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Author: Kievman, Carson

Title: Ockeghem and Ligeti: The Music of Transcendence

Institution: Princeton University

Completed: June 2003


If we suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine that five centuries of "musical development" never existed, we find that music from the 14th & 15th centuries connects unequivocally to the most radical and forward thinking musical creations in the late 20th century. This dissertation specifically examines and compares the music of 20-21st century composer György Ligeti and 15th century composer Johannes Ockeghem. These two composers, who lived five centuries apart, have in common the creation of music built upon a sophisticated, albeit largely imperceptible, framework upon which they constructed undifferentiated progressions of massive counterpoint. Notably, both composers avoid “traditional” means of closure via cadence and the sublimation of linear sequencing. The result of their efforts stands in stark contrast to the “classical” musical ideals that have held dominion over musical culture from the 16th century until the 20th.

The Introduction sets forth the intentions of this dissertation and briefly outlines how early music, and Ockeghem in particular, may have directly, or indirectly, influenced new music and the development of Ligeti’s style. Chapter One looks at György Ligeti’s life and closely examines his Requiem. By analyzing musical techniques that have become synonymous with Ligeti, and looking careful at his references to early music composers, such as Ockeghem and Guillaume de Machaut, as well as some 20th century masters, this chapter attempts to determine the extent to which Ligeti earned his stature by creating an entirely new musical form, or how he may have utilized existing ideas to develop a hybrid (albeit an ingenious one). Chapter Two looks at Johannes Ockeghem and examines his Intemerata Dei mater. Rather than try to understand the mindset of a 15th century composer, this chapter looks at this ancient music as a 20th century artifact and seeks to comprehend the music’s power to influence and inspire modern composers and listeners. The Summary touches on the transcendent (or spiritual) aspects of Ockeghem and Ligeti’s musical intent through a discussion and appraisal of the work of Manfred Bukofzer in his book Studies in Medieval & Renaissance Music.


Chapter 1: György Ligeti
Chapter 2: Johannes Ockeghem
Summary (Ramifications)


Dr. Carson Kievman
68 Westerly Road
Princeton, NJ 08540

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