Ligeti never met Bartók in real life, but he certainly had an influence on Ligeti. He was introduced to a new musical style by Bartók which left a lasting influence on him. One can find Ligeti’s use of ‘Aksak’, a Bulgarian rhythmic pattern often found in Bartók’s compositions, in his works. Aksak is a folk rhythm which is characterised by its unequal beat arrangements, specifically ‘2+2+2+3’.
Other composers from the 20th century, such as Stravinsky, also used Aksak in their music. The subdivisions commonly found in the eight-beat structure of the western music was ‘2+3+3’.1
An abundance of evidence such as musical journals, introductory concert remarks and programmes, show that there are many more influences other than the ones mentioned above that affected Ligeti’s compositions. He was certainly influenced by the folk music of his own heritage, Hungarian and Romanian, as well as Balkan music and the rhythmic energies of Brazilian and Caribbean music.2
Some of the musical devices became his distinguishing features – such as his perception of clusters and “clouds”. He had a strong desire for his compositions to always contain different “emotional states” and various “colourful composing styles”. Thus, his music often makes use of extreme dynamics (e.g. pppppppp to ffffffff), registers, concepts and even feelings. He would comment in rehearsals:
When you are disgusted, you must be more disgusted; when you are
hysterical, you must be more hysterical; when you are miserable,
you must be more so. Everything must be more, more, more.3
Ligeti was also fascinated by jazz pianism and mentioned that jazz pianists Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans had influenced his compositional writing.4
1 Lara-Velázquez, A Systemic-Semiotic Analysis of Ligeti’s First Piano Étude, Désordre (Greensboro: University of North Carolina, 2012), 2.
2 Denys Bouliane, “Ligeti’s Six “Études Pour Piano: The Fine Art of Composing Using Cultural Referents,” Theory and Practice 31, (2006): 166.
3 Can, “The Importance of Ligeti’s Piano Études in Compositional and Pianistic Aspects: Why it is Necessary to Analyze Ligeti Études Prior to Learning”, 204.
4 Tsong, Études Pour Piano, 13.