The 'Highest Dynamic Level Attainable Unvoiced’: György Ligeti, Language, and the Theatre of the Absurd


  • Dónal Mac Erlaine Independant Scholar



Ligeti, Beckett, Ionesco, Theatre, Aventures, Nouvelle, Artikulation, Existentialism


This paper identifies a particular sub-genre of György Ligeti's life work.  The 'lingual' works are those that explore the field of language, linguistics and related philosophies through the composer's typical playfulness and invention.  Three strata are demarcated by the author, and the most complex, the 'speech pieces', is investigated more thoroughly.  The works of focus in this paper are Artikulation, Aventures, and Nouvelles Aventures. This is done with specific reference to the work of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco, exploring the details of the parallels between them, and the philosophy that underpins them all. It is Ligeti's investigation of vernacular form which brings these pieces in line with what is now known as the Theatre of the Absurd.

Author Biography

Dónal Mac Erlaine, Independant Scholar

Donal Mac Erlaine is a musicologist and a self-taught guitarist and composer.  As well as working as a soloist, he has also been involved with film, theatre and dance.  Mac Erlaine holds a diploma in classical guitar from the Royal Irish Academcy of Music and a Masters degree in Historical Musicology from University College Dublin.  His music has been performed by Concorde, National Chamber Choir of Ireland, New Dublin Voices, Atlas Ensemble, Quiet Music Ensemble, Dublin Laptop Orchestra, Rhombus, John Feeley, Nick Roth and others.  His educational works have won special and honourable mentions in international competitions and he was the winner of the Seán O’Riada Award in 2014.   




How to Cite

Mac Erlaine, D. (2020). The ’Highest Dynamic Level Attainable Unvoiced’: György Ligeti, Language, and the Theatre of the Absurd: . Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, 15, 45–66.