The hushed intensity and mystery of Ligeti's Lux aeterna made it an intriguing and stunningly effective choice for the "voice" of the monolith in Stanley Kubrick's film A Space Odyssey. Ligeti sets this text from the Requiem Mass as a quietly beautiful motet. It sounds like a sustained soundscape, swelling from a unison out into a vibrant mass of clusters, then subsiding back to a point of consonant repose. But the clusters are created polyphonically, by the extensive use of canon based on Renaissance models. Ligeti marked the score to be sung very calmly, "as from a distance," and the effect is a sonic interpretation of gleaming perpetual light, a peaceful radiance with one bright soprano flash near the end. All Rights Reserved.

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Don't show me this message again. Lux aeterna composer. View whole album. Introduction English Born in Transylvania, in the border region between Hungary and Romania, Ligeti studied composition at first locally and then at the Budapest Academy, where he became a professor in Leaving Hungary in , the year of the Uprising, he settled in Vienna, establishing his reputation with a series of avant-garde compositions beginning with Apparitions His Requiem , a response to the horrors of World War II, made a deep impression, and was swiftly followed by the present Lux aeterna , which can be seen as a pendant to it.

The Lux aeterna was commissioned by the conductor of the Stuttgart Schola Cantorum for inclusion in a recording of new music. If the prevailing mood of the Requiem is one of death, the Lux aeterna carries the hope of resurrection, consistent with the eternal light referred to in its text. No rhythmic pulse can be detected, because eternity has no sense of time, but the shape and structure of Lux aeterna is lucid and even strict. Ligeti divides the choir into sixteen parts, which enables him to form, literally, nebulous clusters of notes slowly shifting in subtle and ever-changing patterns.

Whether we should think of the eternal light as coming from distant galaxies or from God, there is no doubt that Lux aeterna is a masterpiece, taking choral music—and the listener—into a new and eerie sound-world of the imagination.



Excerpt from the concert recorded live on 16 March at the Radio France Auditorium. Lux Aeterna was premiered on 2 November , upon the request of conductor Clytus Gottwald , who produced a recorded with his ensemble of 16 solo vocalists at the Schola Cantorum in Stuttgart. Not only did the work become an important part of the contemporary choral music repertoire, it also enjoyed an unexpected publicity following its use in A Space Odyssey during the scene in which the human race make first contact with an extraterrestrial entity, the Monolith. However, Stanley Kubrick did not ask Ligeti permission for use of the work, eventually leading to a legal trial.


Ligeti: Lux Aeterna

The text in Latin is from the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass : Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis , which means "May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with thy saints in eternity, for thou art merciful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them. Lux aeterna luceat eis [m. Each part has the same sequence of notes, separated by small time intervals. The tenors enter about halfway through this section, singing in the same range as the women.


György Ligeti’s “Lux Aeterna”: The Ethereal Land of Micropolyphony


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