunas could assemble and publish An Anthology,he was forced to join the army as a graphic designer in order to escape debts he had accrued. In late 1961 he was stationed in Wiesbaden, where he was able to acquaint himself with the German new-music scene.8 It was at this point, while continuing to work on An Anthology,that Maciunas hit upon the idea of producing similar anthologies on an annual basis, volumes which would bear the name "Fluxus."He further decided to turn Fluxus into the platform for an artistic common front, which would incorporate within its scope a comprehensive range of recent musical and literary tendencies. Although this artistic ecumenicism would prove to be short-lived, it nonetheless succeeded in bringing into close proximity composers whose aesthetics and ideologies otherwise diverged.9 To bring this project to fruition, he began enlisting everyone who was anyone to participate in the projected Fluxus yearbooksincluding Ligeti.1o Modern and Avant-garde 206 One reason why Maciunas's early, expansive conception of Fluxus did not last was the steady hardening of his political agenda through the early i960s. As his notion of art's social function took form, so too did his attitudes concerning how Fluxus should promote his espoused program. As a result, the variety of work that he presented under the auspices of Fluxus would become narrower as the years passed. An idea of Maciunas's evolving stance can be gleaned from the various manifestos he wrote. In his earliest programmatic text, "Neo-Dada in Music, Theater, Poetry, Art" (1962), Maciunas provides a purport-

8 The involvement of composers associated with the Darmstadt Ferienkurse in early Fluxus activities was limited. At one extreme was a composer like Paik, who became one of the most active members of the Fluxus group. A more common response was one of diffidence, as was the case with figures like Sylvano Bussotti and Dieter Schnebel. Paik recalls that "Maciunas first wrote in the middle of 1961 to three persons in Europe: Poet Hans G. Helms composer Sylvano Bussotti, and myself. Helms and Bussotti ignored this mysterious American, and I was the only person who responded to him." Nam June Paik, "George Maciunas" in UbiFluxus ibi motus1990o-962, ed. Gino Di Maggio (Milan: Nuove edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta, 1990),

9 The idea of joining different art groups into a common front accords with the communitarian ethos that Sally Banes identifies in Fluxus and other Greenwich Village art movements of the period. See Sally Banes, Greenwich PerforVillage1963: Avant-Garde mance and the Effervescent Body (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1993), 35. (My thanks to Sumanth Gopinath for bringing Banes's work to my attention.) As Ligeti himself has recounted, his initiation into the Fluxus group was summary. ," He was approached by Maciunas, who simply said to him "Ligeti, I want you." Ligeti, "Music-MakingMachines," in liner notes to MechanicalMusic, Sony CD SK 62310, 8.



FIGURE George Brecht, Drip Music (DripEvent) 1.

DRIPMUSIC (DRIPEVENT) Forsingle or multiple performance. A sourceof dripping waterandan empty vessel are arrangedso that the water falls into the vessel. Secondversion: G. Brecht Dripping.

edly comprehensive map of artistic activity.Along one axis he charts the various artistic media, ranging from "time arts" at one end to "space arts" at the other. Along the other axis runs a scale from "illusionistic" art to "concrete" art. In spite of its title, Maciunas's essay spends very little time elucidating what is meant by the term "neo-dada." Rather, the bulk of the essay is devoted to discussing "concretism." According to Maciunas, concrete art does not seek to divert attention away from reality (as does illusionistic art), but instead draws the audience's attention to the reality of the material used in the production of art. At the farthest end of concretism, art itself trails off, turning into "anti-art."He explains that " 'anti-art' forms are directed primarily against art as a profession, against the artificial separation of a performer from [the] audience, or creator and spectator, or life and art."" Still, the ostensibly antagonistic dimension of this type of production, inherent in the term, does not entail at this stage an active attack upon art so much as an attitudinal shift that would render art as an autonomous sphere unnecessary: "If man could experience the world, the concrete world surrounding him (from mathematical ideas to physical matter) in the same way he experiences art, there would be no need for art, artists, and similar 'nonproductive' elements."12
" Maciunas, "Neo-Dada in Music, Theater, Poetry, Art" (1962), repr. in UbiFluxus,



Maciunas, "Neo Dada" in UbiFluxus, 216.




Hence Maciunas's early conception of anti-art is indebted to the Cagean notion that art is what one perceives to be art. As more people adopt this notion, Maciunas holds, the de-professionalization of art will necessarily follow. By 1963, however, Maciunas's faith in the natural spread of this idea had faded, and this in turn led to a sharper formulation of how the desired de-professionalization of art might be achieved. In the first "Fluxus Manifesto" (1963), Maciunas dispenses with any balanced, panoramic vision of the art-world and instead advocates an active struggle against art and its supporting institutions. Fluxus should, in his words, "PROMOTEA REVOLUTIONARY FLOOD AND TIDE IN ART. Promote living art, anti-art, promote NON ART REALITYto be fully grasped by all peoples, not only critics, dilettantes, and professionals." The vocally oppositional stance Maciunas thus stakes out is carried through to the end of the manifesto, where he states that the goal is to "FUSE the cadres of cultural, social & political revolutionaries into united front & action."'s The call for politically engaged or committed art is hardly unprecedented within modernism, though the particular path Maciunas pursued represents a departure from the usual strategies employed by the mainstream of modernist political art. It may be helpful to turn to Peter to Bfirger's study, Theoryof the Avant-Garde, help make sense of Maciunas's position.14 According to Bfirger, the avant-garde is distinguished from modernism in general in terms of its anti-institutional stance.'s Whereas modernism, as it is customarily understood, is concerned with stylistic or formal innovation, the avant-garde is concerned with a general reconfiguration of art's position and function within society as a whole. Specifically, Bfirger holds that the so-called historical avantgarde movements (dada, futurism, constructivism, and surrealism) im'3 Maciunas, "Fluxus Manifesto," (1963), repr. in UbiFluxus, 217. 14 Peter Bfirger, The Theoryof the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press: 1984). 15 Although Bfirger's separation of the avant-garde from a largely apolitical modernism has long since entered into the critical discourse in literary studies and art history, it has received little attention within the Anglo-American musicological community. Buirger's text has received greater attention from European musicologists. Hermann Danuser has adopted the dichotomy into his fourfold division of 2oth-century musical culture (traditionalism, 'mittleren' music, modernism, and avant-gardism). See his "Kulturen der Musik-Strukturen der Zeit. Synchrone und diachrone Paradigmen der Musikund Musikwissenschaft, Taschenbiicher geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts," in Musikpddagogik zur Musikwissenschaft, 3, ed. Arnfried Edler (Wilhelmshaven, 1987), 189-209; see also vol. his "Gegen-Traditionen der Avantgarde," in Amerikanische Musik seit Charles Ives: Interpretaed. tion, Quellentexte, Komponistenmonographien, Hermann Danuser, Dietrich KJimper,and Paul Terse (Laaber: Laaber-Verlag, 1987), 101-12. A more critical evaluation of the applicability of Bfirger's work to music can be found in Gianmario Borio, Musikalische Musik (Laaber: Laaber-Verlag, Avantgardeum 1960: Entwurf einer Theorieder informellen 1993), 14-15-

DROTT plicitly recognized the ideological function of art under capitalism. Art, in this view, is seen as a site where the unfulfilled needs, desires, and attitudes of society at large can be enunciated. But because art as an institution within bourgeois society is charged with the task of ensuring the separation of art from the quotidian social world-in other words, the task of preserving its autonomy-the enunciation of these needs, desires, and attitudes lacks social effectiveness. (This critique would extend to even those politically engaged works that adhere to such institutional forms.) The avant-garde seeks to rid art of its institutionally enshrined autonomy so as to discharge its heretofore congealed social and political energies on the one hand, and help overcome the alienation that characterizes everyday life in advanced capitalism on the other: "The avant-gardistes proposed the sublation of art-sublation in the Hegelian sense of the term: art was not to be simply destroyed, but transferred to the praxis of life where it would be preserved, albeit in a changed form."'6 Or, as Maciunas's 1965 "Fluxus Manifesto" put it, the goal is "to establish the artist's nonprofessional, nonparasitic, nonelite status in society."'7 This pr6cis of Bfirger's thesis simplifies his argument a great deal. Even so, it should be apparent that the positions Maciunas staked out in his early manifestos bear an unmistakable resemblance to the positions Bfirger ascribes to the historical avant-garde movements (a resemblance which is due in no small part to Maciunas's interest in and knowledge of these latter movements). It is not too farfetched, then, to see in Fluxus performances and scores a belated expression of the avant-garde impulse, especially given the fact that outside of Futurism music possessed a relatively low profile in the historical avant-garde movements.18 (It is worth noting that this conception of the avantgarde diverges quite radically from that which is commonplace in the musicological literature; in the latter, the avant-garde is not defined in terms of its claims of political progressiveness but rather its claims of
Bfirger, Theory, 49. "Fluxus Manifesto" (1965), repr. in UbiFluxus, 221. 18 The virtual absence of music in the historical avant-garde is significant. While one may contend (as Bfirger does) that the post-war avant-gardes were condemned to failure, since the shock of anti-art cannot be replicated, this position becomes more difficult to maintain vis-ai-vis music when one considers that the realm of concert music was largely exempt from dadaist and surrealist provocation. Besides, the social conditions that gave rise to the historical avant-garde had not entirely dissipated in the decades immediately following World War II. As Perry Anderson has observed, the three preconditions for the avant-garde-the existence of a vestigial aristocratic class, who plays an outsized role in determining taste; the excitement generated by nascent technologies; and the imagined proximity of social/political revolution-were on the wane during this period, but were not entirely spent. See Perry Anderson, The Originsof Postmodernity (London: Verso, 1998), 78-9216








