“When you are accepted in a club, without willing [and] without noticing you take over certain habits [of thinking] what is in and what is out. Tonality was definitely out. To write melodies, even non-tonal melodies, was absolutely taboo. Periodic rhythm, pulsation, was taboo, not possible. Music has to be a priori. … It worked when it was new, but it became stale. Now there is no taboo; everything is allowed. But one cannot simply go back to tonality, it’s not the way. We must find a way of neither going back nor continuing the avant-garde. I am in a prison: one wall is the avant-garde, the other wall is the past, and I want to escape.”
From a lecture by György Ligeti at the New England Conservatory in 1993, transcribed by Alex Ross, more here.
‘JT: But still, I accept that that is what happened, but you then chose your own path in your own way which would be the path of György Ligeti, rather than the path of any particular musical or intellectual school.
GL: That’s true, but I never thought in this way. I’m not thinking in general philosophical or ideological methods or patterns or strategies. I have no strategy at all. It’s about writing a composition and then I am concentrating on a composition and I have certain constructive ideas. It’s not only naïve, it has to be consistent – not consistent as mathematics, consistent as a natural language. And this applies for a certain piece and then I am ready with the piece, and then comes the next piece where I revise my working method. I’m not thinking in party politics.’
From John Tulsa’s BBC interview with Gyorgy Ligeti, 06/07/2011, full transcript here.
György Ligeti: Portrait (1993)
Directed by Michel Chillon
György Ligeti – Artikulation (1958)