Gyorgy Ligeti, Central-European Composer of Bleakness and Humor, Dies at 83 Gyorgy Ligeti, the Central European composer whose music was among the most innovative of the last half of the 20th century — sometimes eerie, sometimes humorous usually fantastical and always polished — died yesterday in Vienna. He was 83.
His family confirmed his death but declined to divulge the cause, saying only that he had been ill for several years.
Mr. Ligeti produced much of his pioneering music against the backdrop of a Europe in turmoil. Born into a Hungarian-Jewish family, he survived the Holocaust but lost his father and brother in it. With the war's end he felt Soviet repression and fled when liberal revolution was smashed.
Mr. Ligeti became widely known when extracts from his work appeared on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968 and caught the public's fancy. The works — the Requiem, for voices and orchestra; "Lux Aeterna," for unaccompanied chorus; and "Atmospheres," for orchestra — are characterized by dense texture and very slow change. They were used in the film to suggest the desolation of the moon and the discovery there of a mysterious monolith. The music was not the film's well-known fanfare, composed by Richard Strauss, but it won Mr. Ligeti a worldwide audience.
The moon music was indicative of only one of his expressive modes, however. After fleeing Hungary in 1956, he also showed himself to be a master of a fast, mechanical and comic sort of music. Between these two poles — the "Clocks and Clouds," to quote the title of a later work, alluding to an essay by the philosopher Karl Popper — he created works of exuberant variety and range.
During the late 1950's and 60's, he was close to leaders of the European avant-garde like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez. He had always been more skeptical than others in that circle, but he still felt adrift when the rule of modernism began to break down in the 1970's. His initial response was a comic opera, "The Great Macabre," his most ambitious work, which was first produced in Sweden in 1978.
He had difficulty in regaining his creative direction after that, but the appearance in 1985 of his first six Etudes for piano signaled a return to vitality. The pieces were prompted in part by the wild, irregular rhythms and processes of Conlon Nancarrow's player-piano studies, and in part by Mr. Ligeti's ability to find new stimulation in recorded music from around the world, including that of Afro-Caribbean dance bands and Indonesian percussion orchestras. From all these sources he distilled his unique late compositions.
Fastidious and self-critical, Mr. Ligeti demanded high standards from those around him. But where he felt sympathy, he could be open, warm and generous. He knew his worth, but he did not make that a barrier between himself and life or let it dampen his curiosity.
"I am in a prison," he once explained. "One wall is the avant-garde, the other is the past. I want to escape."
Gyorgy Sandor Ligeti (pronounced JURGE SHAN-dor LIG-ih-tee) was born on May 28, 1923. His family lived near Cluj (Kolozsvar to Hungarians), the principal city of Transylvania. The region was part of Romania then, and is now again, but in 1940 it was granted by fascist Germany to its ally Hungary.
The annexation seemed to have had little effect on the young composer at first. Between 1941 and 1943 he studied with two of the more important Hungarian composers of the post-Bartok generation, Ferenc Farkas in Cluj and Pal Kadosa in Budapest. He also wrote the earliest pieces he was later to publish, a pair of movements for piano duet.
But in 1943 his education was halted when he was drafted into a military labor corps to support the front-line Axis troops. Mr. Ligeti considered the conscription a lucky break, because it exempted him, as it did other Jews in the service, from deportation to concentration camps, a fate that befell his mother, father and brother. Only his mother returned.
In September 1945, Mr. Ligeti enrolled in the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where he studied with Farkas again and with two other eminent members of the same generation, Sandor Veress and Pal Jardanyi. Life in the new socialist Hungary was propitious for a young idealist, and Mr. Ligeti was able to extend his creative horizons. But in 1949, when he graduated, the country fell under the grip of Stalinism. Only music that was optimistic and close to folk song had a hope of being published or performed.
Mr. Ligeti supplied works of this type, chiefly songs and choruses, while also taking a teaching position at the Liszt academy. The more radical works he was writing at the same time, like "Musica Ricercata" for piano (1951-3) or his First String Quartet (1953-4), had to be kept private.
Later, Mr. Ligeti spoke disparagingly of himself during this period as the "prehistoric Ligeti," emphasizing the lack of information in Hungary about artistic movements in the West, the moratorium in his country on modernism (even Bartok's modernism), and the compulsion to be upbeat and nationalist.
He left Budapest with his wife, Vera, a Hungarian psychiatrist, in December 1956, after the Russians had sent in tanks to crush the more liberal government of Imre Nagy. His destination was Cologne, where Mr. Stockhausen had arranged a stipend for him at the electronic music studio of West German Radio. At the age of 33, he was starting anew. The first works he produced in the West were electronic.