representing the technical or scientific cutting-edge.)19 Like the historical avant-garde, Fluxus self-consciously adopted an adversarial attitude toward the institutional status of high art and toward the aesthetic as a field of activity cut off from everyday life. And like the historical avantgarde, Fluxus's anti-institutional and anti-aesthetic stance contained within it points of conceptual slippage-points through which the political program espoused by Maciunas might be deflected. The notion of the "Institution of Art" represents one such point. According to Burger, this phrase refers to art's function within bourgeois society as a whole. Thus it refers to art as a totality. Yet this way of conceiving of art's institutional status is situated at a somewhat abstract level. The Institution of Art thus described is composed of-indeed, only comes into being through-the activity of a variety of local and real institutions: concert halls, publishing houses, conservatories, journals, systems of private and public patronage, academic discourse, ritualized behaviors, and the like. The Institution of Art is made manifestor better yet, concretized-through these discrete institutions, a situation which poses a tactical problem for the avant-garde. For the attack on the institutional status of art can only be directed at concrete targets, despite the fact that the overarching target is the edifice as a totality. In the ideal avant-garde provocation, an attack on the part stands for an attack on the whole. But the discrepancy between these two levels provides an opening, a potential for the diversion of the avant-garde impulse, since it is easy for the ultimate aim of the anti-institutional stance-the reconfiguration of art's social function-to become obscured by these various local struggles. Biurger is not unaware of the fact that the institutional status of art can be contested only within the concrete, local sites that comprise the institution itself, although he limits his considerations to two broad arenas: those of production and reception. At the level of production, he observes that Duchamp's readymades, for instance, call into question "all claims to individual creativity.... Duchamp's provocation not only unmasks the art market where the signature means more than the qual19 Furthermore, the scientific concept of the avant-garde prevalent in musicological discourse often refers to groups affiliated with the very institutions that groups such as Fluxus target: academia in the United States, state-funded radio stations in Europe, festivals such as the Donaueschinger Musiktage, and publicly funded facilities such as IRCAM. On the other hand, the definition of the avant-garde posited by Burger corresponds in many important respects with what writers such as Cage and Michael Nyman have identified as "experimental" music (e.g. the latter like the former usually spurns institutional affiliation). But despite the prominence of a number of politically engaged composers within the experimental music tradition (such as Christian Wolff, Cornelius Cardew, and Frederic Rzewski), the tradition as a whole only intermittently exhibits the sort of political grounding that Bairgerimputes to the historical avant-garde.

DROTT ity of the work; it radically questions the very principle of art in bourgeois society according to which the individual is considered the creator of the work of art."2' At the level of reception, he observes that the avant-garde's productions generally encourage a more active role on the part of the audience: "It is no accident that both Tzara's instructions for the making of a Dadaist poem and Breton's for the writing of automatic texts have the character of recipes. This represents not only a polemical attack on the individual creativity of the artist; the recipe is to be taken quite literally as suggesting a possible activity on the part of the recipient."21 Bfirger's suggestive comments point to analogous functions within Fluxus events. Clearly, Brecht's and Young's events (described above) derogate the composer's status. By reducing composition to an act of framing of some commonplace event, they not only indicate that anyone can be a composer; in addition, they tacitly disparage the social mechanisms-conservatory training, for instance-that provide composers with a seal of legitimacy for their activities. Other Fluxus events set themselves against the customs surrounding the performance and reception of musical works, as we will see shortly. But once again, it is vital to bear in mind that such specific attacks may be deflected, intentionally or not, from a full-fledged social critique of art's institutional status. For instance, attempts to implicate audiences more directly in the production of the work may simply open up new institutional venues without substantially altering the social function of music. In the late 195os and 96os, a number of composers imagined a liberation of audiences from their sedentary position as consumers of musical works through the establishment of galleries or spaces where listeners could circulate freely, exercising in this way some measure of control over the resulting musical experience. In his essay "Momentform," Stockhausen proposed such a model of musical reception.22 Cage's Music Walk represented an early attempt to bestow upon listeners this freedom of movement. Both of these inspired Nam June Paik's unrealized Symphonyfor 2o Rooms (Paik would ultimately succeed in presenting someMusic and thing akin to his Symphony during his Exhibitionof Electronic


52. Bfirger, Theory, Ibid., 5322 The impetus behind Stockhausen's endeavor is to give listeners the opportunity to come and go as they please during the performance of a work and thereby to relieve their boredom should their interest in the work wane. He draws a comparison with art galleries, where audiences are not obliged to view a work for a fixed period of time. The putative control he gives to the listener is limited to the binary choice: to listen or not to listen. (However, his later works, such as Musikfiir ein Haus, offered listeners a greater degree of flexibility in moving around the performance space.)





Television).23 By the 197os, with the flourishing of sound installation as an independent genre, the utopian schemes sketched, heralded or otherwise prefigured in previous decades had come to fruition. But the activation of audiences that this development portended hardly made a dent in the Institution of Art. Rather, it dislocated certain forms of musical production, shifting them from one institutional milieu (the concert hall) to another (the art gallery). Another point of slippage lies in the aesthetic itself of the avantgarde. This may appear to be something of a contradiction, given the avant-garde's opposition to the aesthetic as an autonomous sphere. But just as it is important to distinguish the Institution of Art from its component institutions, so too is it important to distinguish the Aestheticunderstood as a mechanism separating art from social practice-from aesthetics-understood in the commonplace sense as style or design. From this perspective, it is evident that Fluxus did not renounce aesthetics in the latter sense. Quite the opposite. The objects and events produced under its aegis possess a number of common aesthetic features: simplicity verging on minimalism; an emphasis on process; the exploration of the intermediary zones between different art-forms; a healthy dose of humor; and the incorporation of conventionally nonmusical (or non-aesthetic) materials. To this, one may add that the physical appearance of Fluxus event-scores (such as Brecht's, reproduced in Figure i) is fairly consistent, owing its particular style to Maciunas's proclivities as a graphic designer. As I hope to demonstrate in the following examination of Ligeti's Fluxus pieces, the friction between what may be called the "avant-garde" and "modernist" wings of the contemporary musical field emerges out of these points of ideological and aesthetic slippage. Bearing in mind that few if any works fully instantiate the characteristics of the two types but will inevitably fall somewhere between these aesthetic-ideological extremes, we may nonetheless see the contest between the poles of avant-gardism and modernism as being most pronounced at the points where the two come into close contact, in the very zone where the distinction seems to cloud over. This overlap is possible because of the
Paik, in his "Essayto the 'Symphony for 20o Rooms' " (his contribution to An Anthology),notes Cage's and Stockhausen's dual inspiration for his proposed work (suggesting that his work will mediate in some way between the opposing positions these two composers occupied): "It was Stockhausen's idea to let listeners leave and come into the concert hall freely. John Cage wanted to compose his 'Music Walk' for two rooms of the 'Galerie 22' in Dfisseldorf where the listeners were supposed to move freely from one room to the other. When the piece was first performed there, this was not realizable. With respect and appreciation I note Cage's and Stockhausen's priority in this respect; although art is often a bastard the parents of which we do not know." Paik, "Essayto the n.p. 'Symphony for 20o Rooms,' " in An Anthology,


ease with which the critique of some particular institution can displace a critique of the Institution of Art as a whole, and because of the ease with which the stylistic trappings of avant-gardism can obscure the ideological substance of individual pieces-which in turn helps explain how a composer like Ligeti could use Fluxus as a forum for the focused satire of certain trends in the contemporary musical scene. But at the same time, it also helps explain how and why these satires, which from the vantage-point of the present appear to lack the radical thrust of other Fluxus pieces, were taken up by Maciunas into the Fluxus repertoire, even after the group had disengaged itself from the sort of modernism that Ligeti and other Darmstadt composers represented. Ligeti in Fluxus Maciunas's vision of Fluxus as a wide-ranging artistic common front found its only realization in the first "official"Fluxus event, the Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik, a series of concerts held at the local art museum in Wiesbaden in September of 1962.24 Over the course of 14 concerts, organized to raise funds for the publication of the forthcoming anthologies, audiences were subjected to a panorama of the "newest music" (see Fig. 2). The composers in each concert were grouped according to style, medium, and nationality. The third concert, an evening of European piano music, presented compositions by Gottfried Michael members of the Darmstadt circle-Stockhausen,
Koenig, Dieter Schnebel, and Ligeti.25 More representative of what


