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The Rough Guide to Classical Music (2010 5 ed). p. 301 Bottom.

  Following the opera’s premiere in 1978 and a period of serious illness, Ligeti’s style underwent a profound evolution, as first demonstrated by the moving Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano of 1982, a work in which a kind of tonality and traditional metre reappear in his work for the first time in over two decades, but lopsided or dislocated to comic or disturbing effect. It was in subsequent works – most notably two prodigious concertos, for piano and violin, and a sequence of eighteen Études for piano – that Ligeti’s creative trajectory reached its destination. In all these works there are overt references to traditional classical (and other) music, often with a decidedly Eastern European flavour, but recontextualized in Ligeti’s inimitably personal manner and often expressed in a complex rhythmic style in which conflicting layers of tempi are used to drive the music forward.
  Ligeti’s music is beyond tonality and atonality, and beyond postmodernism – “the ironic theatricalizing of the past is quite foreign to me”. [I bolded.] His sound-world is utterly unique, but until recently he has been sparsely served on disc; Sony began to rectify this with a superb Complete Ligeti Edition, a commendably adventurous series that was completed by Teldec.

  1. What did Ligeti regard as "ironic"?

  2. What did Ligeti intend to say by "theatricalizing"?

This quote stems from liner notes:

French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, a longtime champion of Ligeti's music, will also be on hand to perform a selection of études on the festival's second program on January 15: No. 11 ("En suspens"), No. 4 ("Fanfares"), No. 1 ("Desordre"), and No. 6 ("Automne à Varsovie"). Ligeti, who admits having horrendous piano technique, nonetheless plunged ahead to create virtuoso études. He wanted to transform an inadequacy into something professional and riveting and his models here were Chopin and sub-Saharan polyphony. As he explains in his excellent notes in Sony's Ligeti Edition: "[M]y études are neither jazz nor Chopinesque-Debussian music, neither African nor Nancarrow, and certainly not mathematical constructs. I have written of influences and approaches, but what I actually compose is difficult to categorize: it is neither 'avant-garde,' nor 'traditional,' neither tonal nor atonal. And in no way postmodern, as the ironic theatricalizing of the past is quite foreign to me."

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Ligeti is rejecting the more self-conscious manifestations of the 'neoclassical' style. "Composers dressed up their music in old clothes in order to create a smiling or pensive evocation of the past" (Albright 2004, 276)." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoclassicism_(music)

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Postmodernism is known for taking the artistic productions of the past and representing them in an ironic, self-referential, anti-realist way. For example, consider Philip Glass' opera Einstein on the Beach. There's a choir singing in harmony, but the melody is purely repetitive, and the words are just a series of numbers. There's a narrative, but it is simply juxtaposed with the music, it neither illustrates it nor is illustrated by it. So you have a lot of the elements of the older musical tradition, but stripped of meaning, and recombined in "theatrical" ways. This is what Ligeti is specifically rejecting as a context for his own music. His music has some continuity with music of the past, but it neither sounds like it nor deconstructs it. It's a new evolution of the idea of music but not a backwards looking, distanced, or self-referential one.

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