In 1959 he moved to Vienna, eventually became an Austrian citizen, and began "Atmospheres," whose first performance, in 1961, made his professional reputation. Though other composers, including Mr. Stockhausen, had begun to think in slow-moving sounds and tangled webs, Mr. Ligeti's orchestral mastery was unrivaled.
His sense of humor was also unusual. After "Atmospheres" came "Adventures" (1962) and "New Adventures" (1962-5), miniature operas for three singers who express themselves without words but very concretely, by means of musical gestures from a nonsensical phonetic text.
Crazy and comic, these works are also touching. The singers, deprived of language, bravely go on trying to communicate their fears, joys and jealousies. And in the sighs, moans and excited outbursts of Mr. Ligeti's music, they do so effectively.
In the Requiem (1963-5), he responded to the subject of death as both ominous certainty and black joke. The Requiem, with its depictions of damnation and pleas to avoid it, shows how much he had learned as a musician in Western Europe, and how much he had learned as a man who had lost his family in German concentration camps and had suffered severe creative strictures at the hands of Nazi occupiers and their Soviet successors.
Besides surveying its composer's past, the score includes something new: the pristine pleasure of simple intervals occurring within a complex context. Mr. Ligeti was then able to recover something of the sound of the Romantic orchestra in "Lontano" (1967), and gradually to elaborate a new harmonic-melodic language that was, as he liked to say, neither tonal nor atonal.
In 1971 he made a visit to San Francisco, where he was impressed by the music of Harry Partch, whose unconventional tunings began to have an effect on his harmony. He was also drawn to the work of Steve Reich and Terry Riley, to whom he paid musical homage in the middle part of his triptych "Monument — Self Portrait — Movement" for two pianos (1976).
In 1973 he took a teaching post at the Hamburg Music Academy and remained in Hamburg until a few years ago while always wishing, he said in an interview, that he were somewhere else. During those years his wife remained in Vienna with their son, Lukas, later himself a composer. Both survive him.
Mr. Ligeti's first big project in Hamburg was "The Great Macabre," whose subject was again death and the end of the world. Again, too, the subject was treated both as an awesome calamity and as a trick played on humanity. The opera had its premiere in Stockholm, where the composer and his music had found an eager audience since the 1960's. It was later produced in a revised version at the 1997 Salzburg Festival.
After "The Great Macabre," the Horn Trio of 1980 turned out to be a false trail in leading back to more conventional kinds of phrasing and form. Mr. Ligeti found a new path for himself in his first book of Etudes for piano (1985), which opened the door into a style of extreme virtuosity, both creative and re-creative, and for which in 1986 he received the Grawemeyer Award (at $150,000 the largest prize in classical music). Complex rhythms and dazzling speeds combined to produce music of wonder and wit, and he went on to write a second book of Etudes (1988-94) and begin a third.
Meanwhile he explored the implications of his new style on a broader scale in concertos for piano (1985-8), violin (1989-93) and horn (1998-2001). A second opera, on the Alice books of Lewis Carroll, was long contemplated but not seriously begun. His last new work was his 18th Etude, "Canon" (2001). Soon after writing it, he returned to his wife's home in Vienna, where his health slowly worsened.
Mr. Ligeti's late works, fast and busy, are very unlike the music of "2001," but not so far from the compositions he had produced as a young man in Hungary. He was returning to what had always interested him: the scales and rhythms of Central European folk music, if now within a style of much greater sophistication. Long into his exile, what obsessed him was the notion of home.
As a man who grew up in Hungary under German and Soviet tyrannies, when home was exactly where you did not want to be, who moved to Western Europe after the Russians extinguished Hungarian independence, and who had been footloose ever since, Mr. Ligeti had no simple notion of where he belonged, and this feeling informed his work.
One movement in his Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano from 1982, for example, is composed, as he put it, of "an imaginary, synthetic folklore of Latin-American and Balkan elements"; another recalls "the Gypsy music which affected me so strongly as a child."
What, Mr. Ligeti asked himself, is being expressed here: "Nostalgia for a homeland that no longer exists?" And there he put his finger on something: home is not just a place, but also a time.
The past 3 weeks... pics via Mark Deutrom
Two Telecasts from the MELA Archives
Pandit Pran Nath
Ragas Pat Dipak & Raga Darbari “91 X 18 PM NYC”
Fridays, June 9 & 16, 2006, 9:30 pm
Time Warner Cable Channel 57
RCN Cable Channel 109
Without Cable Box Channel 69
Digital Channel 85
In celebration of Pandit Pran Nath’s extraordinary life and work, MELA Foundation is presenting two memorial tribute telecasts.
