György Ligeti and the Aka Pygmies project

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At the turn of the twentieth century, Gyorgy Ligeti's late piano music was performed in various European concert halls alongside music of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa. The acclaimed project culminated in a CD on the Teldec label entitled Ligeti/Reich: African Rhythms (Pierre Laurent Aimard/Aka Pygmies) featuring works by Ligeti, alongside works by Steve Reich and music of the Aka. This paper describes and evaluates the uneven critical reception of the project in relation to the precise formal connections between Ligeti's etudes, on the one hand, and the music of the Aka, in particular, and African music, in general, on the other. It traces some of the African citations in Ligeti's etudes to specific source materials, briefly describes the original function and context of the music (even if they are not demonstrably known by the composer), and assesses the ideological dimensions implicit in the way the African materials are put to use in a Western context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-262
Number of pages36
JournalContemporary Music Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006


  • African music
  • Aka Pygmies
  • Globalization
  • György Ligeti
  • Piano Etudes
  • Steve Reich

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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