Artikulation – by Gyorgy Ligeti

Artikulation is an electronic composition, written by Gyorgy Ligeti and recorded on magnetic tape. (Ligeti & Wehinger 1970) It was written in 1958 around the time of the invention of the electronic integrated microchip (TPH 2017), beating the official start of the minimalist movement in music by two years (Bernard 2003). In a way, this work can be seen as one of the gateway works into minimalism as well as a staple piece in technology composition. This work is an important example of the early use of technology to create music and has displayed opportunities that have lead to inspiring whole genres of music.

The video accompanying this piece was designed by Rainer Wehinger as a visual representation of the sounds – a new form of notation to describe the following:

Figure A1: The audio sounds like it is coming from within an echoey cave. There is a sense of airiness in the background of the sounds. Each dot on screen represents a different dripping noise, like the sound of water hitting the stone of a cave. The smaller the dots, the higher the pitch of the sound. The last two black dots, however, are not dripping sounds. Rather, they are like a cut off pop similar to the sound of plugging an audio jack into an output.

Figure A2: The sound of the dots are similar, however the clusteredness and rapidness of their sounds creates a higher frequency overlaying the sound. The large red dots are like buzzing bass notes, a lot deeper than the smaller dots. Towards the end, the dots start to have more pitch. Between point 17 and 20, a small tune is played with the notes, the pitch following the height of the dots. It ends with a long echo of the last note fading out.

Figure A3: The length of the tail represents a sustain on the note. There is more of a pitch to these notes. The flicking tails make the sound of a gliss, the pitch sliding either up or down depending on the positioning of the tail. A new sound is introduced at point 27 where the red flick appears – this sound is high pitched and alien sounding, like a transmitter tuning up. The squares represent a sharper sound than the circles. They are quite staccato and the pitch jumps around like talking – think R2-D2.

Figure A4: The comb like shapes have more of a scraping sound, almost like metal grinding against metal softly combined with the sound of a record scratch and someone breathing to close to a microphone. The pitch alters slightly in the direction of the points, although these sounds wouldn’t be considered to be particularly tuneful. The large black shapes around point 41 sound like sand sliding on paper.

Figure A5: The same scraping sound applies. The orange shape at point 47 has the sound of a siren, cut off quickly. The longer the comb shapes, the more the scraping sound starts to sound like the wind. The open circles introduce some new deep, digital bass sounds that affect the ear to feel like it is in the pressure of being underwater. There is some more breezy/scrapy R2-D2 sounds, followed by the sustained red circle which introduces a ding noise, like the video game sound for a coin.

Figure A6: Features a cluster that sounds like record scratching in reverse. Continuing onto the next image, the sounds are all the same as stated before. There is more of a tune going on in relation to the heights of the dots, with the scraping combs almost like the percussion accompanying it. The sound comes as it appears. There is a cluster of noise, a small break, another cluster, another break and then the ending which lasts longer than the other two clusters.

Figure A7: We are introduced to a new sound. The green coloured areas sound like metal poles being hit by metal in an echoing room. The pitch bounces around a little, the way a metal slinky sound changes when amplified by a box. The brown colour sounds like the buzz of a razor, pitched slightly. The second time the green returns, after the brown, it sounds more like distorted triangle playing, glitching with an electronic buzz. The ending of this page sounds like the volume is gradually increasing on a chime bell ringing out. The forms that continue onto the next page create similar sounds however the pitch is now being played with, bending as the tails bend and even occasionally introducing a sound which is nearly like the human voice. This continues onto the next page, picking up the pace, with a little bit of extra distortion in the centre of it.

Figure A8: Back to the initial popping tuned bubbly sounds. As the page turns, there is almost a wet, mouth popping sounds underlying the tuned elements. There is also a burst of sound like a trumpet at the red point. A grainy scratching sound returns at the second point, layering on top of the distorted metal pole sound and the wet popping sounds.

Figure A9: The audio softens and becomes more gentle. The volume is equivalent to the size of the shapes. It almost has a cute feel to it. There is a lot more scraping in this but it is softer and changes direction to sound almost like breathing in and out with occasional squeaks.

Figure A10: A few quick bursts of sound, like cutting in from a radio.

Figure A11: Some angry scratching with bubbling sounds, then introduces some new sounds: something which is like whistling through teeth and then a sound similar to a doorbell. At the orange point, there is a whoosh with inclining pitch.

Figure A12: A series of delicate beeps and occasional scratching that slowly declines in pitch.

Figure B: Eerie, glassy ringing that alternates in pitch, still giving off the vibe of being inside a cave, with some occasional scratching.

Figure C: Plings of sound going up then down in pitch like the vocalisation of “Comme ci comme ça” over the background cave noises, followed by some quick scratching and blooping noises.

Figure D: Scratching and scraping back and forth with the undertone of digital glitch, beeping like connecting to the internet old school style towards the end.

Figure E: The volume suddenly increases and there is more echoey windy sounds, bubbling and swirling in a mass of noise that sounds like being in a creepy museum combining history and technology.

Figure F: A sudden tangy swoosh followed by a scraping diminuendo that has the vibe of a cymbal crash. Silence, then suddenly a güiro like sound occurs, followed by a more watery bubble sound. Then more popping, scraping, and bass. At the red point, a digital voice breaths in then lets out a sigh. Over onto the next page, the red shape sounds like an excited squeal.

Figure G: The varying sizes of the squares again represents varying volumes and it sounds as if the sound is close to the listener, then further away, then close again, like the speakers are moving and changing their distance. There are big gaps of silence, followed by digital chatter like robotic birds.

 

A work that has been influenced by composing for technology and using computers to create sounds would be ‘Music using ONLY sounds from Windows XP and 98!’ by ‘SomethingUnreal’ on youtube . The composer uses sounds stored in the computer, programming them to occur purposefully to perform digital music. A slightly more tuneful approach, but a similar method.

 


 

References:

Bernard, J. 2003, ‘Minimalism, Postminimalism, and the Resurgence of Tonality in Recent American Music’, American Music 21, no. 1 Spring: 112–33.

Ligeti, G & Wehinger, R. 1970, ‘Artikulation: An Aural Score by Rainer Wehinger’, p.7-8, published by Schott.

SomethingUnreal, 2007. ‘Music using ONLY sounds from Windows XP and 98!’, videorecording, YouTube, viewed 30 April 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsU3B0W3TMs&gt;

The People History. 2017, ‘What Happened in 1958 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture ‘, viewed 30 April 2017, <http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1958.html>

Wehinger, R. 1970, ‘Ligeti’s Artikulation’, uploaded by Donald Craig (2007), videorecording, YouTube, viewed 30 April 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71hNl_skTZQ>

Wikipedia, 2017. ‘Magnetic Tape’, viewed 30 April 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_tape&gt;

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