Performance Practice
of Electroacoustic Music

Györgi Ligeti



Artikulation was realized at the electronic studio of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) between January and March of 1958. Involved in the realization were also Gottfried Michael Koenig and Cornelius Cardew. The title „Artikulation“ was suggested by Herbert Brün. The work was premiered on March 25, 1958 within WDR‘s concert series „Musik der Zeit“ in Cologne (s. Ligeti, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 2, pp. 165-169).

Ligeti himself describes the different sound materials as “quasi körnige, brüchige, faserige, trockene, nasse, schleimige, klebrige, gallertartige und kompakte” (“so to speak grainy, fracturable, fibrous, dry, wet, slimy, sticky, jelly-like and compact”) elements that are sometimes combined, fragmented or assembled into a dense mass. Ligeti compares the musical structures to the articulation of a language that he calls “pseudo-language” since it is completely free of any semantical content. On a compositional level, he puts the work into a context with later pieces such as Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures (Ligeti, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 2, pp. 78).

The composition process involved strictly serial procedures in the realization of tape sequences and aleatoric techniques in selecting them in the montage process (s. G.M. König, Ligeti und die elektronische Musik, in: Otto Kolleritsch (Ed.), György Ligeti. Personalstil – Avantgardismus, Popularität. Wien: UE, 1987, pp. 11.). Besides serial and aleatoric methods, Ligeti also employs free compositional procedures and applies each one of the three methods to different levels of articulation. While larger sections are strictly serially proportioned, the organization becomes less tight the smaller the units are, becoming rather statistical at the smallest, phonem-like level. Ligeti describes the resulting form as a non-linear dissolution process, starting from homogenous structures, that being involved in increasingly complex relations lose their individuality. The initial “pseudo-language” evolves towards a kind of “confusion”. (Ligeti, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 2, p. 165-168).



Rent material

The performance material received from Schott includes a DVD with four mono files at 48kHz/24 bit. Duration is 3:45:76.


Archival material

The Ligeti collection at Paul Sacher Stiftung has copies of material for Ligeti’s own use such as the CD from the Wehinger edition, mono tapes etc. There are also roughly 100 pages of sketches for Artikulation.



Ligeti: Artikulation. Elektronische Musik. Eine Hörpartitur von Rainer Wehinger. Mainz usw. Schott, 1970

A „Hörpartitur“ (listening score) for Artikulation was realized by Rainer Wehinger and published by Schott in 1970 (later releases in 1984, 1988, 1994). It was realized on the basis of an analysis of the tape (Nordwall 1971, p. 203). In a recorded talk (unpublished, 1983) found at Paul Sacher Stiftung, Ligeti calls Wehinger’s score “rather accurate, rather precise”.


Authorial/editorial instruction

Rainer Wehinger’s “Hörpartitur” indicates that the projection of the four channels in space follows a cardinal point pattern, forming a rhombus around the listener: channel 1 front, channel 2 right, channel three back, channel four left. This is consistent with a sketch found in the PSS showing the spatial development of the piece in twelve sections.

Technical report

Difference in duration

At 3:45:76 the audio received from the publisher is roughly two seconds longer than the commercial releases and the time duration given in the Wehinger score. Since the difference amounts to less than 1%, we assume that it is due to wow and flutter in the tape machines used in possibly two different transfers (s. also Glissandi).


Crosstalk, such as noticed in the audio provided by the publisher, results from neighboring tracks on a tape being magnetized over a longer period of time and/or imprecise position of the tape machine’s heads.

Audio restoration

In the sound restoration of the four mono files, high and low pass filters, as well as the Waves z-noise plugin were used. High and low pass filters were set first, then a noise profile was established for each channel and the noise was reduced as far as possible. Sound envelopes were drawn, and the passages without wanted signal (pauses) were reduced by 6-8 db. Because of the impulses and sounds on the other channels it was possible to mask the envelopes so that no “pumping” noise is heard. The performance team felt that the restored version helps to highlight the polyphonic dialogue in space. With the noise, the four speakers seem to be continually present in the space.

In order to preserve the audio in the best quality, it would be important to study all the audio sources available at WDR and/or Schott, so that the appropriate source(s) for a new analogue to digital transfer could be determined.

Loudspeaker setupIn the suggested disposition in rhombus shape a difference between front, side and rear speakers arises, which is more noticeable as in a rectangle disposition: the sound from the rear speaker will be more strongly reflected while the side speakers can project the sound very directly. This should be taken into account when deciding the exact position of the speakers. The front speaker should not be positioned too closely, so that the difference in sound to the rear speaker (behind the listener’s head) is not increased. If subwoofers are used, ideally one subwoofer per channel or at least two in a distribution L-R are recommended. Using a single subwoofer would distort sound localization.

Performance report

For this performance, a de-noised version of the audio was used (s. above). Four speakers were positioned in rhombus shape around the audience. This disposition was doubled above, using a total of eight speakers. The more impulse-like sounds were generally played on the lower speakers, while in passages using more reverberation the upper speakers were additionally used. In addition to this, sequences with impulse-like sounds were played slightly louder extending the dynamic range of the piece in order to highlight its spatial polyphony.

Selected Bibliography

G.M. König, Ligeti und die elektronische Musik, in: Otto Kolleritsch (Ed.), György Ligeti. Personalstil – Avantgardismus, Popularität. Wien: UE, 1987

Ligeti, György, 1958, Werkkommentare: Artikulation, in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Monika Lichtenfeld, Mainz, Schott 2007, Vol. 2, pp. 165-160.

1967, Gedanken zum musikalischen Theater_Artikulation, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Von Monika Lichtenfeld, Mainz, Schott 2007, Vol. 2, pp. 78-85.

Miereanu, Costine, Une musique èlectronique et sa “partition”: Artikulation, in Musique en jeu, 1974, No. 15, pp. 102-109.

Wehinger Rainer, Ligeti, György, Artikulation: elektronische Musik: eine Hörpartitur von Rainer Wehinger. Mainz: Schott, 1970 [Introduction, in German]


CD releases (selection)

György Ligeti, Wergo, 1988, WER 60161

Cologne-WDR: Early Electronic Music, Acousmatrix 6, 1991, BVHaast 9106

Schematic Overview

Piece information

Composer György Ligeti
Title Artikulation
Year 1958
Studio WDR
Type Tape 4-channel
Duration Approx. 3’45’’
Publisher Schott


Archival material

Paul Sacher Stiftung Audio material (CD, tapes), sketches


Commercial releases (selection)

György Ligeti (Wergo, 1988) Wergo WER 60161


Cologne-WDR: Early Electronic Music (Acousmatrix 6, 1991:) BVHaast 9106