And now I'm here as his son: remembering György Ligeti as a person, a composer, and a father

  • Lukas Ligeti University of California, Irvine


The Flame in my Hands I am a composer and improvisor with an unusual background: my father was György Ligeti. My last name, while only six letters long, tends to lead people to a complicated multitude of preconceived notions and assumptions about my upbringing, advantages, challenges, and even about what my music might actually sound like. These assumptions are almost invariably false. I am not a music theorist or historian and do not intend to give a musicological analysis of my father’s work. But I can illuminate his thinking and interests from the perspective of someone who knew him in a way no musicologist did, and try to trace the experiences and events that triggered some of his unique thoughts and ideas. I will also elaborate on what I hope to have learned from my father, how he has influenced me, and how our interests as musicians are similar and how they differ. I am an independent artist, not a “professional son”. Nonetheless, apart from creating my own music, it is important to me that my father’s work continues to be appreciated and that it is understood and contextualised in ways he wanted it to be. That sometimes makes me ask myself what my father would do were he alive and active today. The hypothetical, extrapolative answers I arrive at are not necessarily identical with my own views, and once again, I will try to explain how I see these similarities and differences and in what ways they are cultural, generational, etc. My father was always a passionate defender of freedom, democracy, and individual creativity. This is one aspect of his legacy I am committed to cultivating and carrying on in my own work. I will share some of my ideas for how music might move forward and what artistic and other challenges lie ahead for me personally, and for new music in general.

Kirjoittajan esittely

Lukas Ligeti, University of California, Irvine
Faculty of Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology, University of California, Irvine, PhD researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.