Skip to main content
Toggle menu

Turning Points: Ligeti


How to Listen to the 21st Century: our series of 'steps' let you explore the music throughout our 2016/17 season. Ahead of the second concert in the Turning Points series at Kings Place, delve into the soundworld of György Ligeti, with playlists, interviews and more. 


Explore the unique soundworld of Hungarian composer, György Ligeti in a playlist that we've compiled ahead of our performance of his works at Kings Place on Saturday 25 March.

In his resistance to establishment and systematic composition, Ligeti's style was forever evolving in an attempt to find new form and expression. His influences going far beyond the conventions of western culture, with a particular interest in the music of Central African Pygmies (heard on the album African Rhythms, featured in the video below). 



Normally, for our second step in our online guides, we like to get to know one of the composers or performers involved in the project with a quickfire Q&A. But sadly, we can’t chat to Ligeti as the great composer passed away in 2006. So we’ve gathered together some of his most interesting interview answers below.

György Ligeti had an entirely individual approach to music-making, and a fascinating life, having endured both the Fascist Nazi regime of the Second World War, and the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. Read more about his life and music from the extraordinary man himself.


From the John Tusa Interviews: György Ligeti (BBC)

“Boulez and Stockhausen were most important to me, theirs was a way which was so different. I was influenced but not totally, I rejected the idea to write serial music.”

Q: "Are your manuscripts tidy? Or is there an enormous amount of crossing out"?
A: "Enormous amount of crossing out".

“I cannot accept that my brother was killed, he was five years younger than me.  He lived exactly 17 years, I saw him last when he was 16 […] The hate against the Hitler and Hungarian regimes - I cannot forget it, it never diminishes. This emotion of hate and disgust becomes stronger.”

“I personally have no ambition to be first, or to be important […] I am not interested in this power struggle at all.”

“In all my life I try to be as honest as circumstances allow”.

Listen to the full interview on the BBC’s website

From ‘Prelude for Pygmies’ (Tom Service/The Guardian)

"How long a piece should be is a very mysterious question."

"I learnt a lot from Stockhausen and I hugely admired his way of thinking, at that time. But it's not my way of thinking: he always makes a huge plan for his pieces. He has to have this planification - like a Soviet five-year plan. Nobody in Hungarian culture would think in this way." 

Read the full article on the Guardian’s website 


In the third of our online steps, we look at Ligeti’s 1958 composition Artikulation for tape – one of two electronic works by the composer completed in Cologne following his escape from the Soviet invasion of Hungary.

Here’s what you need to know about Artikulation:

  1. Artikulation was composed in January and February 1958 and was recorded with the assistance of the German-Dutch composer Gottfried Michael Koenig and Karlheinz Stockhausen's assistant, Cornelius Cardew at Stockhausen’s studios in Cologne.
  2. The name of Artikulation points to the way in which the piece imitates speech - like an artificial language, it reflects the natural inflections and interruptions of speaking, along with other experimental sounds. He notes in the score that the work "can be heard as a conversation without words."
  3. Known for his resistance to repeated, over-done systems, Ligeti’s compositional method included elements of chance, in partnership with a predetermined structure in the selection of sounds that he used.
  4. He created a formula to determine the maximum length of each tape used, and went through a process of choosing them at random, combining them into groups, and then cutting them in half. He incorporated technology that included sine waves, white noise, impulse generators and filters.
  5. In 1970 graphic designer Rainer Wehinger created a "score for listening" to accompany Artikulation which was subsequently approved by Ligeti. The visual score represented various sonorous effects with graphic symbols. Wehinger focused on the main sonic characteristics, measured in seconds and shapes and colours instead of the notes on a staff. He used colours to represent variations in timbre and pitch; dots in place of impulses, and combs for noise. The score was later synced to the music (see below) creating a multimedia experience which you can see live at Kings Place on 25 March. 







A peek into the extraordinary Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes in our new trailer - a rather reduced score with just 15 metronomes!


Published: 24 Feb 2017