Pandit Pran Nath’s 1991 performances of Ragas Pat Dipak and Darbari will air on public access cable television on Friday evenings, June 9 and 16 at 9:30 pm on the Mantra TV program on Time Warner Cable Channel 57; RCN Cable Channel 109; Without Cable Box Channel 69; Digital Channel 85.
The performances of Ragas Pat Dipak and Darbari were part of A Concert of Evening Ragas presented by MELA Foundation at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on October 18, 1991. Pandit Pran Nath was accompanied by La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Terry Riley, voices and tamburas, Michael Harrison, tambura, and Krishna Bhatt, tabla. The MELA Archive video of this rare gathering of the master Indian vocalist with some of his closest disciples transports us back to his last years performing in one of New York's most majestic spaces.
Pandit Pran Nath, who passed away on June 13, 1996, virtually introduced the vocal tradition of North Indian classical music to the West in 1970. His 1971 morning performance at Town Hall, New York City, was the first concert of morning ragas to be presented in the U.S. Subsequently, he introduced and elaborated to Western audiences the concept of performing ragas at the proper time of day by scheduling entire series of concerts at special hours. Many students and professional musicians came to him in America to learn about the vast system of raga and to improve their musicianship. He performed frequently in New York City and in 1972, established his own school under the direction of his disciples La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, the Kirana Center for Indian Classical Music, now a project of MELA Foundation. In Fall 1993, Pran Nath inaugurated the MELA Foundation Dream House with three Raga Cycle concerts and continued to perform here annually during his lifetime.
Pran Nath's majestic expositions of the slow alap sections of ragas combined with his emphasis on perfect intonation and the clear evocation of mood had a profound impact on Western contemporary composers and performers. Following Young and Zazeela, minimalist music composer Terry Riley became one of his first American disciples. Fourth-world trumpeter Jon Hassell, jazz all?stars Don Cherry and Lee Konitz, composers Jon Gibson, Yoshimasa Wada, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison and Allaudin Mathieu, Sufi Pir Shabda Kahn, mathematician and composer Christer Hennix, concept artist and violinist Henry Flynt, dancer Simone Forti, and many others took the opportunity to study with the master.
The 10th Memorial Tribute continues with
The Just Alap Raga Ensemble
Two Concerts in the MELA Dream House
Saturdays, June 17 and 24, 9 pm
La Monte Young, voice
Marian Zazeela, voice
Jung Hee Choi, voice
Da'ud Constant, voice
Brad Catler, tabla
The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath from the Just Dreams CD
Two Concerts of Evening Ragas in the contemporary Kirana Style of North Indian Classical Music to be performed by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela with The Just Alap Raga Ensemble on Saturdays, June 17 and 24, at 9 pm in the MELA Foundation Dream House light environment, 275 Church Street, 3rd Floor. La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela will be accompanied by Jung Hee Choi and Da'ud Constant, voices, Brad Catler, tabla, and The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath from the Just Dreams CD.
Concert Admission is $24 / $18 MELA members; seniors; students with ID. Limited seating. Advance reservations recommended. For further information and reservations 212-219-3019, email email@example.com or visit www.melafoundation.org.
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THE CONCERTS WILL BE RECORDED LIVE AND AIR CONDITIONING WILL NOT BE USED BECAUSE OF THE NOISE IT PRODUCES ON THE RECORDINGS. AS A RESULT, THE SPACE WILL BE VERY HUMID AND WITH LITTLE AIR CIRCULATION. THE LIGHT ENVIRONMENT AT THIS TIME OF YEAR CAN MAKE CONCERTS IN THE DREAM HOUSE EXTREMELY HOT. PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND IF YOU ARE OVERLY SENSITIVE TO ANY OF THESE CONDITIONS. DRESS APPROPRIATELY FOR THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY. WE INVITE YOU TO ATTEND THE NOVEMBER PANDIT PRAN NATH 88TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE CONCERTS (DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED) FOR A MORE COMFORTABLE CONCERT ENVIRONMENT.
MELA's programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency and generous contributions from individuals and MELA Members.
THE OTHER PAPER / JUNE 1, 2006
Scary as hell
Each year, Memorial Day weekend brings Youngstown's Emissions from the Monolith festival, a multi-day state of the union for the
underground metal nation. And once again, our proximity to Youngstown paid off with a plethora of heavy, adventurous shows, capped off with
Sunn0))) and Boris at Mershon Auditorium Saturday.
