Web Site Review of Ligeti’s Spiderweb, an Interactive Music Education Web Site

Most of the web sites dedicated to the Hungro-Austrian composer, GyÃ?¶rgy Ligeti, are merely biographical text extracted from the Grove Dictionary of Music with so-called “permission” from the publisher. If an educated individual or music enthusiast wants to read the Grove Dictionary of Music, they will go to www.grovemusic.com and certainly not trust the information conveniently pawned off onto another web site. In other cases, the composer’s list of works is quite incomplete. This is not necessarily a major problem, unless the site is intended to be in the format of a standard biography. Since the majority of these sites, as mentioned above, are biographical they should include an extensive list of works so that we can hear a representative collection of the composer’s music. Taking these issues into account, it might be a surprise that my choice for the best Ligeti web site does not have a standard biography at all. It is the culmination of a project called the Ligeti Spiderweb and a three-day course supported by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Festival Hall. The nature of the web site (http://www.braunarts.com/ligeti) is interactive. It permits the user to become acquainted with the composer’s music and gain a rudimentary knowledge of his creative process; namely, the user can formulate his/her own judgment of Ligeti’s music with this newly acquired knowledge.

The main page may look somewhat eccentric at the onset. All it contains is a gigantic magnifying glass that encapsulates icons floating freely within the imaginary pane. If you are within the vein of most modern computer users, you will eventually be tempted to roll the mouse pointer over some of these little icons. Upon doing so, a description of the item is released. This tempts the user further and after finally double-clicking the icon, a new window opens with vital information. This represents the web site’s ingenuity and ease of use. Also, it can be perceived as a means for being metaphorical. It is similar to the phenomenon of music whereby the simple of effort of trying to peer more closely into it can yield an even more fascinating world.

Therefore, the information on this web site is clearly not intended to be a textual guide through the composer’s life or works. The web site is an interface between the composer, his work, and the user. It is reminiscent of a pre-concert conversation with the composer, who generally will not just stand before an audience, recount all their accomplishments, and say “goodnight.” They may mention aspects of their life that are meaningful, somehow related to the creative process, or a particular work. For example, clicking the ‘folk music’ icon explains Ligeti’s influence from Bartok and Hungarian nationalism. The folk music page, correspondingly, contains a sample of the third movement of Ligeti’s “Viola Sonata.” In addition, it suggests listening to one bar of the “Viola Sonata” to generate your own piece of music. Within a single link among many on this homepage the user is briefly educated in the history of the composer, his influences, receives a sound sample of his work, and is encouraged at the very least to attempt to see what it is like to write folk music.

Furthermore, there are visual representations of the scores throughout some of the pages. This is particularly helpful when studying his use of clusters on the score and analyses of African rhythms in his “Piano Concerto.” The web site juxtaposes the actual analyses of the Yoruba rhythms from the ethnomusicologist, Nigel Osbourne, against the score for the “Piano Concerto.” Likewise, when discussing “Le Grande Macabre” there are sound samples, snapshots of the scores, and a brief explanation of Ligeti’s incorporation of humor in his work. The items discussed are only a small case sample of the web page. For a more in-depth look at its features, it must be visited.

Most importantly, the web site grants the user relative freedom in gaining a perspective of a composer. There are no explicit descriptions of his work as being “avant garde” or “experimental.” The choice is left to the user to decide how they might categorize or illustrate the music. This is especially rare when approaching a composer such as Ligeti, whose work is often misunderstood by the mainstream. At the same time, a music scholar can easily speculate upon a study of Ligeti’s music without being governed by principles. The site channels his music, history, and inspiration into tangible sets that can be analyzed in further detail, if a researcher is using the site as a catalyst for a more extensive written thesis.

The Ligeti Spiderweb is a web site that makes tremendous use of the vast resources the Internet has to offer. The multimedia features stand as not mere novelties or entertainment. They are harnessed into an excellent learning tool that is an admirable and very accessible resource for people with all levels of knowledge. The information is quite reliable since the London Philharmonic and a professional arts organization called, Braunarts, supports the page in large part. Braunarts excels in its presentation of performing artists and works on the web. They even have an award-winning computer program that can use scientific research on the Antarctic to compose music. If the web site is too progressive for an individual’s tastes, it is an excellent companion to a traditional, abridged biography. After reading an abridged biography, it is revealed that the same information is contained within the Ligeti web site. The information is simply presented through a different medium, one I would argue is more in agreement with what the CERN World Wide Web team originally envisioned.

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