Sheet Music – £ – Gyorgy Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna, for Voice mixed chorus acappella. Duration: 9 minutes. Published by Edition Peters. Lux Aeterna sheet music – SATB choir (a cappella voice mixed chorus) sheet music by Gyorgy Ligeti: Edition Peters. Shop the World’s Largest Sheet Music. Lux Aeterna () by Gyorgy Ligeti is a single movement composition of about .. It is only by seeing the capital D in the score that one can tell the difference.

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Lux Aeterna by Gyorgy Ligeti is a single movement composition of about nine minutes duration for unaccompanied sixteen part mixed choir.

There are aeetrna soprano sections, four alto sections, four tenor sections and four bass sections. The piece may be sung by sixteen soloists or by a larger choir divided into sixteen sections. In this paper, I will discuss how the piece has been composed from the point of view of horizontal pitch lines and the resultant vertical textures. In doing this, the overall structure of the piece and the aetern between music and words will become apparent.

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. The entire text of the piece can be seen in Example 2.

Lux Aeterna (Ligeti) – Wikipedia

Notice that there are ten self-contained ateerna blocks. The last line of the original text is a repetition of the text found in block 3A and has not been used in this composition.

Two kinds of texture are used in aeterma piece: There are only two short instances of homophony which appear at structurally important places in the piece. The rest of the texture is strict imitative polyphony at the unison, which can be called canonic although one must aban don all ideas of tonal or modal resultant harmonies that are associated with traditional canons. The words of the text are also treated canonically.

Each syllable appears with a particular pitch of the canonic melody, except in block 3C which uses an exceptionally short canon to represent a large number of syllables. Canonic representation of the words generally causes them to be unintelligible, while the word sung in the homophonic sections is clearly intelli gible. Textures appear in blocks, either alone or in layers.

For clarity, I have named blocks that are lieti on a previously established textural layer with the same numeral but a different accompanying letter for example blocks 3B and 3C are superimposed over the previously established block 3A.

Note that the three most important structural blocks of the piece are 1, 3A and 5A. Blocks 3B and 3C are fully temporally enclosed by block 3A, and blocks 5B, 5C, and 5D are temporally enclosed by block 5k. These three important structural blocks are separated from each other by the two occurrences of homophony which make up blocks 2 and 4.

Lux Aeterna for 16-part unaccompanied chorus (Latin)

While the homophonic sections start and stop simultaneously, the polyphonic sections have two ways of starting and stopping. They can start additively, that is to say that voices enter one at a time until all have entered creating a canonic texture. They can also enter simultaneously on the same pitch and then continue with the rest of the melodic line in staggered fashion, thus creating a canonic internal texture following a simultaneous attack. Similarly there are two ways in which the polyphonic blocks can end.

One is a subtractive ending in which the voices drop out one at a time as they finish their canonic material. The other is a simultaneous ending which occurs after all the singers in that block have reached the last note of their melodic line. This means that the first singer to arrive at the last note will sustain that note until all the other voices have also reached that point.

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Before examining the textural blocks individually, note that the piece never exceeds the ‘ p ‘ dynamic level and that the only dynamic levels specified are ppppp and p. There is an alto If’ marking in the low register that the com poser says should sound as loud as a tenor or soprano ‘ p ‘. Therefore it is heard as a ‘ p ‘ level.

All entries are marked “enter very gently” or “enter imperceptibly” except block 2 which enters “quasi eco”. These gentle entries help create a smooth texture. Block 1 bars is an additive canonic texture built entirely from tem porally delayed superimpositions of the line found in Example 3.

It is con structed using strict pitch imitation as well as word imitation. The words “lux aeterna luceat eis” mean “may eternal light shine on them. He also assigns the highest pitch in bars to “lux”, a C. The words “luceat eis” do not appear until bars where their pres ence is structurally reinforced melodically. These words are sung on a high sustained A, which contrasts with the preceding melodically moving setting of the words “lux aeterna”.

The ending of this textural block is a simultaneous cut-off with no “morendo” indication. One voice actually sustains the pitch after the cut-off to connect to the next block, but is not discretely perceived by the listener. The melodic line of block 1 consists of a gradual intervallic expansion from the starting pitch F, to a major 7th range D flat to Cand an ending on the sus tained high A. The polyphonic result is a single tonic note, F, which expands into a dense harmony without prominent pitches, for example bar 13, and then gradually moves to the new central pitch, A, starting at bar In bars 23 and 24, the harmonic texture is very thick and the original F central pitch is absent.

