NYNT News Archive

06:13:2006: Composer György Ligeti dies at 83

One of the great 20th Century composers, György Ligeti, passed away yesterday at the age of 83. Best known in popular culture for his soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), Ligeti was an important figure in the European avant garde, early electronic music, and symphonic composition in general.

A Hungarian Jew who had escaped the Nazis and studied at the Franz Liszt Academy after World War II, Ligeti had a life-changing moment during the November 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s seminal electronic piece, Gesang der Jünglinge, played on the radio. Less than a month later Legeti escaped to Vienna and immediately sought out Stockhausen. The two composers immediately hit it off and Stockhausen gave him access to the legendary electronic music temple - the Electronic Music Studio of West German Radio in Cologne. There Ligeti composed three electronic works, began experimenting with clusters in a concept that he termed "micropolyphony," and remained involved in Darmstadt until 1966 –when he went off in his own direction.

György Ligeti’s pieces explored electronics (Artikulation), vocal acoustics (Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures), the sound of one-hundred metronomes (Poème Symphonique), two orchestras a quarter-tone apart (Ramifications), and solo organ (Volumina). He also composed elaborate modernist symphonies like Apparitions (1959) and Atmosphères (1961). His work had a playful sense of humor – burlesquing John Cage’s 4’33 in 0’00, presenting a mute lecture in The Future of Music (1961), and offering black humor in his opera Grand Macabre (1977). Ligeti’s star began to rise in the late 1960s after he won the 1967 Bonn Beethoven Prize for Requiem. This piece, and his next success, Lux aeterna, along with Atmosphères, all played a major role in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its best selling soundtrack.

An international name by this point, György Ligeti spent the 1970s and 1980s as a prolific composer and professor – defining his later work with an emphasis on polyrhythm. He spent the last decade of his life accumulating awards, prizes, and other forms of recognition of his contributions to contemporary music.

Take a moment to explore some of his work...


György Ligeti Official Site
Braunart Ligeti interactive site with audio samples and more
Times Online In-Depth Obit








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