Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Everett, Yayoi Uno. “Significance of Parody and the Grotesque in György Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre.Music Theory Spectrum 31 (Spring 2009): 26-56.

György Ligeti’s only opera, Le Grand Macabre (1977, revised 1996), an example of grotesque realism, uses many techniques of parody and collage, though such techniques resist categorization because of the vast array of incorporated procedures. An analysis of Le Grand Macabre works to unveil the work’s narrative and meta-musical implications in relation to these techniques of musical borrowing and the relevant source material, suggesting that the work is governed by two different narrative trajectories. Ligeti’s uses of operatic conventions in this opera are related to specific sources and techniques; such conventions suggest that Ligeti assigns distinctive stylistic or timbral idioms to typecast main characters. For example, a parodic strategy via troping of stylistic types from the lover’s duet (Scene 1), which draws on Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea; a second example is Piet the Pot’s “drunken” aria (Scene 1), exemplifies the technique of troping incongruous stylistic topics through abrupt shifts in musical discourses, while drawing on Berg’s Wozzeck. All three scenes in the opera share a parallel construction which culminates in a polymetric or polytemporal collage. In each scene, a trope of chaos and deconstruction is established through these collages, which is offset by either buffa elements or pastoral topics. The expressive states of ludicrousness and horror are explored in tandem, culminating in the third movement where the distinction between these two expressive states becomes increasingly blurred. Le Grand Macabre is in some ways an “anti-opera,” because of its overall narrative of ambivalence, which comes about primarily due to the blurring of expressive states. Thus, the aesthetic of this work is not “postmodern” but is better defined as “oppositional” postmodernism, which is concerned with a critical deconstruction of tradition.

Works: Ligeti: Le Grand Macabre.

Sources: Verdi: Falstaff (34-35); Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea (36); Berg: Wozzeck (36-37); Gluck: Alceste (43); Stravinsky: l’Histoire du Soldat (43).

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Chelsea Hamm

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