Watch Gyorgy Ligeti’s Electronic Masterpiece Artikulation Get Brought to Life by Rainer Wehinger’s Brilliant Visual Score

Even if you don’t know the name Györ­gy Ligeti, you prob­a­bly already asso­ciate his music with a set of mes­mer­iz­ing visions. The work of that Hun­gar­i­an com­pos­er of 20th-cen­tu­ry clas­si­cal music appealed might­i­ly to Stan­ley Kubrick, so much so that he used four of Ligeti’s pieces to score 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of them, 1962’s Aven­tures, plays over the final scenes in an elec­tron­i­cal­ly altered form, which drew a law­suit from the com­pos­er who’d been unaware of the mod­i­fi­ca­tion. But he did­n’t do it out of purism: though he wrote, over his long career, almost entire­ly for tra­di­tion­al instru­ments, he’d made a cou­ple for­ays into elec­tron­ic music him­self a decade ear­li­er.

Ligeti fled Hun­gary for Vien­na in 1956, soon after­ward mak­ing his way to Cologne, where he met the elec­tron­i­cal­ly inno­v­a­tive likes of Karl­heinz Stock­hausen and Got­tfried Michael Koenig and worked in West Ger­man Radio’s Stu­dio for Elec­tron­ic Music.

There he pro­duced 1957’s Glis­san­di and 1958’s Artiku­la­tion, the lat­ter of which lasts just under four min­utes, but, in the words of The Guardian’s Tom Ser­vice, “packs a lot of dra­ma in its diminu­tive elec­tron­ic frame.” Ligeti him­self “imag­ined the sounds of Artiku­la­tion con­jur­ing up images and ideas of labyrinths, texts, dia­logues, insects, cat­a­stro­phes, trans­for­ma­tions, dis­ap­pear­ances,” which you can see visu­al­ized in shape and col­or in the “lis­ten­ing score” in the video above.

Cre­at­ed in 1970 by graph­ic design­er Rain­er Wehinger of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of Music and Per­form­ing Arts Stuttgart, and approved by Ligeti him­self, the score’s “visu­als are beau­ti­ful to watch in tan­dem with Ligeti’s music; there’s an espe­cial­ly arrest­ing son­ic and visu­al pile-up, about 3 mins 15 secs into the piece. This isn’t elec­tron­ic music as post­war utopia, a la Stock­hausen, it’s elec­tron­ics as human, humor­ous dra­ma,” writes Ser­vice. Have a watch and a lis­ten, or a cou­ple of them, and you’ll get a feel for how Wehinger’s visu­al choic­es reflect the nature of Ligeti’s sounds. Just as 2001 still launch­es sci-fi buffs into an expe­ri­ence like noth­ing else in the genre, those sounds will still strike a fair few self-described elec­tron­ic music fans of the 21st cen­tu­ry as strange and new — espe­cial­ly when they can see them at the same time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch What Hap­pens When 100 Metronomes Per­form Györ­gy Ligeti’s Con­tro­ver­sial Poème Sym­phonique

Watch Clas­si­cal Music Come to Life in Art­ful­ly Ani­mat­ed Scores: Stravin­sky, Debussy, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart & More

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

The Clas­si­cal Music in Stan­ley Kubrick’s Films: Lis­ten to a Free, 4 Hour Playlist

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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