Clocks and Clouds

György Ligeti

Jonathan Nott
Cologne Philharmony 

© Nick & Clemens Prokop

The Journey

Three works that connect to form a triptych: the multifaceted "Clocks and Clouds", flanked by early "Apparitions" and "Lux aeterna" for 16-voice choir a capella.

All this in the circular Kölner Philharmonie - a room that could also come from a set by Stanley Kubrick.

How on earth do you find images for this music without colliding with Kubrick's iconic film language? 

The Approach

Everything literally revolves around "clocks and clouds" with its constant alternation between the merciless precision of a movement and the cloudless, sometimes naturally chaotic sound eruptions.

The flanking pieces become two poles between which life takes place, symbolized by a girl and a boy. Their stories don't matter. They're just present. Their facial expression are empty, absent, indifferent. Technically, it is a single long tracking shot, twice a semicircle.

The visualization generates its dynamics and message from this formal symmetry, which only becomes apparent from the retrospective.


  • Apparitions (1959)
  • Clocks and Clouds (1972)
  • Lux aeterna (1966)
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop

The Poles


The formal rigor in the structure is also reflected in the pictures. Both pieces reflect hidden emotional worlds in different ways. In apparitions, it is fear and nightmares that literally afflict the face. In Lux aeterna a gradual freezing and icing occurs as the oppressive view of a child's head trapped under a layer of ice. It also contains a cross-reference to Benjamin Britten's "Turn of the Screw“.

© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop

The Focal Point


The piece begins with individual sounds that quickly double and condense. The image motif of cell division is derived from this dynamic. A planned but chaotic process is a symbol for the formation of structure, shaping the will to live. Big things can come out of small things.

Calligraphy of Chaos
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop
© Nick & Clemens Prokop

The Transition

The Rite of Spring

The pictures for "Lux aeterna" do not end with the music, but lead to the last piece in the concert program: Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring". To the famous bassoon solo, a green line winds across the canvas, perhaps a stylized sprout, and then freezes. This closes the motif arch to "Clocks and Clouds".

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