Saturday, December 2, 2006

Ligeti's Material

The other day, music critic Ben Finane called me up and told me he was doing a big piece for Stereophile magazine on Ligeti, and he wanted to ask me a few questions about the subject. Even though I've spoken quite a bit about this subject, especially after the composer's passing this summer, I'm always shocked by what I perceive to be going on in Ligeti's music. To me, Ligeti is one of the first composers who drew attention away from his material (themes, chords, motives, etc) and asked the listener to follow the process of construction of the work. I'm not speaking here about listening to classical forms and being able to tell where the development end and where the recapitulation begins, but in Ligeti's music, a large part of his work seems to involve objects coming into being or evaporating into the air. Often the objects that do appear are so complex or mobile that it's hard to grasp what they are before they disappear, but it's because the processes of appearing and disappearing are so spectacular that the listener is willing to give up any feelings of confusion and surrender to the piece.

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