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Abstract

The code word “Kylwiria” was mentioned by György Ligeti from time to time since the 1970s. At first, it functioned rather abstractly as a working title for the opera that had been in the making since the mid-1960s and eventually mutated into Le Grand Macabre. Later, Ligeti also shared details about the imaginary land of his childhood, providing glimpses of brightly colored maps of that land and underscoring the importance of his childlike fantasy world. This article explores the dimensions of this “private mythology” and its impact on the composer's creative thinking and work. Its documentary evidence – the description of the land of Kylwiria recorded in 1950 in a booklet of more than 70 pages – is presented in examples and examinated for its particularities. On the one hand, it seems that the pioneering exploration of geographical spaces is transferred as a model to the creative exploration of sound spaces. On the other hand, Ligeti's concept of a fantastic counterworld is to be seen in a literary and cultural-historical context, in which it is to be located somewhere between expedition report, travel guide and utopian design. Such an outline sharpens the meaning of Kylwiria as a cipher for creativity in a characteristic mixture of ratio and fantasy.

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This article proceeds from the notions that composers need advocates and that in postwar new music, they commented more than ever before on their own work. It deals specifically with György Ligeti and focusses on the years between his flight from Hungary in 1956 and his appointment as a professor in Hamburg in 1973. A detailed examination of sources from the composer’s archive in the Paul Sacher Foundation shows how Harald Kaufmann and Ove Nordwall promoted his music and thinking. Ligeti’s own position reveals a rift between his public success and the deeprooted self-consciousness of an immigrant sensitive to all kinds of discrimination. Nevertheless, Ligeti, with his extraordinary clearness, had considerable influence on musical discourse and succeeded in defining an individual profile. An appendix includes six hitherto unpublished letters from Kaufmann to Ligeti.

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Studia Musicologica
Authors:
Anna Dalos
,
Julia Heimerdinger
,
Márton Kerékfy
, and
Heidy Zimmermann
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