Fluxus was to later become identified with was the series of concerts described as "concrete music and happenings," which featured works by the composers who would become the core of the Fluxus group: Benjamin Patterson, Dick Higgins, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, George Brecht, and Maciunas himself. Among the highlights of the series was
Paik's performance

for Head. Paik's realization of Young's instructions-"draw a straight line and follow it"-was recounted in a letter Maciunas later wrote to Young: "[Paik] dipped his head in a nightpot full of ink and drew a line with his head over a long roll of paper stretched over floor."26
24 See 1962 Wiesbaden von Fluxus 1982: Eine kleine Geschichte Fluxus in drei Teilen,exhibition catalog (Wiesbaden and Berlin: Harlekin art in association with the Berliner Kiinstlerprogramm des DAAD, 1983). 25 Or, as Richard Steinitz puts it, the Wiesbaden festival featured "... some perfectly IV serious compositions, like Stockhausen's Klavierstiicke and Toru Takemitsu's Vocalism A-I." Richard Steinitz, Gyiirgy Ligeti: Music of the Imagination (Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press, 2003), 122. 26 George Maciunas, letter to'La Monte Young (1962), repr. in In the Spiritof Fluxus, 154-

of Young's Composition I96o #1o, later dubbed Zen



FIGURE 2. Poster for Fluxus

Festspiele, Wiesbaden, September 1962
4w 2c cm


ex 2c





Following the concerts at Wiesbaden was a series of concerts across Western Europe. Over the course of this tour, Maciunas refined his conception of Fluxus, eliminating composers deemed to be ideologically incompatible (his favorite target was Stockhausen).27 The posters for subsequent concerts reveal how quickly the list of Darmstadt-affiliated composers was pared down (see Fig. 3). By the time the Fluxus Festival arrived in Amsterdam in June 1963, Ligeti was the only modernist whose music was still on the program. Part of the reason for his continuing inclusion in the group, even after Maciunas had purged other such composers, may have been due to the piece he had contributed for these performances-the TroisBagatelles David Tudor.The Trois for were well suited for the changing personnel and venues of the Bagatelles Fluxus tour, as they required no expertise on the part of the performer and no equipment beyond a functioning piano. All the score asked of the performer was to play a single note in the first movement, a very low and soft C#; the following two movements consisted entirely of rests. (A fourth bagatelle, consisting of an eighth-note rest, was included as an encore piece.) The pieces by Stockhausen, Koenig, and others performed in Wiesbaden were, by contrast, straightforward piano works that betrayed no hint of a critical attitude toward the institutions of concert music (which does not deny the challenging and, at times, rebarbative aspect of the music).28 By contrast, Ligeti's Bagatellescame closer to Maciunas's criteria for Fluxus: "Art-amusementmust be simple, amusing, unpretentious, concerned with insignificances, require no skill or countless rehearsals, have no commodity or institutional value."29 for Beyond practical issues, the appeal of the TroisBagatelles Maciunas may have resulted from the fact that they denied the possibility of realizing the concert ticket's value by withholding from the audience
27 The fractures in the artistic "common front" were evident as early as the Wiesbaden concerts. According to Dick Higgins, an argument between Maciunas and Michael von Biel and Griffith Rose (both of whom Higgins describes derisively as "International Stylists")led to their premature departure from the Wiesbaden concerts. See Higgins, Jef68. ferson'sBirthday/Postface, In addition, Maciunas had considered dropping Stockhausen from the Wiesbaden concerts but agreed to keep him on the insistence of Paik; See Owen Smith, Fluxus: The Historyof An Attitude (San Diego: San Diego State Univ. Press, 1998), 67. By early 1963 Maciunas had launched what he called a "Winter offensive" against "bourgeois reactionaries, dogmatists & Stockhausen." See Stefan Fricke, "Attacken auf Karlheinz Stockhausen," Neue Zeitschriftfiir Musik 159/4 (July/August 1998), 40o. 28 Stockhausen's Klavierstiick for instance, was written in 1952-53. Other works IV, more radical Darmstadt composers, such as Bussotti and Schnebel, were more likely by removed as much for practical as for ideological reasons. Bussotti's graphic scores, for instance, displayed a certain pictorial virtuosity and in many cases implicitly invoked an equally virtuosic realization: His Five Pieces David Tudorare antithetical to Ligeti's Bagafor telles,insofar as they called upon Tudor's renowned skills as an interpreter. 29 "Fluxus Manifesto" (1963) repr. in Ubi Fluxus, 2 19.





a. Poster for Festum Fluxorum, Paris, December 1962


























S ..CA



/ HR.
















































DROTT FIGURE 3. (continued)

b. Poster for Festum Fluxorum, Dfisseldorf, February 1963








D0sseldorf, Eiskellerstrale
2. und



ein Colloquium Studenten der Akademie
Daniel Spoerri Alison Knowles Bruno Maderna Q. 3lfreb tanfen La Monte Young Henry Flynt Richard Maxfield John Cage Yoko Ono Jozef Patkowski Joseph Byrd ?u0d 3oftepo Gritith Rose Philip Corner Achov Mr.Keroochev Kenjiro Ezaki JasunaoTone LuciaDlugoszewski Istvan Anhalt Jdrgen Frlisholm

20 fur

Uhr die

G)orge Maclunas Nam June Palk Emmet Willitms Benjamin Patterson a Kosugs Takenhm Dick Higgins Robert Watts Jed Curtis Dieter Hilmmanns QtorytBpthc Jackson Mac Low Wolf Vostell

Pierre Wihelm Jean FrankTrowbridge
Terry Riley Tomam Schmit

Gyorgi Ligei
Raoul Hausmann

Robert Fitliou

Toshl Ichlyanagl Cornelius Cardew Par Ahlbom Gheraum L•ca Brion Gysin Stan Vanderbeek Yorlakl Mataudaira Slmone Morris Bussotti sylvano Muslka Vitalls Jak K. Spek Frederic Rzewaki K. Penderecki J. Stasulenas V. Landsbergui A. Salcius KuniharuAklyama Joji Kuri Tori Takemitsu ArthurKdpcke



FIGURE 3. (continued)

c. Poster for Fluxus Festival, Amsterdam, June 1963





the very music that the price of admission would presumably guarantee. Further, the silence here does not signal an emancipatory opening of music to ambient sound (unlike, say, in Cage's 4'33") but is posed simply as a lack; the presence of the lone C# acts as a reminder to the listener of what is missing. Bearing no indication that their production required an expenditure of artistic skill or effort, the Bagatellesappear to be devoid of recuperable value. And yet the TroisBagatelles excepare


tional in the Fluxus repertoire. Whereas most Fluxus scores renounced notation in favor of simple text instructions, thereby rendering them accessible to a wider range of potential performers than might otherwise be possible-that is, performers beyond the closed, institutional circuit of (classical) music training3o-Ligeti opts to retain conventional notation. It would have been easy enough to instruct someone to play a single note on the piano verbally. But by notating the piece, Ligeti calls upon some element of musical education (albeit of the most rudimentary variety), which in turn belies the suggestion of compositional and performative egalitarianism. The inclusion of superfluous musical directions-such as the tempo markings for the individual Bagatelles or the lunga marking that follows the end of the third-reinforces this impression, so that the piece mayjust as well seem an in-joke for musicians as a self-conscious negation of musical and cultural value. Ligeti's second event-piece, Die Zukunft der Musik, also plays upon the frustration of the audience's expectations, but does so through an even more dramatic gesture of withdrawal. The piece originated as a 10o-minute lecture Ligeti was asked to give at a forum on new art at Alpbach, Austria, in August 1961. In the "score," published in Wolf

Vostell's magazine De-coll/age (a rival publication to Maciunas's proposed Fluxus anthologiess3'), Ligeti describes how the event transpired:
30 Indeed, the impossibility of performing a number of Fluxus scores has led Liz Kotz to argue that they shift "awayfrom realizable directions toward an activity that takes place mostly internally, in the act of reading or observing. This conceptualambiguityderives both and object performance/realization." from the use of the textas score,inseparably writing/printed Kotz, "Post-CageanAesthetics," 57. The aesthetic and conceptual centrality of such readerly activity-which only reinforces the availabilityof such scores for nonprofessional consumption (or performance)-isolates notated scores such as Ligeti's, which (however simple) still requires the skill of reading musical notation. 3' The inclusion of Ligeti's piece in Di-coll/age was a sore point for Maciunas, who had planned on including it in the Fluxus yearbox devoted to German and Scandinavian art and music; see the Brochure Prospectus version A, reprinted in Fluxus Codex, 112. What perturbed Maciunas was the copyright issue that would arise from reprinting materials that had already appeared in Di-coll/age. In a letter to Tomas Schmit from late December 1962 or early January 1963, he writes: "Myone condition however (like that of any other serious publisher) is that once you agree or decide to offer your works for publication and they are accepted, they can not be offered to and published by any other publisher. This is necessary to protect my investment in printing and distribution. I lost a few hundred marks already, by printing Ligeti & Flynt and then eliminating the works because of Vostell's fast dealings." Maciunas, letter to Tomas Schmit, reprinted in Fluxus Codex,107. In a letter to Robert Watts from 1963, he rails against Vostell further: "when I started to work on Fluxus (leisurely) out he rushes with Di-coll/age-which is a very sloppy affair-because he does not consult authors-just grabs what he can (whether copyrighted or not) and rushes to print it. He stole from me Flynt's and Ligeti's essays for Portrait Di-coll/age 3." Maciunas, letter to Robert Watts, reprinted in Mr.Fluxus:A Collective based upon personal reminiscences gathered by Emmett / of GeorgeMaciunas, 1931-1978: Williamsand Ay-O,ed. Emmett Williams and Ann Noel (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 62.




