Ligeti, Africa and Polyrhythm

Stephen A Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the 1980s György Ligeti has often spoken of his admiration for African music, even contributing the foreword for Simha Arom 's African Polyphony and Polyrhythm. This essay will trace some of the African connections in Ligeti's music of the past twenty years, including the Piano Etudes, Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto and Nonsense Madrigals. These connections are not apparent to the casual listener; in fact, Ligeti seems to take pains to "cover his tracks, " to use abstract principles rather than surface details. Furthermore, Ligeti combines these African principles with many other influences and ideas to produce a music which is uniquely his. The article concludes by examining this "integration " of the "Other" (not only African music but all sorts of music and ideas) into Ligeti's idiosyncratic style.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-94
Number of pages12
JournalWorld of Music
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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