Instruments | Twentieth-Century Instruments & Inventions | Contemporary | Classical

Varèse was particularly interested in the sounds of the modern urban world. His music takes a sound world derived from factories and industrialization and turns them into music. But it took the off-beat genius of Ligeti to compose a work entirely for special effects: his Poème symphonique (1962) has passed into musical folklore as the piece of music written for 100 wind-up metronomes that tick away at different speeds, gradually winding down until there is only one, and finally silence.

Crockery is thrown into a dustbin in Ligeti’s opera Le Grand Macabre (1977), which also scores 12 car horns (the recapitulation is for 12 doorbells). Car keys have been jingled, paper bags burst, telephones rung, transistor radios tuned to different frequencies and an enormous range of objects have been variously rubbed, rattled and banged together. The American Harry Partch (1901–74) developed an entire collection of novel percussion instruments, using bamboo, glass and other materials. The conservative reader, disregarding the long history of such experiments, might question their sense and thus the value of the music containing them, but the saxophone in the age of Richard Strauss and the oboe in the age of J. S. Bach were novelties with an uncertain future. The fact is that a creative age is an age of experiment.

Styles & Forms | Contemporary | Classical
Instruments | Musique Concrète | Contemporary | Classical


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