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Review Of Gyorgi Ligeti’s Danse Macarbei Essay, Research Paper

Le Grande MacabreAaron Warner

by Gyorgi Ligeti485-13-5800

written in 19784/24/95

L.L. #5

This piece is a lesson in polytonality, dissonance, and complexity. The first thing heard is an imitation of a car horn that seems designed to grab hold of the listener. If I were inattentive before this piece, I certainly was wide awake when it was over. Ligeti seems to have sculpted a piece together from bits and pieces of other musical styles: a sort of modern-art approach to music. The violins tuning without a care in the first few moments, the slow mock continuo of the highly dissonant bassoon counterpoint, and the later high pitch of a clarinet all seem to be broad, bold strokes on a canvas of sound. Ideas come floating to the front of the imaginary “stage”, and drop back behind newer themes.

The percussion also adds considerably to the complexity of the piece in the later minutes, stomping along without any respect for the classical violin or the clarinet’s solo theme. A bird drops in, played by the flute, taking the focus away from the slowing, stomping band. Perhaps this is a bit of editorial from the composer himself on big-band music in general? The marching band ushers in the beginning of the end, gaining speed and volume. The texture of the piece grows with the addition of another instrument every few measures. After a short build, the threshold of noise is reached. All of the instruments of the band and orchestra are playing at their highest volume, playing solos of a mixture of styles, in a polyrhythmic soup of sound. The peak of this amalgamation is reached, and the slow, almost drunken marching band pulls us away, towards the end of the piece.


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