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Ligeti / Reich: African Rhythms (Aimard / Aka Pygmies, 2003/2001–2002)

“African Rhythms“ is a unique album that aimed to interface African folk music (the vocal music of the Aka Pygmies from sub-Saharan Africa) to contemporary music (compositions by György Ligeti, a Hungarian-Austrian composer born in Romania, and Steve Reich, an American composer known as one of the pioneers of minimal music) by mingling them with polyrhythm and pulse-like repetitive rhythm as common themes.

It was organized and performed by French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

Aimard calls this album “mosaic of polyrhythms“ and “celebration of rhythm and pulse“.

The album contains the recordings of the vocal music of the Aka Pygmies (eight tracks), six pieces from Ligeti’s “Études pour piano“ (1985–2001), Reich’s two pieces, “Clapping Music” (1972) and the piano arrangement of “Music for Pieces of Wood“ (1973).

The vocal music of the Aka Pygmies and “Clapping Music” were recorded in 2001 at Teldex Studio, Berlin.

The six pieces from Ligeti’s “Études pour piano“ and “Music for Pieces of Wood“ were recorded in 2002 at Salle De Musique, La Chaux-De-Fonds, Switzerland.

The piano performance and handclaps (clapping) by Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

The album was released by German record label Teldec Classics in 2003.

Ligeti’s “Études pour piano“ is a cycle of 18 études for solo piano composed between 1985 and 2001. It follows in the line of the études of Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy, and Alexander Scriabin, and it shows the influence of polyrhythm of Sub-Saharan African music, jazz piano technique, and Conlon Nancarrow’s piano rolls.

There are 18 études arranged in three books: six Études in Book 1 (1985), eight in Book 2 (1988–1994), four in Book 3 (1995–2001).

In this album, Aimard played No. 4 from Book 1, Nos. 8 and 12 from Book 2, and Nos. 16–18 from Book 3 (No. 18 is the world’s first recording).

Reich’s “Clapping Music” is a piece only for two musicians clapping without instruments. It deals with rhythm variation by shifting beats. In this album, it was performed by Aimard himself through multi-tracking.

Reich’s “Music for Pieces of Wood“ is a piece for five pairs of tuned claves, but in this album, it was arranged for piano.

Ligeti : Etudes Book 2 : VI Entrelacs