Hungarian composer György Ligeti composed Poème
Symphonique for 100 metronomes in 1962, during his
brief acquaintance with the Fluxus
The piece requires ten "performers", and most of their efforts take
place without the audience present. Each of the hundred metronomes
is set up on the performance platform,
and they are all then wound to their maximum extent and set to
different speeds. Once they are all fully wound they are all
started as simultaneously as possible. The performers then leave.
The audience is then admitted, and take their places while the
metronomes are all ticking. As the metronomes wind down one after
another and stop, periodicity becomes noticeable in the sound, and
individual metronomes can be more clearly made out. The piece
typically ends with just one metronome ticking alone for a few
The controversy over the first performance was sufficient to cause
Dutch Television to cancel a planned broadcast, replacing it with a
soccer match (Ligeti 1997, 10). Ligeti regarded this work as a
critique of the contemporary musical situation,
but a special sort of critique, since the critique
itself results from musical means.
… The "verbal score" is only one aspect of this
critique, and it is admittedly rather ironic.
The other aspect is, however, the work
… What bothers me nowadays are above all ideologies
(all ideologies, in that they are stubborn and intolerant towards
others), and Poème Symphonique is directed above all
So I am in some measure proud that I could express
criticism without any text, with music alone.
It is no accident that Poème Symphonique was
rejected as much by the petit-bourgeois (see the cancellation of
the TV broadcast in Holland) as by the seeming
Radicalism and petit-bourgeois attitudes are not so far
from one another; both wear the blinkers of the
(Ligeti, cited in Nordwall 1971, 7–8)
The Poème symphonique
was the last of Ligeti's
event-scores, and marks the end of his brief relationship with
Fluxus (Drott 2004, 222).
The piece has been recorded several times, but performed only
occasionally due to the obvious difficulty of procuring such a
large quantity of machines.
- Cone, Edward T. 1977. "One Hundred Metronomes". The
American Scholar 46, no. 4 (Autumn): . Reprinted in
Australian Journal of Music Education, no. 26 (April
- Dibelius, Ulrich. 1980. "Maelzel, wenn er losgelassen".
Hi-Fi Stereophonie 19:168–69.
- Drott, Eric Austin. 2004. "Ligeti in Fluxus". The Journal
of Musicology 21 (Spring): 201–40.
- Ligeti, György. 1997. "Music for Machines". Booklet notes for
Mechanical Music, György Ligeti Edition 5. New York: Sony
Classical. CD SK 62310.
- Ligeti, György. 1999. "Poème Symphonique for 100
Metronomes". Musical Opinion, no. 123 (Autumn): 56.
- Nordwall, Ove. 1971. György Ligeti: Eine Monographie.