Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pedal to the metal

Yesterday I was underslept and punchy and began listening to this thing by Ligeti. The reason was, I got the schedule for the UB music series and I am serious, it was loaded with Ligeti. You can say this for Ligeti, he gets his share of the spotlight. You can not say that he died forgotten.

Gyorgy Ligeti, by the way, died in 2006. Here is a picture of the weird-looking old man.

You know you are punchy when Ligeti is sounding good to you. This one crazy video, I watched it twice. Then I watched it a third time.

Is this what music has come to?

What a crazy, absurd, robotic piece!

And a robotic pianist. She just sits there, her eyes half closed, punching away like a little machine.

Still there is something I like about it, albeit on a strictly mental level. I cannot agree with one commenter who calls it "divine." But her detached involvement with the piece, and the patter of her fingers over the keys -- I just can't look away, you know? The pianist's name by the way is Ching-Yun Hu. The etude is "Der Zauberlehrling" which means "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

I could see myself taking this piece on. That would be great for when it comes time, and it will come time, for me to make my comeback at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. I have the sneaking suspicion that in all competitions, if you play contemporary music, you have an edge. I should learn a Ligeti etude and polish it up like a sports car.

Ha, ha! Ligeti, it even sounds like a sports car. "I've bought this brand-new, high-performance Ligeti. It's gunmetal blue and it goes up to 150 miles an hour. I'm taking it down to Texas."

That is an idea!

I will be unstoppable, with my Ligeti.


  1. Being more "inside" than is realized, I know that Stephen Manes is going to play some Ligeti at his upcoming concert. The following is written as pondering, not persiflage.

    I'm glad I don't work as a critic. Reaction to any art is subjective, and it can be unsettling to find the passing of time will prove something that one derides or is indifferent to turns out to be a great work of art. I myself will no longer be drawn into value judgements out of gun-shyness.

    I like a remark by Vaughn Williams. Even as a composer, he openly admitted his dislike for some other schools and composers, and he summed it up this way: Referring to one composer, he said that as his work has meant a great deal to many other people, he was willing to admit that his dislike was his own fault.

  2. Prof., I have had similar thoughts. That is a problem with writing about music... you can't just simply "not like" something. There are other situations when you can tell you need to put in the time to allow a music or style to grow on you -- or not, sort of to test it out. And that time just is not there.

    Vaughan Williams was a wise man!

  3. I have to tell you, I went to the Ligeti link you posted and liked both the piece and the playing. There were other Ligeti studies in the sidebar and I also listened to and liked them, especially "The Devil's Ladder", which is sort of an aural optical illusion (that's not good English, but you probably know what I mean). I first knew of Ligeti when I heard an organ piece by him titled Volumina. It meant nothing to me then, and, after revisiting it, it means nothing to me now - all stasis and clusters. I'm not patient enough to sit through it...I need more motion.

    If I may be so bold, I recommend a book by Alex Ross titled The Rest Is Noise. It's a history of music in the 20th century, which both reads like an exciting novel and avoids polemics. It also does superb double duty as a first class reference book about composers, styles and culture wars. The section on Ligeti, for example, is informative and not prolix. I endorse this book for anyone reading this who is interested in the subject.