When I was once invited to lecture before an academicaudience on "TheFutureof Music," felt, at first,some hesitation;for what,if anyI thing, can one say about the future?No matterwhat is prophesied, only one thing is certain, namely:that the future will turn out to be completely different than predicted. So, rather than promulgateuntruths, I decided to say nothing.32

Ligeti records the audience's negative response to his silent "lecture" in the remainder of the text (which is cast in the form of a score). The account divides into 2o-second increments, calling to mind the thenpopular conceit among avant-garde composers of notating duration in
terms of minutes and seconds. From o'oo" to 1'20o", the audience's ini-

tial anticipation gives way to astonishment and then, according to
Ligeti, to "light hissing." From 2'00" to 3'oo", Ligeti provokes the audi-


ence further by writing comments and messages on a blackboard: "Please Don't Laugh and Stomp" and "Crescendo." At 4'oo", he desists from writing on the board, which brings about a lull in the catcalls. The relaxation of tension ends at 6'oo", when "an especially irate university professor" storms out of the hall, slamming the door behind him. In the tumult that followed, Ligeti was eventually dragged off the stage, some two minutes shy of his allotted 1o minutes. So goes the "score"of the event, which on its face is scarcely subject to repetition. It would be more accurate to call it a narrative than a score, an account of a past event rather than a template for future performance. But in reading Ligeti's account, it becomes evident that his text is less a neutral narration of the event and more of an analysis of the audience's response to his actions. Characteristic is Ligeti's pseudosociological division of the audience into four groups: one group is "disciplined or indifferent," remaining quiet at first; the second is "amused," quietly tittering away; the third "probably consider me a fool," and quickly lose their composure; and the fourth at first takes Ligeti's silence as a joke, later losing their composure as well (most likely once they realized that the joke was on them). Equally notable is Ligeti's "musical"reading of the audience's reactions. Ligeti interprets the event in terms of conventional formal categories, so that the lull beginning about four minutes into the event is described as the "Adagio" section of the piece. Similarly, the uproar that follows upon the departure of the irate professor resembles, according to Ligeti, "a kind of Opera Finale" involving "a lively alternation between soloists, ensemble and large choir."33Such reliance on traditional musical terms to de32 Quoted from Ligeti, " 'The Future of Music': A collective Composition," in Di-coll/ age 3 (December 1962), n.p. 33 Ligeti, " 'The Future of Music,' " n.p.

DROTT scribe the event is, despite its ironic overtones, alien to Fluxus. Even though Ligeti duly antagonizes his audience in Die Zukunft der Musik, the continuing use of musical terminology aestheticizes the event, folding it back into the sort of art-music tradition that Maciunas and others in the mainstream of Fluxus vilified. At the same time as certain institutions and forms are mocked (academic discourse and its legitimizing functions, the customary silence and passivity of the audience), another is tacitly affirmed (concert music as such). More significant is that the work's ostensible conformance with a particular sub-genre of Fluxus events-events that alternately antagonize and seek to spur the audience into action-occludes its deviation from the ideological project usually engaged by such events. In other words, the aesthetic or generic point of slippage in this case disguises vital conceptual differences that exist between Ligeti's piece and other, apparently similar Fluxus events. Compare Ligeti's event with Young's i96o #6, cited above. Or compare it to a later Fluxus piece, Composition such as Robert Bozzi's Choice18 (1966): "Performers show the audience to themselves by way of mirrors." In Ligeti's piece, the audience is aggravated into acting out; in both Young's and Bozzi's, the audience is confronted by the specter of its own passivity. In all three, the artistperformer is the clear instigator, while the audience is either manipulated into action or chided for its inaction. But in Ligeti's depiction of the event, he casts himself in an elevated position vis-a-visthe audience, as a self-controlled individual confronting and goading an angry mob composed of de-individuated "ideal types." Although such provocation partakes of a long and storied tradition within avant-garde performance, its potential as a means of involving audiences in the artwork is, as Bfirger notes, limited: "The reactions of the public during a dada manifestation where it has been mobilized by provocation, and which can range from shouting to fisticuffs, are certainly collective in nature. True, these remain reactions, responses to a proceeding provocation. Producer and recipient remain clearly distinct, however active the public may become."34 Later Fluxus event-scores erode this hierarchical separation of artist and audience, adopting a less antagonistic and coercive attitude. For instance, the score for Ben Vautier's Tango (1964) reads: "The audience is invited to dance a tango." Although the 'performer' is still the catalyst for the audience's involvement in this event, the piece lacks the latent disdain for the audience that Die Zukunft evinces.



Biirger, Theory, 53.



Poeme Symphonique PoemeSymphonique Ligeti's last foray into the genre of the eventwas score, and marks the end of his brief relationship with Fluxus. While his TroisBagatellescontinued to be included in editions of the Fluxus Yearbox #1 throughout the 197os, they more or less ceased to be performed at Fluxus festivals after July 1964.35 The immediate cause for the end of this tenuous relationship was Maciunas's return to New York in the fall of 1963. But at the same time, Ligeti began to distance himself quite explicitly from the ideals that guided Fluxus in the later in 1960s. The premiere of his Requiem 1965 was a signal event in the articulation of Ligeti's aesthetic. Even though the work employed the same micropolyphonic style he had developed in Apparitions and Atmoand the extreme, manneristic vocal style he had utilized in Avenspheres tures,the turn to a genre steeped in musical and ecclesiastical tradition surely represented a seismic shift. And as noted above, Ligeti began criticizing the Cagean position quite vocally, arguing against the notion that "artand quotidian life are one and the same thing"; henceforward he would be unambiguous in asserting that "for me, art is something absolutely artificial."36 Finally, Ligeti's conception of music's relation to politics became more pointed in response to the general politicization of new music following the events of 1968. While admitting that music might passively reflect a social situation, he denies it any efficacy as a tool of social or political change, a position no doubt influenced by his experiences in Hungary during the Zhdanovian clamp-down on the arts. In "Music and Politics" he concurs with the opinion that music is "related to life and to the social condition in many ways."But he qualifies this by saying "I think it's completely irrelevant to speak about the political progressivity or reactionary position of New Music. It is not progressive in a political sense nor is it regressive, just as mathematics is neither progressive or regressive. It is of a region which lies elsewhere."37 As the 196os progressed, the conditions which allowed artists as ideologically and aesthetically incompatible as Ligeti and Maciunas to take part in an artistic common front gradually withered away.
Although the list of artists included in the Fluxyearbox 1 varies, Ligeti's name still appears into the 70os.A price-list sent to a customer in September 1975 for instance reads: "Fluxyearbox 1, 1962-4: Book events, objects, essays, compositions by: Ayo, George Brecht, Congo, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, T. Kosugi, S. Kubota, G. Ligeti, G. Maciunas, Jackson MacLow, Ben Patterson, Tomas Schmit, Chieko Shiomi, Ben Vautier, Bob Watts, Emmett Williams & La Monte Young. $8o." 36 "Chez Cage, il y a cette idee que l'art et la vie quotidienne sont une mime chose; pour moi, l'art est quelque chose d'assolument artificiel." Ligeti in Edna Politi, "Entretien avec Ligeti," Contrechamps 4 (1985): 126. 37 Ligeti, "Music and Politics," Perspectives of New Music 16 (1978): 22-23.
35 See Fluxus Codex, 1o9, which reprints Fluxus catalogues


through the 6os and 7os.

DROTT and its impact on Ligeti's later The evolution of PoemeSymphonique music mirror his changing attitude. Premiered as the final work on the program of the Gaudeamus Music Week in Holland in 1962, PoemeSymas phoniqueachieved the same sort of succes-de-scandale his silent lecture at Alpbach. The plan for the piece is simple. One hundred metronomes are to be wound up, set to different speeds, and released. The work ends when the final metronome expires. Many in the audience took Ligeti's piece as an affront. Ligeti recalls that the controversy was great enough to cause Dutch Television, who had originally planned on airing a recording of the concert, to cancel the broadcast, showing a soccer match instead.38 PoemeSymphonique approximates many of the stylistic features characteristic of Fluxus events. First of all, the role played by the instrumentation of the piece should not be underestimated. A straightforward and not entirely unpersuasive reading of the piece would maintain that the simultaneous unwinding of 1oo metronomes challenges, in an allegorical fashion, the regulative and disciplinary aspect of musical training. The metronome, whose ticking represents a mechanical norm to which the performer must adjust in practice, is undermined through its very proliferation. But at a more basic level, the metronomes foreground the quotidian aspects of musical production, the hours of rehearsal and mundane artistic labor that underlie a successful performance. In foregrounding such a commonplace device, a token of the musician's everyday life, the work appears consonant-deceptively so-with the project of bringing art and the quotidian world together. Notwithstanding this material similarity, there is a vital distinction that should be drawn between the use of everyday,nonmusical sound as the material for a musical work and the avant-garde sublation of art into everyday life, as described by Bfirger. In the former, art subsumes elements drawn from quotidian existence without itself changing fundamentally; in the latter, the boundary between the two domains disappears, so that art as a separate category vanishes at the same time as the sort of playful, nonpurposive activitythat it exemplifies inflects human existence in general. This distinction-between Pokme'ssubsumption of the quotidian versus the avant-garde's sublation of it-is underlined by the form of the work. In some ways, the form resembles other Fluxus pieces: The work lacks a fixed structure, its performance lasting for as long as the metronomes beat. PoemeSymphonique thus recalls certain Fluxus pieces that play upon the motif of exhaustion, such as Brecht's Three Aequeous Events, whose score reads: "Ice. Water. Steam." Although there are a



For Ligeti's account of this affair, see "Music-MakingMachines," 1o.




