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Ligeti’s Early Experiments in Compositional Process: Simple Structures in Musica Ricercata

Description: This study examines the formation of a unique chromatic and formal language in Musica Ricercata by György Ligeti. The study begins by examining statements from an interview with Ligeti conducted by Ove Nordwall in 1979. The interview discusses his compositional experiments from the early 1950s, the period in which Musica Ricercata was composed. Working from Ligeti’s words, “simple structures” are defined as repeating formations of rhythms and intervals with easily discernable features. These features must be salient such that when the structure is altered, it is still clearly and audibly recognizable. The musical and political environment in Hungary at the time is established, providing context for this early experimentation with compositional parameters. The analysis begins with an overview of the entire work, outlining developments of pitch-class density, symmetrical pitch-class structures, and notated accelerandi over the course of the multi-movement work. Analyses of simple structures in each movement elucidate both Ligeti’s experimental approaches to chromaticism, along with more traditional aspects, with special reference to Bartók’s compositional style.
Date: December 2014
Creator: Grantham, Daniel
Partner: UNT Libraries