Composer Gyorgy Ligeti, whose music appeared in several Stanley Kubrick films and was championed by conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, died Monday in Vienna.. He was 83.
A survivor of a Nazi labor camp, Ligeti composed operas, chamber music and conceptual pieces in Austria where he had moved from Hungary in 1956 and was surrounded by leaders of the European avant garde. He joined the Electronic Music Studio of West German Radio in Cologne in 1957, and while there, he consolidated musical ideas and produced the electronic composition “Artikulation” (1958) and the orchestral “Apparitions” (1958-59), which launched his international career a year later.
“Atmospheres” (1961) and the organ work “Volumina” (1961-62) positioned Ligeti as an alternative to post-Webern serialism. A key feature of his style was dense polyphony, which he called “micropolyphony” — complexes of musical color and texture so rich and intense that they dissolved the distinctions of melody, harmony and rhythm.
Kubrick used portons of “Atmospheres” and 1966’s “Lux Aeterna” in his film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Kubrick also featured Ligeti’s music in “The Shining” and “Eyes Wide Shut.”
Ligeti was feted in 1998 by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with an acclaimed festival that celebrated the composer’s 75th birthday. Salonen had at one time planned to record all of Ligeti’s symphonic works. Salonen did condusct a recording of Ligeti’s opera “Le Grand Macbre.”