number of ways of realizing this score, an obvious solution is to melt a block of ice until the water evaporates. The literal disappearance of the material into thin air would mark the close of the piece.39 Similarly, in Young's Composition i96o #2, the piece comes to an end only when the fire has gone out. Like Brecht's and Young's events, both of which last until the material is completely consumed, Ligeti's Poemepersists until the energy of the metronomes dissipates.40 In short, all three of these works possess a clear endpoint, though the time it takes to reach that point is unpredictable, left to mechanical or natural processes. there But despite the indeterminate duration of PoemeSymphonique, is a consistency to its form as well as an inflexibility as regards how this form is to be realized, factors which both point to the work's allegiance to the aesthetic. Ligeti observes that each rendition of the piece passes through the same set of identifiable phases: "Although the overall rhythmic structure is indeterminate at an intermediate level-the local result of adding individual periods of different lengths is arbitrary--it is, however, once more determinate at a higher level, namely the level at which the entire form unfolds. This overall form consists of three phases: homogeneity-gradual structuration-homogeneity."41 That is, the work begins with a continuous texture, as the sheer number of metronomes produces an impenetrable, albeit uneven, sonic mass (Ligeti's first stage). As metronomes start to drop out, the unevenness in the musical fabric becomes even more pronounced. At first intermittent silences break up the continuous surface; shortly thereafter individual metronomes momentarily emerge out of the mass, before being swallowed up again. Gradually, however, the regular beating of a few metronomes persists (Ligeti's second stage). At this point the texture becomes transparent enough to hear the overlapping of metric layers, each going at its own pace. Finally one reaches the coda-a single metronome, ticking away (Ligeti's final stage). And then there is silence. Ligeti's symphony was considerably more complex than typical Fluxus events, which made a virtue of simplicity. Fluxus works tended to be "monomorphic," to use Maciunas's term; they were works that concentrated intensely on a single process or event, rather than juxtapos-

39 Another possible solution would be to present the three different substances simultaneously rather than successively; in this case there is no process by means of which one could determine the close of the performance. 40 As Michael Nyman has observed, "Brecht devised a whole series of natural 'clocks' with which to 'unmeasure' passing time. CandlePiecefor Radioslasts as long as the birthday cake candles last; CombMusic ends when the last prong has been plucked." NyMusic, 78. man, Experimental for Symphonique 1oo metronomes, U.E. 8150, 41 Ligeti, notes to the score of Podme

(Mainz: Schott, 1982), n.p.


ing a number of uncoordinated processes or events.42 But just as the piece takes on certain traits identified with Fluxus (the motif of exhaustion mentioned above) while abstaining from others (simple, monomorphic processes), just as the piece refers the listener to a mundane, quotidian sound without being absorbed into the quotidian itself, the score for the work-in its original form-presents a complex conceptual object, an object that simultaneously emulates and resists Fluxus, both stylisticallyand ideologically. In 1964, two years following the performance in Holland, Ligeti's score for PoemeSymphonique appeared in the inaugural issue of ccVTRE, the Fluxus newspaper published in New York by Maciunas (a transcript of the text is given in the Appendix). At first glance, the score appears to be of a piece with works that poked fun at the social conventions governing modern concert music. Certain instructions in the score make it clear that Ligeti sought to aggravate the audience. In particular, he directs the performers to set up and wind the metronomes in the presence of the audience, creating what would most likely be an interminably long structural upbeat to the work. This long wait is compounded by the pause between the end of these preparations and the beginning of the work proper, "a motionless silence of 2-6 minutes, the length of which is to be left to the discretion of the conductor." At the same time, the score goes into painstaking detail about the preliminaries: how the metronomes may be procured, how potential donors of metronomes may be cajoled into lending their "instruments" (by the lure of free advertising), how to avoid the misplacement of borrowed metronomes, to whom performances of the work should be dedicated, and so on. Despite the resemblance of Ligeti's score to other Fluxus text-pieces in terms of tone, visual style and attitude, its sheer verbosity is exceptional. Compared to the concise event-scores of Brecht and Young, Ligeti's instructions seem bloated. Even though the instructions apparently conform to the Fluxus criteria of humor and playfulness, the type of humor Ligeti employs is uncharacteristic of Fluxus. It is too satirical, too broad. Instead of the dry, laconic wit of Brecht's scores, Ligeti's score approaches slapstick. And the parody is fairly limited in terms of its object. Namely, these long-winded preliminaries are perhaps a satire of the "notes to the performer" section that prefaced many of the high modernist scores written during the period, outlining in the utmost detail the provisions that must be taken in order to pull off a performance of the work at hand. While it could be
42 The "monomorphic" nature of Fluxus events contrasts with contemporaneous avant-garde productions, such as Cage's or Allan Kaprow's happenings, and may serve as a distinguishing characteristic of much Fluxus work.






argued that this satire has as its target the extreme specialization and professionalization of musical performance in the period of high modernism-a critique, in a refractory fashion, of the social and economic forces shaping musical production-it is more likely that Ligeti's object of scorn was nothing more than the obsessive micromanagement of the performer by contemporary composers. Here, the disjunction between the simplicity of the work's idea and the overly detailed instructions for its realization draws attention to and mocks a specific trend rather than the changing social organization of musical production. Still more important discrepancies in the latter part of the text separate Ligeti's score from the Fluxus ethos. As one reads the text, it becomes clear that the detailed instructions are not solely for humorous effect. The lengths to which Ligeti goes in his instructions may very well be absurd, but they betray at the same time his desire to produce a specific sonic result. Two of his directions are especially worthy of note. First, he tells performers that the metronomes should "be placed on suitable resonators," or that they be arranged around microphones and amplified. This interest in ensuring that the sound of the metronomes is projected into the auditorium distinguishes Ligeti's work from other Fluxus pieces, where the aural result may either be the byproduct of some physical operation (as in La Monte Young's fire piece) or be disSuch That pensed with altogether (as in a piece like Henry Flynt's Work No OneKnowsWhat'sGoingQn, where one is instructed to "guess whether the this work exists and if it does what it is like").43In PoemeSymphonique sensuous dimension of the music remains absolutely central. Second, Ligeti specifically outlines what the conditions are for an ideal performance of the piece. Namely, all of the metronomes should be completely wound; or, in the alternate version, io of them should be completely wound, with the remainder wound up to varying degrees. Either way, the aim is to maximize the length of the performance. Ligeti goes on to state that should the work need to be shortened (a "nonideal" situation), the performers should wind the metronomes to a predetermined number of turns (or, in the alternative version, io of them should be wound to a set number of turns, and the rest should all be set to a fewer number of turns). This proviso is significant insofar as it guarantees that even in a shortened performance of the work, the same general shape is traced. In both ideal and non-ideal performances, the work will pass through the same three stages outlined above. While the

43 Flynt describes this piece in "LaMonte Young in New York, 1960-62," should be noted that Flynt denies membership in Fluxus.

68-69. It

DROTT amplification of the metronomes places the audible dimension of the work front and center, the precise instructions for how to wind the instruments indicates that formal considerations-in other words, musical considerations-are not absent from Ligeti's conception of the work. On the contrary, such concerns, though hidden behind the facade of experimentalism, are still present. Is this to say that the satirical edge of the score is just for show? Not exactly. Once it becomes apparent that the score, despite its ostensible irony, is the vehicle for producing a consistent musical event from one performance to another-a far cry from the manifold possibilities inherent in most Fluxus event-scores-the more limited nature of Ligeti's irony comes into focus. Whereas the Fluxus event (as Maciunas conceived it) would attack art in its entirety-that is, art as a specialized, professionalized institution-Ligeti's critique is more modest in scope. This goes for all of his Fluxus pieces. Thus his TroisBagatelleshas often been read not simply as a breach of compositional etiquette but as a thinly veiled polemic directed at Cage's earlier 4'33" (although Ligeti claims that he was not aware of 4'33" at the time he composed the Trois Bagatelles).44From this perspective, Ligeti appears to be more interested in critiquing specific tendencies within art music rather than art music itself. Insofar as his criticisms are so specific, they apparently aim at preserving the institution of art-music by purging what are seen to be its more laughable tendencies.45 The transgressive aspect of Such is the case in PoemeSymphonique. Fluxus events, such as Brecht's, lies in their mock-seriousness. By many elevating absurd or everyday gestures to the level of art, Fluxus events call into question the professionalization of art. It is not simply a matter of writing scores anybody could perform but of executing them with the utmost sincerity. At the same time, Fluxus artists underlined the irrationality that pervades the solemn rituals of the Western concert music tradition by taking in earnest such simple actions as lighting a fire or watching a block of ice melt. Ligeti's score, however, invites its audience to laugh at the patent absurdity of his event, just as much as it invites



brief excursions in the early 196os, Ligeti made clear that he regarded the entire Cageian project, and the occurrence of 'happenings' and graphic scores, with dismissive sarcasm: is the joky Pohmesymphonique ioo metronomes outdone by the TroisBagatelles David for for which simultaneously recall works by Cage and Bussotti. Such a simplistic, unkind Tudor; parody could hardly been regarded as amusing, especially perhaps by David Tudor." Paul Attinello, "The Interpretation of Chaos: a Critical Analysis of Meaning in European Avant-Garde Vocal Music, 1958-1968" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of California at Los Angeles, 1997), 10o-11.