Japanese power trio Boris opened its set with "Blackout," a lumbering metal dirge that sounded like vintage Black Sabbath played at half the speed and double the heaviness.
Like the song, the band's performance was masterful, showcasing how solid Boris is as a trippy metal band.The band wasjust as quick to kick out the jams, as with the frenetic "Pink," a breakneck freak-out of a song that couldn't have been further from the set's first song.
Much of the performance showcased Boris's lean, muscular rock-a formula that a lot of American bands have forgotten-topped off by an expansive stoner-rock epic that built from a snail's pace to a cacophony of noisy guitar squall.
With a sound that was both heavy and serene, a Zen-like metal if you will, it would have been no slight for Boris to have stolen Sunn0)))'s thunder.
Sunn0))) is an odd duck in an increasingly creative underground metal scene, a band that relies on constant guitar drone and swaps
ambience and atmospherics for riffing. Like most ambient music, few knew how it would turn out in a live format.
It turns out that live, Sunn0))) is scary as hell.
The stage was enveloped in a fog of chemical smoke thick enough to drive out some in the audience as the moors of Scotland replaced Mershon Auditorium. Through the hazy blue light, one could barely make out the hooded figures onstage.
The music was all sustained guitar chords, punctuated with occasional electronic manipulations and percussion.
Combined with the iconic scariness of men in black robes seen through fog, Sunn0)))'s set became a full sensory overload, physically
taxing on the lungs and ears, and emotionally taxing on the primitive fear center of the brain.
Once the lights shifted to red, the idea that this was a ritual to some bowel-shaking dark god became a little more believable. It felt like we were literally going to hell.
Somewhere between the imagery and the drone, Sunn0))) transcendedrock music, becoming a new genre unto itself-or possibly the end of rock'n' roll, a judgment day for an art form that has no story left to tell.
(from tokyo, performing LOUD boogie set)
monday, june 12
tequila sunrise records
525 w. girard avenue
(btwn 5th & 6th st.)
philadelphia, pa 19122
Tetuzi Akiyama has for years been a household name on the Tokyo improv scene, with appearances on dozens of releases on labels such as Improvised Music from Japan, For 4 Ears, Erstwhile, Corpus Hermeticum and Tzadik. But it was when he put out a boogie record in 2003 on the Texas based Idea records that we really pricked up our ears. Entitled "Don't Forget to Boogie," it's a full-on tour-de-force of mesmerizing minimalist boogie improvisation, hammered out on loud, solo electric guitar, which Tetuzi calls "the greatest invention of the twentieth century."
Well, shucks, in our alphabet, "B" always stood for "boogie!" And looking
around at the blasted void of Bush-era kultcher, it's plain to see that we're all in need of some reminding, and if it takes a Japanese dude to pull us up by our own roots, that's fine with us. We fully agree with that guy from the Weather Underground who told an interviewer in the 1960's "our political goal has always been the destruction of honkiness!"
But if you, too, need to be reminded, the Merriam Webster dictionary defines boogie as "earthy and strongly rhythmic rock music conducive to dancing," and ideally it's insanely repetitive, too. Oh sure, Sigmund Freud said that a repetition compulsion only keeps us from experiencing new sensations, but Freud also said that "a cigar is sometimes only a cigar" and then proceeded to suck himself to death on them, so what did he know?
Anyway, Tetuzi is now touring the states, with support from The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) and the Japan Foundation, through the Performing Arts JAPAN program. Well, we asked around, and it turned out he was free one night, and he agreed to play in Philadelphia, at Tequila Sunrise. When T/A asked us whether we would prefer an acoustic improv set or an electric boogie set, the choice was obvious. A date was set, a phone call was made and a Marshall stack was secured, The rest is up to you - earplugs optional, bring plenty of liquid refreshments. This'll get that crimp out of your face, we guarantee it. And in case you need some more persuading, here's the most recent email we've received: "Anyway™Elooking fwd to playing in your shop so much. I was making some new riffs today. All the best, T/A"
TETUZI AKIYAMA (guitar)
Tetuzi Akiyama plays the guitar with primitive and practical implications, by adding a desire of own to the instrument's characteristic nature in minimal and straight method. He delicately and sometime boldly controls the volume of the sound from micro to macro level, and tries to quantize his physical system.
