Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Ligeti's car horns

photo by Ken Friedman

There were a lot of funny quotes from various composers in Le Grand Macabre, in the manner of what John Corigliano does with Mozart in "Ghosts of Versailles." At the SF Opera performance last Friday, I was amused to hear several Afro-Latin beats in that car horn tocatta which opens each act of Le Grand Macabre.

I suspect the sound that Ligeti really wanted were not really car horns, but rather this Afro-Brazilian friction percussion instrument called cuica, which is like a drum with a stick attached to the inside skin. You rub resin on the stick, and it gives the sort of mocking and wailing quality that goes so naturally with those beats. Maybe Ligeti didn't know what a cuica was, or maybe he thought cuicas would be hard to find in Scandinavia. And Sweden being the land of Volvos, the car horn became the viable alternative.

Click here to hear a sample of the cuica I found on the web.

2004 C. Chang

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