45 Paul Attinello offers a more unambiguous account of Ligeti's pieces: "In several

See Griffiths, Ligeti,39.



them to laugh at the traditions of art music. In a letter to Ove Nordwall from 1966, Ligeti claims that Poeme Symphonique's satire has a dual focus, aimed as much against the radical arm of the avant-garde (which would presumably include Fluxus) as against bourgeois sensibilities. Ligeti expresses satisfaction in the work's critical content: PoemeSymphonique occupies, or so I think, a special place, in that it is a critique of the contemporary musical situation, but a special sort of critique, since the critique itself results from musical means.... The 'verbal score' is only one aspect of this critique, and it is admittedly rather ironic. The other aspect is, however, the work itself. . .46 Ligeti goes on to clarify what motivates his attack on both "the entire 'radical' compositional situation" as well as "official concert life": What bothers me nowadays are above all ideologies (all ideologies, in that they are stubborn and intolerant towards others), and PoemeSymphoniqueis directed above all against them. So I am in some measure proud that I could express criticism without any text, with music alone. It is no accident that PoemeSymphonique rejected as much by was the petit-bourgeois (see the cancellation of the TV broadcast in Holland) as by the seeming radicals.... Radicalism and petit-bourgeois attitudes are not so far from one another; both wear the blinkers of the narrow-minded.47 It is the frivolity of Poeme Symphoniquethat provokes the petit-bourgeoisie who cling to a sanctified vision of art, as well as the radicals who desire to undermine art as an institution. The self-deprecating humor of Poeme Symphonique is thus problematic within the neo-avant-garde project outlined by Maciunas, as it mocks the pretensions of the avant-garde in addition to traditional concert rituals. And such self-deprecating humor could very well extend to the Fluxus genre of event-score as a whole,


46 "Poeme Symphonique hat, so glaube ich, die Besonderheit, daB es eine Kritik gegen die heutige musikalische Situation ist, doch insoweit eine spezielle Art von Kritik, als die Kritik selbst mit Mittlen der Musik erfolgt.... Die >verbale Partitur< ist nur ein Aspekt dieser Kritik, und zwar der eher ironische. Der andere Aspekt ist aber das Stfick selbst." Ligeti, cited in Ove Nordwall, Gy6rgyLigeti: Eine Monographie(Mainz: Schott, 1971), 7. 47 "Was mich Ideoloheutzutage so st6rt, sind vor allem die Ideologien (siimtliche gien, indem sie stur und intolerant gegen alles fibrige sind), und Poime Symphonique richtet sich vor allem gegen diese. So bin ich einigermaBen stolz, daB ich ohne jeden Text, allein mit Musik, Kritik ausfiben konnte. Es ist durchwegs kein Zufall, daB Po~me Symphonique sowohl von den Kleinbfirgers abgelehnt wird (siehe Verbot der TVSendung in Holland), als ebenso von den scheinbaren >>Radikalen< .... Radikalismus und Kleinbiurgertum befinden sich nicht einmal so entfernt voneinander: beide tragen die Scheuklappen des Banausentums." Ligeti, cited in Nordwall, Ligeti,8.


By making all too explicit their implicit absurdity.48 deflating itself as an risks deflating all such events by extension. event, PoemeSymphonique Recuperation, Part 1: Stockhausen's Originale Ligeti's experience with Fluxus clearly solidified his belief in art's autonomy from everyday life. In the letter to Nordwall cited above, Ligeti's disillusionment with the radical wing of the contemporary musical scene is apparent. It is easy to understand why Ligeti's sympathies toward such radicalism waned as the humor that permeated the earlier Fluxus performances gave way to more militant stances vis-fi-visart's social functions. (Recall, in this respect, Ligeti's comment cited above that Fluxus artists "take their job too seriously.") One event in particular revealed the ideological fault lines that existed in Fluxus itself, at the same time that it underscored the points of both divergence and overlap between avant-garde and modernist impulses. In September 1964, Maciunas, along with Henry Flynt and some others, picketed the American premiere of Stockhausen's theater-piece What prompted this protest was a series of pamphlets pubOriginale.49 lished by Flynt in the months preceding the performance, which alleged that Stockhausen's music was ethnocentric, elitist, and served the interests of the ruling classes. It was, as one of Flynt's broadsides put it, the "musical decoration of fascism." It may seem somewhat odd that Stockhausen's work was singled out for critique. Originalewas a loosely organized theater work, seemingly in accord with Cage's theater pieces of the period (another point of reference is the chaotic atmosphere of the happenings pioneered by Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, and Jim Dine, among others). Originale,as it was initially conceived, presents the actions of 12 "originals," artist-friends of Stockhausen's as well as local eccentrics from Cologne. The cast members were to perform everyday
48 Owen Smith has observed that the role of humor in Fluxus publications and performances was a source of tension. Although Maciunas emphasized the gag-like and vaudevillian aspects of Fluxus pieces as a way of attacking the aesthetic sphere and its pretensions, others viewed humor as impeding the political aims of Fluxus: "Manyof the Europeans saw the increasing emphasis on humor as a depoliticization of Fluxus objectives. ... The influence of the less politically motivated Fluxus artists on Maciunas was taken as evidence that Fluxus was losing its confrontational edge and becoming nonpolitical. ... Maciunas, though, saw the incorporation of humor into Fluxus not only as a means to attack higher art but also as a way to create a 'non-art reality' that would attract an increased audience." Smith, Fluxus, 141. Smith also notes that the publication of the first number of ccVTRE brought this issue to a head. 49 For firsthand accounts of the protest and its consequences for Fluxus, see Henry Flynt, "Mutations of the Vanguard: Pre-Fluxus, During Fluxus, Late Fluxus," in UbiFluxus, Fluxus 1982, 114-15; See also Fricke, 38-41; and 114-15; and Higgins, in 1962 Wiesbaden Jerome Kohl, "Die Rezeption der Musik und Gedanken Stockhausens in Amerika," in Internationales 1998 Stockhausen-Symposium (Saarbrucken: PFAU Verlag, 1999), 76-77.







actions (the painter paints, the actor acts, the child plays, and so on), with little apparent structure relating the various activities-although Stockhausen "composed" the order and timing of the activities in a quasi-mobile score. In its first incarnation (in Cologne in 1961), the cast of Originalefeatured artists who would later figure prominently in Fluxus, such as Paik (indeed, it was in these performances that Paik did his first renditions of Zenfor Head). Similarly, much of the audience (and even some of the cast) of the New York performances were themselves "official" members of Fluxus (Paik again) or fellow-travelers in the downtown avant-garde (such as Jackson MacLow and Allan Kaprow). The division of Fluxus into picketers and participants not only revealed but further widened fissures within the group, leading some to see this event as marking the end of Fluxus in its "heroic" phase.5o Specifically, the event underscored the uncomfortable co-existence of "liberationist" and "collectivist" tendencies in and around Fluxus. Whereas exponents of the former (Higgins, Paik) championed the individual's freedom to make art from anything in any situation, the latter emphasized the need to redirect the social energies that are presumably held in check by art. Both represent radical attitudes, but the former retains a covert sympathy with the aesthetic while the latter does not. Such differences were not, however, apparent to all. The free-form nature of Stockhausen's theater piece was such that at least one reviewer mistook the protest taking place outside the concert hall to be part of the performance.51 The aim of Maciunas and Flynt may have been to criticize Stockhausen's allegiance to the principles of "serious culture," but to the outsider it seemed as though they themselves were accomplices to the work, unwittingly sublated back into the aesthetic sphere that they wished to escape. But it is perhaps this ironic situation -that Stockhausen's work could threaten to incorporate anti-art pos50 The phrase "heroic period" is taken from Stewart Home, The Assault on Culture: to Utopian Currents from Lettrisme Class War (London: Aporia Press and Unpopular Books, 1988), 50. Home argues that following the Originaleprotest "Maciunas gave way to the demands of the scabs and removed political issues from the fluxus agenda. Flynt distanced and disassociated himself from the movement ... The heroicperiod was over, fluxus could do no more than slowly degenerate." Home, Assault on Culture,55. Compare Home's evaluation to that of Dick Higgins, who takes a dim view of the Originaleprotest in contrast: "[Maciunas] kept trying to be boss. He got very angry when a group of Fluxus people decided to join some artists who weren't Fluxus people in a big performance that was kind of a circus, called Originale("Or-ee-ghee-noll-eh"). ... Some people say Fluxus died that day. . . ." Higgins, "A Child's History," 174. 51 See Kohl, "Rezeption," 77. Kohl notes that reviews of the New York premiere of and the New York Timesmistook the protestors for performers; Originalein MusicalAmerica seems to have recognized that the protest was to only the reporter from the VillageVoice be taken at face value.


turing into its voracious maw-that explains what disturbed Flynt and Maciunas about Originalein particular and the modernist attitude in general. Stockhausen's theater-piece, by aping the experimental performance practices pioneered by Cage, Fluxus artists, and others, threatened to eviscerate the critical content of those practices. Instead of serving as a parody of the fetishistic rituals of concert life, the extreme -and at times even threatening-actions of someone like Paik became, in the context of Originale, just another part of that same concert-life, just one spectacle among others. Originalewas therefore antithetical to Maciunas's desire to render art into a "nonprofessional" and "nonelite" pursuit. Insofar as it celebrates "originals," the work appears to set up an unbridgeable gulf between the performers and the audience.52 Originalecan in fact be understood as part of an expansion of serial techniques in the late 1950s and 196os, an expansion that increasingly encroached upon the avant-garde's territory. Beginning in the mid 1950s, Stockhausen and others started to move away from the straightforward organization of pitch, duration, dynamics, and timbre in order to incorporate evermore abstract categories: density of texture, spatial location of performers, degrees of indeterminacy, among others.53 By the early 60s, with works like Originale,serial technique seems to have reached such a degree of abstraction that any content could, in principle, be subject to serial manipulation. This is evident enough in Stockhausen's program notes for the piece: Self-sufficient moments linked accordingto their degrees of intensity, duration, density,renewal quotient, sphere of influence, activity,simultaneitysequence.... One turnsinto another:contrastsare mediated. Blackis a degree of white:scale of valuesof grey. Things separated in different times and spaces-people, activities, events from daily life (nothing pretends to be 'as if', nothing is 'meant';everythingis composed, everythingmeans itself)-are compressedinto one space,into one time: theatre.54 The reference to "daily life" in the second paragraph sits uneasily with the formalizing tendency exhibited by the first, in that the ostensible immediacy of the work's content is subject to the numerous mediations
52 Attinello offers a slightly different interpretation of Stockhausen's work, arguing that by celebrating local "eccentrics," Stockhausen "shows that he literally missed the point (or possibly the different points) of absurdism, and reduces the entire Cageian experiment to mere eccentricity." Attinello, "Interpretation of Chaos," 167. 53 For a discussion of the "centrifugal" expansion of serial techniques and its ramifications during this period, see Gianmario Borio, Musikalische Avantgarde,23. 54 Stockhausen, Originale:musikalische Theaterno. 12, 2/3 (1961) (Vienna: Universal Edition 1966).






