A DFT-Based Approach to Metricity in Ligeti's 'L'escalier du Diable'

David Falterman, Eastman School of Music

In this paper, I use the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) to examine the extent to which we can describe Ligeti's thirteenth piano etude as metrically organized. The main advantage of a DFTbased approach is that it allows the analyst to examine how metrically organized a piece is based on its own established groove, even ones which are asymmetrical or non-isochronous, rather than preestablished metrical archetypes. Comparing the DFTs of each metric unit to the DFT of the groove established uniquely by the work itself makes it possible to ascertain the degree to which each unit communicates the same meter as the groove, which I call a unit's metricity. My analysis shows that after establishing an asymmetrical 36-pulse metric groove in the first nine measures, the metricity of "L'escalier" declines until it reaches a low point in the middle section, then reasserts itself with the return of the A section.