György Ligeti (1923-2006)
Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes
Video from an ARTE (France) broadcast of Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes.

Translation of the french narration:

Poème symphonique was composed by György Ligeti in 1962. We are presenting this work this evening. The concert, which we went to record in Rome, was presented by an orchestra of 100 performers. This rebroadcast is a television premiere. At the end of the concert, we will offer a brief explanation, but first listen and watch. The concert begins in one minute.

[the piece is performed]

Since its world premiere in the Netherlands in 1963, Poème symphonique for 100 metronomes has been very rarely performed in public. The complicated scenographic staging, the detailed preparation by hand, the need for around ten technicians to activate more or less simultaneously the 100 metronomes, makes the demand for performances limited. Thirty-two years after the premiere, the sculptor and installation artist Gilles Lacombe heard a recording of the work. Impressed, he decided to invent a machine able to perform the piece automatically. After six months, he set up this ingenious device. Ever since, Poème symphonique can be performed accurately, at any time, and in public. Please understand that at its world premiere in 1963, the concert was filmed by Dutch television. On that night, after the final tick-tock of the metronome, there was a heavy silence, followed by booing, screaming, and threats. The concert was never broadcast.