The Electronic Works of György Ligeti and their Influence on his Later Style

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2006-05-02

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This dissertation, entitled The Electronic Works of György Ligeti and Their Influence on his Later Style investigates the connections between the composer's pieces for electronic tape written in the late 1950s and the instrumental music he composed thereafter. There are numerous reasons to suspect such a chain of influence, including suggestive comments Ligeti has made in interviews. Moreover, these works, Glissandi (1957), Artikulation (1958), and the uncompleted Pièce électronique no. 3 (1957-58), were written at a critical point in the composer's career, falling between two major stylistic periods. Before he fled Hungary in December 1956 his compositions were influenced by Bartóok, but his orchestral pieces Apparitions (1958-59) and Atmosphères (1961) were much celebrated for their strikingly original textures and timbres.

While these orchestral pieces secured Ligeti's reputation as an important avant-garde figure, the first works he composed in the West were the electronic pieces, which have suffered relative neglect. There are difficulties inherent in analyzing electronic music, and thus the first chapter of this dissertation focuses on theoretical literature in this growing field, including discussion of musical timbre, different means of notation, and in particular, the work of theorist Robert Cogan.

Chapters 2 and 3 are analytical studies of Ligeti's finished tape piece, using spectrographs and information from Ligeti's sketches to focus on the use of sonic material in the construction of form. Additionally each study is put in the context of Ligeti's contemporaries, composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig, as well as figures such as the philosopher T.W. Adorno. The fourth and final chapter focuses on the historical chain of influence and examines some of Ligeti's instrumental music, particularly Apparitions, in light of the their electronic precedents. These examples illuminate connections between the electronic and instrumental, ranging from the slightest nuances in individual gestures-many of which are translated directly from one medium to the other-to methods of constructing entire forms, which continue to appear throughout Ligeti's oeuvre; thus, the final aim of this dissertation is to provide groundwork for further studies which will deepen the understanding of other works by this innovative composer.

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