Tuesday 3 March 2009

Another Quote For The Beginning of March

Ligeti: 'now, what did I come in here for?'
Although complex polyrhythms have existed in Ligeti’s music ever since he came to the West—practically every score abounds in simultaneous layers of quintuplets, septuplets, etc.—the difference between the earlier pieces and the recent music lies in this new conception of pulse.

In the earlier works, the pulse is something to be divided into two, three and so on; even thirteenth-tuplets occasionally appear. The effect of these different subdivisions, especially when they occur simultaneously, is to blur the aural landscape, creating the micropolyphonic effect of Ligeti’s music from the sixties. The smallest common denominator of all these subdivisions is a microscopic fraction of a beat; no one can hear it, much less count it.

On the other hand, the recent music (and a few earlier pieces such as Continuum, 1966) conceives of the pulse as a musical atom, a common denominator, a basic unit which cannot be divided any further. Different rhythms appear through multiplications of the basic pulse, rather than divisions: this is the principle of African music seized on by Ligeti.

It also appears in the music of Philip Glass, Steve Reich and others; and significantly it shares much in common with the additive rhythms of Balkan folk music, the music of Ligeti’s youth. In effect, the blurred rhythmic patterns are now seen through a microscope; instead of a dense web, the shape’s contours become clearer, though fantastically complex, like an image of a fractal coastline.

“In a piece such as Continuum where I (consciously) tried to create an illusionary rhythm, I came (unconsciously) close to the rhythmic conception evident in the music of sub-
Saharan Africa” (Ligeti 1988b:6).
Ligeti, Africa and Polyrhythm:// Stephen Andrew Taylor

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