Pitch and Texture Analysis of Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna. Jan Jarvlepp. Lux Aeterna ( ) by Gyorgy Ligeti is a single movement composition of about nine minutes. Drei Phantasien Nach Friedrich Hölderlin: II. Wenn Aus Der Ferne. Cappella Amsterdam & Daniel Reuss. 6. Drei Phantasien Nach Friedrich Hölderlin: III . ‘Rules as Strict as Palestrina’s’: The Regulation of Pitch and Rhythm in Ligeti’s Requiem and Lux aeterna – Volume 10 Issue 2 – BENJAMIN R. LEVY.

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These gentle entries help create a smooth texture. The notes are sung in falsetto providing a further timbral contrast. The three pitches appear simultaneously and are the basis of three independent canonic strata within the same textural block see Example 7B. ulx

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The words of the text are also treated canonically. The melodic line, from which block 5A is built, can be seen in Example 9. It then becomes canonic because the duration of the first syllable, “Re”, is different in each voice causing them to shift out of phase with each other. Block 3A lies below 3B and 30 in pitch range with no overlap. In Example 14, the first 14 syllables of the piece are lined up in vertical columns so that the rhythmic values assigned to each syllable can be compared from voice to voice.

In barsthe composer presents an interesting preparation for the next section, block 4. One does not aurally identify it with the homophonic blocks 2 and 4. There appears to be some subtle wordpainting here. These words are sung on a high sustained A, which contrasts with the preceding melodically moving setting of the words “lux aeterna”. To give the reader an overview of the piece and to serve as a point of departure, the blocks of texture are presented in a graphic form in Example 1.


A release of tension has been accomplished since the B is now in a more relaxed middle range and since the “hole in the middle” effect is now absent. Block 3A bars enters with a unison F in the tenors and overlaps with block 2, which fades out. F and E flat are heard as a bi-polar pitch center causing some confusion as to which is the main pitch.

This combination of aetera sounds like a B 7th chord in which the B replaces the preceding A as the predominant pitch. The reason why this is coherent with the preceding material is that “Do” sounds like the first syllable of “dona”, which was part of the text of blocks 3B and 3C.

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The sequence of pitches never changes in this block. The syllable “Do” is sung on E preparing the word “Dom ine”, which includes an E in its pitch material. Blocks 3B and 3C are fully temporally enclosed by block 3A, and blocks 5B, 5C, and 5D are temporally enclosed by block 5k. Unlike the beginning of the piece, this canonic block begins with a simultaneous attack in all four voices.

Since the strict pitch and word canons are rhythmically set using flexible talea structures, it is hard to hear any canonic structure. This gives a p relaxed quality to the setting of the text, especially at the end.

Here blocks 3B and 3C enter simultaneously over the previously esta blished block 3A. Whether this is coincidental or a deliberate compositional device is not known. Block 3B employs a subtractive ending in which the singers arrive at a final D at different times aetrrna then fade out one by one in accordance to the “morendo” indication.

Canonic representation of the words generally causes them to be unintelligible, while the word sung in the homophonic sections is clearly intelli gible.


The Lux aeterna ligefi commissioned by the conductor of the Stuttgart Schola Cantorum for inclusion in a recording of new music.

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Similarly there are two ways in which the polyphonic blocks can end. The cell reappears in block 3C see Example 13B a semitone higher than in block 2.

The high and bright sounding B may be a word-painting of the word “luceat”. There exists the possibility that Ateerna used C as a vague dominant function pitch and the B as a substitute dominant as one would find in a tritonal axis.

There ligehi several occurrences of neighbor motion found in the melodic line. Notice that there are ten self-contained textural blocks. The last occurrence of the three note cell is in block 5A see Example Here the pitches of block 2 are used with an upper octave doubling. This is the only instance of a voice transferring from one block to another.

We hear the bass singers for the first time, a timbral contrast, and we hear homophony for the first time, a textural contrast. One aaeterna consider the three note cell found in Example to be the dominant 7th chord of the F starting pitch of the piece.

Pitch and Texture Analysis of Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna

Block 1 is written entirely at the ‘ pp’ dynamic level, yet one perceives dynamic changes. The inner pitch drops a semitone in order to form the inverted chord. This effect has been used in orchestration by modern composers as a tension building device.