One can see and hear that the harmonic mass is moving away from F. The A pitch first appears in bar 13 in a dense cluster at which point it is in its lower octave and not individually perceptible. Similarly, the previously impor tant F is no longer individually perceptible. The A gains great prominence in bars by appearing an octave higher while being supported by the original A pitch.

It is the highest pitch heard yet and very clearly the most impor tant one at this point. Since not all four voices of block 1 get to sing the last four syllables on the high A due to the simultaneous cut-off, they are enclosed in square brackets in Example 3. There are several occurrences of neighbor motion found in the melodic line.

They are marked in the examples with horizontal brackets. Whether this is coincidental or a deliberate compositional device is not known. However, they appear later in other polyphonic sections and act as unifying cells.

Block 1 is written entirely at the ‘ pp’ dynamic level, yet one perceives dynamic changes. These are due to the gradual addition of voices, expansion of pitch range and especially the addition of the high A to the otherwise midrange texture. The density of pitch classes range from a minimum of one in bars andto a maximum eight in bars Block 2 bars 37 – 41 is a sudden contrast to block 1. We hear the bass singers for the first time, a timbral contrast, and we hear homophony for the first time, a textural contrast.

The notes are sung in falsetto providing a further timbral contrast.

As mentioned before, this homophonic section separates two large polyphonic sections and is therefore structurally very aeteena. This is the first setting of the new word “Domine” which means “0, Lord”.

It has the function of breaking up the text in the same manner as it separates blocks of polyphonic writing. There appears to be some subtle wordpainting here. The three bass sections can be considered a representation of the Holy Trinity.


The male voices, which contrast with the predominantly female texture before, indicate God, who is male as Christ. The static harmony can be considered to portray God’s never changing presence while the lower dynamic level indicates the peacefulness associated with God.

Falsetto voices indicate that God is high in Heaven. This combination of pitches sounds like a B 7th chord in which the B replaces the preceding A as the predominant pitch. However, the same A becomes the middle note of the bass chord thus giving a pivot note or pitch connection to this block.

Sheet music: Gyorgy Ligeti: Lux Aeterna

The highest note of this block, B, is not present in block 1. The ligehi F of the piece is not present, confirming the motion away from the original central pitch of the piece. Block 3A bars enters with a unison F in the tenors and overlaps with block 2, which fades out. The F is taken from the bottom note of the bass chord in block 2 creating a pitch connection.

F becomes a temporary central pitch but within two bars it becomes part of a cluster without any prominent pitch. Block 3A is a strict pitch and word cannon in which all four tenor voices start simultaneously and then are staggered creating imitative polyphony.

It is derived completely from the melodic line shown in Example 5. Note that the neighbor motion cells found in block 1 luc also present in this line.

A new line of words is being set: Tenors begin this texture and are joined by the basses once the texture is well established. The simultaneous entry of the basses, at bar 46, on a unison D is misleading since it sounds like the entry of a new textural block. However, this D comes from the tenor line.

Ligeti – Lux Aeterna (Full Score)

The basses then proceed to canonically imi tate the tenor line starting with the word “in” on D natural see Example 5. After the basses have joined the texture, the harmony becomes very neutralized i. About ten bars ligetl an A flat pitch center begins to appear. Note the strength scode exact location of pitch centers varies. For this reason, I cannot pinpoint the emergence of a new pitch center to a specific bar in this case.

The canon in the basses catches aeternna with itself at bar 61 lkx a simultane ously attacked G. Blocks 3B and 30 enter here, causing the bass sections to sound as if sore are also entering with new material. However, the bass sec tions quickly become staggered again and continue to imitatively follow the melodic line established by the tenors. This technique liveti the basses to underscore the entries of the sopranos and altos with blocks 3B and 3C.

Block 3A lies below 3B and 30 in pitch range with no overlap. It is the longest single block, lasting 50 bars of the piece’s bar length. In bars the area of maximum vertical density of the whole piece is found. Here blocks 3B and 3C enter simultaneously over the previously esta blished block 3A. All 16 sections are singing and by bar 64 the polyphony has arrived at a totally neutralized cluster in which no pitch center can be found.

The band of sound exceeds two octaves and contains all twelve pitch classes. F and A, which were important pitch centers in block 1, are present only below middle C.

The composer has negated his previously pitch-centered material in favor of a dense neutral texture with internal movement but no apparent pitch goal. In bars 75 to 79, the texture begins to thin out as blocks 3B and 3C leave the texture exposing some predominant aeteran in block 3A.