that Stockhausen describes. Hence, extra-aesthetic actions are reduced to events bearing a purely formal value, incorporated into the work as long as they are measured along one or another of Stockhausen's parametric scales. Any impulse that might burst through the bounds of the aesthetic sphere is presumably contained by the logic of his system. Instead of desublimating art, joining it to everyday experience, Stockhausen's work resublimates extra-aesthetic activities, reducing them, in Peter Bfirger's terms, to the level of "artisticmeans."55 Recuperation, Part 2: Ligeti's Revision of Poe&meSymphonique Ligeti's adamant rejection of the avant-garde program in the years does not mean that the following the premiere of PoemeSymphonique moment exerted no influence on his music or aesthetic. In avant-garde a sense, Ligeti's relationship with Fluxus is typical of the generally symbiotic relationship that existed between the high modernist camp and the avant-garde in the 1950s and 196os. While avant-garde composers used the high modernist style as a sort of negative pole, a handy representative of the aesthetic attitude they hoped to transcend (indeed, the existence of art is a precondition of any anti-art movement), the high modernists just as often appropriated the techniques of avant-garde composers, depoliticizing them and putting them to work toward aesthetic ends. Stockhausen's Originaleis a straightforward example of this tendency. In Ligeti's case, the appropriation of the experimental is a circular affair. Unlike Stockhausen, who was seen by many as willing to claim the ideas of others for himself, the musical fruit of Ligeti's interaction The impact that with Fluxus was to be found in PoemeSymphonique.56 the ticking, uncoordinated metronomes of PoemeSymphonique had on later music is well known. Many commentators have noted that Ligeti's
55 Bfirger argues that this reduction of avant-gardiste practices is present as well in neo-avant-garde movements, a category which would include Fluxus: The "post-avantgarde" phase is characterized "by saying that it revived the category of work and that the procedures invented by the avant-garde with anti-artistic intent are being used for artistic ends." Bfirger, Theory, 57. 56 The musical element was hardly banished from his Fluxus pieces: Recall the "operatic" interpretation of the audience's reaction in Die ZukunftderMusik. By seeking out the musical features inherent in a nonmusical event, Ligeti can be understood as moving in the opposite direction of core Fluxus artists. Indeed, it is tempting to view Ligeti's "scenario" to Die ZukunftderMusik as one possible stimulus-among others, of course-for a number of contemporaneous and later pieces. His division of the audience into broad and types in the text is echoed in the idealized social interaction presented in Aventures NouvellesAventures(1962-65), while the aestheticization of the mob resonates with later pieces, like the Kyrie from the Requiem(1965), with its swarms of voices and thick micropolyphonic texture. Instead of using the event genre as a means of transcending music as an aesthetic practice, Ligeti treats it as a source for subsequent works.



the "meccanico" style he developed in the later 196os was a direct outgrowth of the work. As Ligeti himself put it in an interview from 1968: "If you listen now to the work for metronomes, after hearing the pizzicato movement from the String Quartet [i.e. the third movement] or the work for harpsichord, Continuum, you realise that the piece for metronomes was a preparatory stage for this pizzicato-movement."57In these works the unsynchronized metric layers recall the point in Poeme when the texture has been pared down to a small enough Symphonique number of metronomes that the conflicting tempi may emerge. The "meccanico" works thus represent a final stage of aesthetic recuperaare tion, wherein the musical qualities of PoemeSymphonique incorpointo a more conventionally musical milieu. rated Just as interesting as the textures that Poemelater inspired is what became of the work itself. The revised version of Poeme Symphonique that has since been published by Schott presents a striking contrast in format and content to the earlier version published by Maciunas.58At a material level, the two versions occupy disparate spheres. In Maciunas's ccVTRE,the text of the piece is collaged on to the bottom of a jumbled sheet of newspaper. By contrast, the high-end production values of Schott's edition (glossy cover, photographs of Ligeti and metronomes, translations of the German instructions into English and French) not only render the item much more desirable as a commodity but also lend what is still but a set of instructions all of the airs and graces of a conventional score. Moreover, the instructions themselves have been pared down considerably, so that the reader is presented with a straightforward, no-nonsense text. Attention is focused on the piece's seriousness-that is, on its stature as a proper work of art. What remains in place from the earlier version is as significant as what has changed. For instance, Ligeti still instructs performers to place the metronomes on resonators so as to augment their volume. In addition, he insists, as before, upon the careful winding of the metronomes to preserve the overall form of the work.59Shorn of its humor, of the extraneous directions that weigh down the earlier version, Ligeti's concern for projecting a clear formal trajectory onto the sound of the ticking metronomes comes to the fore. The revision not only disbut cards the overtly ironic dimension of Podme at the same time retains its stress on the work's musicality, a quality that was certainly present in
Ligeti, in Ligetiin Conversation, 108. Although the copyright date on the score is 1982, it was not released by Schott until the 1990s. 59 "The metronomes are wound up four half-turns (18o degrees) to guarantee an adequate performance length of 15 to 20 minutes. It is very important that no ... metronome is wound up twice." Ligeti, directions, n.p.








the earlier version but hidden beneath the veneer of experimentalism. The metronome's potential to act as an embodiment of the musical quotidian is thus undercut by the ascendancy of this emphasis on form. Like the daily activities portrayed in Stockhausen's Originale,the immediacy of the metronomes is blunted by treating them as a neutral source material. Among the positive revisions that Ligeti made to the score, a few stand out. First, the directions call for the performers to set up the metronomes prior to the arrival of the audience. Ligeti justifies this in the notes to the score by reasoning that it casts into relief the purely mechanical aspect of the work: "The experience of a number of performances led me to alter the piece such that it would seem to 'interpret' itself without visible human participation. Thus the metronomes are set in motion before the public enters the hall, and being confronted solely by the ticking instruments, the public is unmistakably made aware of the mechanical, automatic nature of the music"60The decision to remove the preparations from the sight of the audience removes at the same time one of the more obviously antagonistic features of the earlier version, the protracted delay caused by the performers' careful winding of the metronomes. The gulf separating the revised version of PoemeSymphonique from the original is most fully disclosed by another change that Ligeti makes to the instructions. The new version of the score concludes: "All metronomes are set in motion as simultaneously as possible. As soon as all metronomes are ticking, the performers leave the stage. While they are [taking] their seats in the concert hall, the audience, which has been waiting outside, is let in and should sit down as quickly and quietly as possible. The audience should remain absolutely silent until the last metronome has stopped ticking." What is intriguing is his insistence that the audience remain silent throughout the performance, suggesting that in Ligeti's mind the mode of reception fitting for the piece is one of concentrated contemplation. This hypothesis is confirmed at the end of the notes to the revised score, where he comments on what the appropriate comportment of the audience should be in listening to the work: "PoemeSymphonique for ioo Metronomes demands patient, unhurried listening and a willingness to let oneself become accustomed to the process of gradual transformation of rhythmic patterns." Musical considerations that were tucked away in the earlier version of the score
6o Ligeti, notes, n.p. Maria Kostakeva'spersuasive reading of the work underlines its mechanical aspect. She contends that the work plays on the ironic juxtaposition of "humanized" metronomes and the objectified passivity of the audience. See Kostakeva, Die Werk imagindreGattung:iiberdas musiktheatralische G. Ligetis(Frankfurt:Lang, 1996), 59.


now rise to the surface. Although one may find amusing Ligeti's straight-faced pronouncement that the audience is to remain silent is throughout, the intentionally gag-like aspect of PoemeSymphonique all but washed away in the new version of the score. The piece has become an object of individual aesthetic contemplation. Conclusion As I noted at the opening of this article, Ligeti's Fluxus pieces have long been viewed as simple jests-which is hardly an inappropriate way to consider them, so long as one realizes that they are, like other Fluxus pieces, jests that demand to be taken seriously. At present a retrospective elevation of Ligeti's Fluxus pieces is under way. The signs that these works are gaining visibility within Ligeti's oeuvre have multiplied in recent years, as witnessed in the recording of PoemeSymphonique Sony that released in 1996, the recording of Ligeti's TroisBagatellesby Frederik Ullen in 1996,61 and the publication in 2ooo of the score of the Trois As Bagatelles.62 Ligeti's music has secured its position in the modernist canon, pieces that once seemed marginal are now subject to reevaluation. The recuperation of Ligeti's works is not surprising, given their covert sympathies with the modernist project. But even the most unreconstructed experimentalists have found it difficult to escape from the aesthetic sphere altogether. Many of the activities and objects produced by artists who opposed this sphere have, with time, been reclaimed by it. As Allan Kaprow has observed, "all gestures, thoughts and deeds may become art at the whim of the arts world."63By the last third of the 20th century, art had reached the stage where anything could become art by fiat. This is, in part, a legacy of the avant-gardemovements. Rather than dismantling museums and concert halls, their extra-aesthetic objects and events have been incorporated into the ever-widening field of the art world and its supporting institutions. Viewed negatively, this development spells the containment or co-opting of the avant-garde's critical capacities; viewed positively, it spells a democratization and opening of what has traditionally been the closed shop of the art world. But just as the past few decades have witnessed capital's subsumption of domains once felt to stand outside its limits, thereby removing any privileged "safe"position from which opposition can be staged, so too has the steady enclosure of the open spaces outside the artistic sphere proceeded apace, robbing the avant-garde of the ground upon which it has



