Author: Cuciurean, John D.
Title: A Theory of Pitch, Rhythm, and Intertextual Allusion for the Late Music of György Ligeti
Institution: State University of New York at Buffalo
Begun: May 1996
Completed: August 2000
In this study I investigate the affiliations between György Ligeti's late music and what I regard as the most important influences that the composer himself acknowledges. My point of departure derives from a conviction that despite the overwhelmingly elaborate textures of Ligeti's recent music, there resides concealed order just beneath the surface complexities. My aim is to develop analytic models that complement existing research relevant to the instrumental works composed since the mid-1970s. Through the analyses of selected excerpts I illustrate how Ligeti uses specific compositional techniques and how these techniques can be modeled abstractly. From these abstract models, I suggest more precise analogues between Ligeti’s music and specific musical or extra-musical influences. I focus especially on the recurring role of chaos theory and the influence of sub-Saharan polyrhythms.
Chapter 1 presents a brief discussion of Ligeti’s life and the specific stylistic features that characterize the late works in relation to those completed prior to the mid-1970s, as well as a brief review of relevant scholarship. Chapter 2 investigates how isorhythmic techniques play a pivotal role in Ligeti’s concept of form, focusing on how isorhythmic techniques shape both surface textures and deeper formal structures. Chapter 3 investigates aspects of rhythmic complexity in those works that exploit tempo fugue techniques, as well as aspects of chaos theory. I develop a generalized model of rhythmic complexity and, then demonstrate how the rhythmic complexity of Ligeti's foreground is generated by a background structure that is significantly less complex. Chapter 4 examines aspects of harmony and voice-leading by investigating the voice-leading connections between Ligeti’s middle period works and his more recent pieces. The analyses show how the tonal triad assumes a primary role in structuring harmony in selected late works. Chapter 5 examines Ligeti’s use in his late works of intertextual quotations and allusions. These are considered in the context of current theoretical models for interpreting intertextuality.
Keywords: Ligeti, rhythmic complexity, parquet deformations, intertextuality, postmodernism, voice-leading, isorhythm, chaos theory
LIST OF EXAMPLES
CHAPTER 1: Introduction to the Late Music of György Ligeti
1.2 Biographical Sketch of György Ligeti
1.3 Scholarship on the Late Works
1.4 Scope and Organization of Topic
CHAPTER 2: Isorhythmic Design and Formal Structure
2.2 Parquet Deformations
2.3 Analysis: Trio für Violine, Horn und Klavier, III
2.4 Analysis: Konzert für Klavier und Orchester, I
2.5 Analysis: Étude pour piano No. 1, "Désordre"
2.6 Cardinality Theorem
CHAPTER 3: Rhythmic Complexity in the Tempo Fugues
3.2 Analysis: Étude pour piano No.6, "Automne ŕ Varsovie"
3.3 Connections with Chaos Theory
3.4 Metric Implications in Palindromic Modal Sequences
3.5 Rhythmic Consonance and Dissonance
3.6 Structural Implications in "Automne ŕ Varsovie"
3.7 Analysis: Étude pour piano No. 12, "Entrelacs"
CHAPTER 4: Aspects of Harmony and Voice-Leading
4.2 Analysis: Hungarian Rock (Chaconne)
4.3 Analysis: Étude pour piano No. 2, "Cordes ŕ vide"
4.4 Analysis: Étude pour piano No. 4, "Fanfares"
4.5 Application of Neo-Riemannian Operators
CHAPTER 5: Meta-Music: Allusion and Intertextuality
5.2 Allusion and Intertextuality
5.3 Analysis: Selbstportrait
5.4 Analysis: Trio für Violine, Horn und Klavier, IV
5.5 Historical Influences in the Études pour piano
5.6 Ligeti the Postmodernist?
APPENDIX A: List of Late Works
APPENDIX B: Selected Discography of Late Works
John D. Cuciurean
University School of Music, PAC-141
Miami, FL 33199