Polyphonic – Polyrythmic – Polyethnic

Structure and randomness. © Charles Thibo

Order. Disorder. Order within disorder. Structure versus randomness. Progress and aesthetics. Where are we heading to? Tenderness, a sad tenderness tiptoeing through the room. Gathering speed, growing stronger – dynamics! Then, silence. A nervous pulse, an attempt to get it right. Dark persuasion, balanced by a single voice, clear and forceful. The listener is clueless. Another hint: the name. Fanfares. By whom? For whom? But isn’t the king naked? A faltering message. A summer day after a thunderstorm, puddles on the road, a black sky in the east, a rainbow. Can you paint a rainbow with sound? Definitely. A trip. Darkness, anxiety. Is the traveler doomed? Why Warsaw?

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Floating through Colors and over Infinite Surfaces

Ligeti's "Lontano" is a captivating sound experiment. © Charles Thibo
Ligeti’s “Lontano” is a captivating sound experiment. © Charles Thibo

Can you imagine a surface made of sound? Let’s try this: Imagine a black surface, indefinitely long, extending into space. Okay? Now, we move on: The surface is not just black, but lined with glowing pink, yellow, green and blue lines, running parallel to each other. Still with me? Now the lines starts vibrating, like strings on a guitar or a violin. Got it? Brilliant. Now you are ready for “Lontano” – a vibrating piece written by György Ligeti in 1967 and illustrating what the representatives of the “Neue Musik” define as Klangflächen and Klangfarben* – sound surfaces and sound colors.

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The Communists didn’t like funky sound experiments

Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata" is about contrasts. © Charles Thibo
Ligeti’s “Musica Ricercata” is about contrasts. © Charles Thibo

The Communist Party did not welcome revolutions that it had not initiated itself. György Ligeti was not welcome, nor was his music. Not in Hungary, when it was ruled by the Communist Party. But the Communist world broke apart and Ligeti’s music stays on. He is certainly one of the greatest composers of classical music of the 20th century. Et pour cause, as they say in France.

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