Lux Aeterna

This article on the San Francisco Symphony website can be a bit heavy—the writer assumes advanced knowledge of music on the part of his readers – but I think it’s a great introduction to Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna for two reasons. First, it connects Ligeti’s micropolyphony to his tragic childhood experiences during the Holocaust. It is important to remember that at the time the piece was composed, the twelve-tone system was the dominant system of “classical” composition in Western Europe and the United States. The atonal avant garde had taken over the musical institution, speaking of art music of course not pop music. The fact that Ligeti was forging his own path with micropolyphony was an act of artistic independence and I think this writer does a good job of pointing that out. Second, although the writing is heavy on terminology, I really like his description of how the performers (sixteen singers) arrive at Ligeti’s signature “sonic fog,” or what other writers refer to as a “wall of sound,” and how that technique (as modern as it sounds) hearkens back to the Renaissance.