Frederik Ullen, Ligeti:The Complete Piano Music, vol. 1, BIS CD-783 BIS. Ligeti, Trois bagatellesfiirKlavier: i96i (Mainz: Schott, 2000). Allan Kaprow, Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life (Berkeley: Univ. of California

Press, 1993),



traditionally taken its stand. For this latter reason, Kaprow's outlook on anti-art is not terribly sanguine: Antiart... is embracedin every case as proart, and therefore,from the standpointof one of its chief functions,it is nullified.You cannot be againstart when art invites its own 'destruction'as a Punch-andof Judyact among the repertory poses artmaytake.64 This explains the fate of many Fluxus artists, who (with the possible exception of Henry Flynt) never did quite get around to giving up art. Such is the fate of Fluxus: Although many of its original members are active to this day, this has not prevented its objects from being enshrined in museums (such as the Fluxus room at the Tate Modern in London) or its events from being revived in commemorative concerts. One should not be tempted, however, to read this failure as necessary or inevitable. Even if the critic Paul Mann is correct when he argues that the binaristic logic of the avant-garde makes it "not the victim of recuperation but its agent, its proper technology,"65 this may be understood as a local, tactical mistake more than a fatal flaw in the avant-garde project as such. Indeed, the fate of Fluxus may have been determined as much by the shifting position of "high culture" within European and American society as by its tactical or logical missteps. This is particularly apparent in the United States. Although Fluxus's attack on institutional culture came at a point when such culture still held a relatively high level of prestige in American society at large-the early 1960s witnessed a great deal of investment in the arts, in part to overcome the perceived culture gap with America's Soviet adversary-this moment proved transient. Since then institutional music in America, and to a lesser extent Europe, has been steadily displaced by popular culture, rendering the attack on high culture largely moot. More than the historical avant-garde of futurism and surrealism, Fluxus appears to have been shadowboxing, fighting against an entity that-as powerful and influential as it might have appeared at the time-was about to see the value of its cultural capital plummet. In the case of music, this devaluation has been precipitous. Its prestige eroded, absorbed into a broader cultural economy, classical music maintains a spectral existence in the form of a niche market. Given art's lack of centrality among the ideological supports of late capitalism, attacks on art


Paul Mann, The Theory-Death theAvant-Garde of (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1991), 91. Mann's position-that the avant-garde's opposition to social institutions represented a form of dependence, and as such led inexorably to its recuperation-takes a risk inherent in any oppositional stance and turns it into a virtual ontological given.

Kaprow, Essays, 1oo.

DROTT have lost much of the force they once possessed. They are met with bemusement or they are ignored.66 In this respect, Ligeti's Die Zukunft der Musik was only half correct in its assessment of music's future. As much as Ligeti's pointed silence concerning the future of music might have an unintended connotation now that "new music" as a category has all but fallen off the cultural map, the outrage that this silence once provoked seems less a glimpse of music's future than a souvenir of its modernist past. University of Texas at Austin




Podme Symphonique




no. [Transcription of text printed in ccVTRE 1; translated by Eugene Hartzell] "Poeme Symphonique" (for ioo metronomes) requires, as its primary condition for performance, ioo metronomes. Their acquisition may be accomplished in several ways. For example, they may be borrowed from one or more music instrument firms. (When the pertinent special shops are not to be found on the spot, it is recommended that inquiry be made to this end at so-called music dealers). For the purpose of attaining the desired result (i.e., the permission to borrow), some comments may be useful with regard to the value of the advertising to the firm, gained through its readiness to loan. In this connection one may offer to print the name (s) of the firm(s) on the concert poster, in the programme book or on a placard to be placed on the stage, or one or another combination of the listed possibilities. If necessary, the announcement may take the form of a verbal communication, either by itself or as a means of following up the printed announcement. Another way to bring about the acquisition of the metronomes is to insert advertisements in the newspapers. In this case all private persons will be invited to be so generous as to make temporarily available the metronomes in their possession for use in the performance. In cities which have their own music
66 Although my position is close to Peter Bfirger's notion of the false sublation of art into everyday life-which is to say, the erosion of art's autonomy in the face of the demands made upon it by the market-I differ from Biurger insofar as I do not see this subsumption as marking the end of the ideological function of art. This subsumption may mark the end of art's autonomy in terms of its production (although it is unclear to what extent this production under capitalism was ever free from economic concerns), but this does not spell the end of the art consumer's experience of aesthetic autonomy, that is, the tangible experience that art is something apart from life. (For this reason I believe, contra Bfirger, that the possibility still exists for an effectively critical avant-garde, albeit one that would have to take account of the changed relation between art and the market.)





schools*, this request can be made directly to the teaching staff or the student body, with the assistance of the customary media of communication. In the two last-named instances it is recommended that the owners of the required instruments be asked to put some means of identification on them, to prevent their being misplaced or mixed up. This can be achieved, for example, through the obligatory affixing of the owner's name by means of a suitable strip of paper**. Should it happen that a Maecenas makes it possible to borrow the metronomes for the purpose of performance, his name-after consultation with the person in question-shall be made public.*** The composition is provided with a passe-partout dedication: on each occasion the work is dedicated to the person (or persons) who have helped to bring about the performance through the contribution of the instruments, by any means whatsoever, whether it be the executive council of a city, one or more music schools****, one or more businesses, one or more private persons. If a patron can be found who will remove once for all the financial hindrances to the performability of the work by buying the necessary metronomes and guaranteeing the transportation costs which arise from time to time, "Poeme Symphonique" will be dedicated from then on to him alone. In particular, the following instructions for performance are to be carried out: i) It is preferred that pyramid-shaped metronomes be employed. 2) The work is performed by io players under the leadership of a conductor. Each player operates i o metronomes. 3) The metronomes must be brought onto the stage with completely run-down clockwork (that is, in an unwound condition). It is expedient that they be placed on suitable resonators. Loudspeakers, distributed throughout the concert hall, can serve to raise the dynamic level. It is recommended that each of the 1o groups of io metronomes be arranged about a microphone which is connected to an appropriated loudspeaker*****. The distance between the metronome-group and the microphone, as well as the regulation of the dynamic level of the allocated loudspeaker******, are to be differently set in order to achieve the proper effects of closeness and distance. 4) At a sign from the conductor the players wind up the metronomes. Following this, the speeds of the pendulums are set: within each group they must be different for each instrument. "Poeme Symphonique" may be performed in two versions: 1) All metronomes are wound equally tightly. In this version the chosen metronome numbers (oscillation speeds) wholly determine the time it will take for the several metronomes to run down: those which swing faster will run down faster, the others more slowly. 2) The several metronomes of a group are wound unequally: the first of the to metronomes the tightest, the second a little less, the tenth the least tightly. Care must be taken, however, that the winding and the regulation of the speeds of the several metronomes are carried out completely independently of each other. Thus the metronome in each group which has been most tightly wound must not be the fastest or the slowest in its oscillation.

DROTT The conductor arranges with the players beforehand the method and the degree of winding. The performance may be considered ideal, if a) in the first version all the metronomes b) in the second version the first metronome of each group is (are) completely wound. The ideal manner of performance is the obligatory one. Non-ideal performances are only permitted if weighty reasons are present which force the occurrence of a deviation from the ideal performance, such as the playing of a shortened version of the work. In this unwelcome case the conductor must set, with the performers, the number of turns for (1) all the metronomes or (2) the first of each group, according to whether the first or second version is being played. The winding-up and the regulation of the oscillation speeds (the setting of the metronome numbers) must be done ceremoniously and formally. At the conclusion of the preparatory activity comes a motionless silence of 2-6 minutes, the length of which is to be left to the discretion of the conductor. At a sign from the conductor*******, all the metronomes are set in motion by the players. To carry out this action as quickly as possible, it is recommended that several fingers of each hand be used at the same time. With a sufficient amount of practice, the performers will find that they can set 4 to 6 instruments in motion simultaneously. As soon as the metronomes have been started in this fashion, the players absent themselves as quietly as possible******** from the stage, led by the conductor, leaving the metronomes to their own devices. "Poeme Symphonique" is considered as ended when the last metronome has run down. It is up to the conductor to decide the duration of the pause, before he leads the players back on to the stage to receive the thanks due from the public.


*resp., colleges of music **It is recommended that the use of fountain pen or ball-point pen be prescribed. ***See in this connection the paragraph on the music instrument firms. ****resp., colleges of music *****or group of loudspeakers ******resp., groups of loudspeakers *******downbeat ********Suitable footwear is requested.



ABSTRACT During a brief period in the early 1960s, Fluxus, a neo-avant-garde group active in the United States, Europe, and Japan, engaged the unlikely participation of Gyorgy Ligeti. Ligeti's three contributions to Fluxus publications-the Trois Bagatellesfor David Tudor (1961), Die der Musik-eine kollektiveKomposition(1961), and Poeme SymZukunft phonique for 100 metronomes (1962)-proved both compatible with and divergent from the general ideology and aesthetic of Fluxus. Central to the consideration of Ligeti's Fluxus pieces is the contentious relationship that existed between experimental and modernist branches of new music at the time. Ligeti's flirtation with more experimental forms of composition not only reflects the general dynamic of this relationship but also illuminates how Ligeti positioned himself within the field of European contemporary music ca. 1960 and in subsequent years.


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