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Music for 100 metronomes

Submitted by on December 31, 2009 – 11:59 am No Comment

Györgi Ligeti was a Hungarian composer who lived from 1923 until 2006 in Germany and Austria, and was considered by many to be one of the most imaginative composers in the last 50 years. Györgi wrote many traditional works, but also worked with electronics and ‘mechanized’ music.

If you haven’t heard of Ligeti, you will have definitely heard at least one of his pieces – Atmosphères from 1961. It comprises of 55 stringed instruments, all playing their own distinct melodic line, all of which creates a very dense sound, constantly shifting. You might know the song better by it being the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. You can hear it here.

One of the pieces of his that I like most is the composition entitled “Poeme Symphonique”, although I think that I might like it more for it’s concept rather than it’s sound.

The piece is written for 100 metronomes, all running at the same time, all running at different speeds. It’s a big mess at first, but as they start to wind down, some metronomes start dropping out and leaving spaces, leaving some very interesting rhythms.

Ligeti even designed a device to help start all the metronomes at the same time. Check out the video below to get a taste – go to 1:30 or so if you want to skip to where the metronomes start.

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