Akiyama released his first solo album Relator (slub music) in 2001. Mixing feelings of country and blues with free improvisation, Akiyama began to perform solo with greater frequency playing both acoustic and electric guitars, turntables without records and other effects. Using a prepared resonator guitar with a Samurai sword, Akiyama recorded his second solo album Resophonie (a bruit secret, 2002) which can be described as sonic sculpture with guitar. In 2003, his third solo album Don't Forget to Boogie! was released. Performed in a minimal one chord Boogie/Rock/Blues style with vintage electric guitars, Akiyama sees this LP as a tribute to the guitar. A live album from 2005, Route 13 to the Gates of Hell: Live in Tokyo (headz) was selected in the 50 albums of the year by The Wire magazine. Pre-Existence, an album of acoustic guitar solos, was released on Locust Music in the winter of 2005. Recently Akiyama started releasing an "official bootleg series" with the labels Esquilo (Portugal) and Utech Records (Milwaukee).
Akiyama is a frequent guest at international music festivals and in recent years has performed at What is Music? (Australia, 2002), Alt Music (New Zealand, 2002 & 2004), Amplify (Tokyo, 2002 & New York, 2003), Musique Action (France, 2003 & 2005), Musiques Innovatrices (France, 2003), Uchiage (Berlin & Vienna, 2004) and Instal (Glasgow, 2005).
Tetuzi Akiyama is presented with support from The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) and the Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program.
TETUZI AKIYAMA NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES:
6 SAN ANTONIO; solo and duo w/Alan Licht, Salon Mijangos
8 AUSTIN; solo and duo w/Kurt Newman, Little City Downtown
12 PHILADELPHIA; Tequila Sunrise Records
14 NYC; solo and duo w/Loren Connors, Tonic
15 BROOKLYN; + Jaime Fennelly/Chris Forsyth/Shawn Edward Hansen, Free103point9 Project Space
17 MONTREAL; The Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival, La Sala Rossa
20 SAN DIEGO; venue tba
24 LOS ANGELES; Schindler House
25 LOS ANGELES; Eagle Rock Cultural Center
29 SAN FRANCISCO; venue tba
TOUR W/JEFFREY ALLPORT (6/30-7/5)
30 SEATTLE; Gallery 1412
1 VANCOUVER; Western Front
3 VICTORIA; Open Space
5 PORTLAND; venue tba
6 CHICAGO; Empty Bottle
8 MILWAUKEE; Hotcakes Gallery
11 BOSTON; venue tba
TOUR W/HARRIS NEWMAN (7/14-7/19)
14 MONTREAL; Casa del Popolo
15 OTTAWA; venue tba
17 LONDON; Dissent
18 TORONTO; Tranzac Club
21 JACKSON; venue tba
22 NEW ORLEANS; solo, duo and trio w/Donald Miller and Rob Cambre, The Big Top
Date: Jun 1, 2006 5:09 PM
Dear Fellow Students,
Michael Harrison asked that I write to remind you (or inform you as the case may be) about two very special evening concerts being presented this weekend and next weekend by the American Academy of Indian Classical Music (AAICM), in cooperation with The ARCH Worldwide. Both concerts will be on Sundays at 5:00 PM, and will be held at The ARCH Worldwide, 66 West 39th Street, 3rd Floor, between 5th and 6th Avenue. The admission fee will be $20 at the door, free for AAICM members.
On Sunday June 4 at 5:00 PM, we will be blessed with a performance by Vidushi Subhra Guha, who will be accompanied by her disciple, Sabina Islam. Those of you who have heard her know how heart-felt and beautiful her singing is, and how her warmth and generosity are projected in her voice and her stage presence as she simultaneously gives a concert and a
lesson to the other performers sharing the stage with her. The delicate tracery of her swoops and glides between the notes of the raga will melt your heart, while her rhythmic games and endless ingenuity will bring a smile to your face (and keep the cognoscenti on their toes).
On the following Sunday, June 11 at 5:00 PM, the great Kirana Gharana maestro, Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, will honor us with what will surely be an astonishing display of his mastery of raga. He will be joined on stage by his disciple, our very own Michael Harrison. Deep and austere, Khan Sahib's resonant voice reaches out to us from across untold eons of tradition. From his stately opening phrases, caressing each note of the raga and always respecting its unique contours, to his lightning-fast runs which will have your jaw on the floor, Khan Sahib's performances represent a
lifetime of devotion to preserving the tradition of his forebears. His sweetness and his passion shine through every note he sings.
Please RSVP if you can, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I urge you, one and all, not to forgo this rare opportunity to hear these two fine singers in an intimate setting, eloquently introduced by Pandit Vijay Kichlu. Sadly, we have them here in New York with us for but a short while; therefore let us not slip the occasion, but rather humbly sit
very truly yours (with apologies to those who have already received this message),
Secretary - Administration
The American Academy of Indian Classical Music
P.S. Please help us to make this event a success by forwarding this message and/or the attached flyer to anyone you think would enjoy this concert. Thank you kindly.
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