Lukas Ligeti is a composer, percussionist, electronics performer, and assistant professor at UC Irvine. The recipient of the 2010 CalArts Alpert Award in Music, he has been commissioned by Bang On A Can, Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, American Composers Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, and others, and has performed with John Zorn, Gary Lucas, Marilyn Crispell, etc., as well as giving solo concerts on 4 continents. His intercultural work has led him to 15 African countries; he co-founded the groups Beta Foly and Burkina Electric and has worked with traditional musicians in Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, etc. He lives in Irvine and Johannesburg.


Drawing upon influences including Downtown New York experimentalism, contemporary classical music, jazz, and traditional music from Africa, Lukas Ligeti has developed a unique voice as a composer and improviser.

Lukas studied composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria, his city of birth. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford University and subsequently lived in New York City from 1998 until 2015, when he became Assistant Professor in Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology, an innovative PhD program at the University of California, Irvine. He has taught at the University of Ghana, lecturing in collaboration with the eminent composer/musicologist J.H. Kwabena Nketia, and is currently completing a PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was previously composer-in-residence. He lives in Irvine and Johannesburg.

Lukas received the CalArts Alpert Award in Music in 2010. He has also been awarded two Composition Fellowships by the New York Foundation for the Arts and two yearlong Austrian State Grants in composition, among other awards. His music is featured on CDs on Tzadik, Cantaloupe, Intuition, Innova, Leo, and other record labels, and he is an endorser of Vic Firth drumsticks.

With performances at major venues and festivals worldwide, his compositions have been commissioned among others by Bang on a Can, Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble Modern, the American Composers Orchestra, MDR Orchestra (Germany), Håkan Hardenberger and Colin Currie, New York University, Subtropics Festival/Historical Museum of South Florida, the Vienna Festwochen, Radio France, Icebreaker (UK), and a consortium featuring marimbists such as Eric Beach (So Percussion) and Ji Hye Jung. His music has also been performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, Tonkünstler Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Liverpool Philharmonic Ensemble 10/10, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Present Music, Ensemble mise-en, Contemporaneous, Ensemble “die reihe”, the Amadinda, Third Coast, and Kroumata Percussion Groups, etc.

Lukas has collaborated with choreographers such as Karole Armitage and Panaibra Gabriel Canda, composed music for the European ARTE TV channel, and created a sound installation for the Goethe Institute on the occasion of the 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil. He has participated in two projects of Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui, and was artist-in-residence at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, where he created a site-specific performance.

As a drummer, he has worked with John Zorn, Marilyn Crispell, Gary Lucas, John Tchicai, Henry Kaiser, Michael Manring, Wadada Leo Smith, DJ Spooky, Elliott Sharp, Raoul Björkenheim, Thollem McDonas, Jon Rose, Benoît Delbecq, members of Sonic Youth and the Grateful Dead, etc., and leads or co-leads several bands such as Hypercolor (with Eyal Maoz and James Ilgenfritz) and Notebook. He has given solo electronic percussion concerts on four continents, performing on the Marimba Lumina, an instrument designed by seminal synthesizer engineer Don Buchla.

A pioneer in experimental intercultural collaboration in Africa for more than 20 years, he co-founded the ensemble Beta Foly in Côte d’Ivoire and today co-leads Burkina Electric, the first electronica band from Burkina Faso. He has also engaged in collaborations and/or led projects in Egypt (with Nubian musicians and musicians of the Cairo Opera Orchestra), Uganda (with that country’s premier music/dance group, the Ndere Troupe), Kenya, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, etc.


Lukas Ligeti is a composer and improvisor (drums and electronics) whose music is a unique combination of contemporary composition, Downtown New York experimentalism, jazz, and electronics, and builds strongly on concepts from various music traditions from around the world, especially from Africa. Often characterized by complex polymetric structures, his music ranges from the through-composed to the free-improvised. He is deeply engaged in the field of “experimental intercultural collaboration”, a phrase he has coined. Born in 1965 in Vienna, Austria, he immigrated to the U.S. and lived mainly in New York City from 1998 until 2015. He is now an Assistant Professor in Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology, a new, innovative PhD program at the University of California, Irvine.

After taking up percussion at the late age of 18, Lukas studied composition (with Erich Urbanner, Kurt Schwertsik, and Heinrich Gattermeyer) and jazz drums (with Fritz Ozmec) at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, obtaining a Diploma (with “unanimous distinction”, 1993) and a M.A. (with highest grade, 1997). From 1994 until 1996, he was a visiting scholar at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University. At various workshops, summer courses, and in other semiformal situations, he also studied with George Crumb, Jonathan Harvey, David Moss, Michel Waisvisz, and John Zorn, among others. He is currently completing a PhD in composition at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa (studying with Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph), a school with which he has enjoyed a close relationship ever since serving as composer-in-residence in 2006. He has also taught composition at the University of Ghana, lecturing jointly with the eminent composer-ethnomusicologist J. H. Kwabena Nketia.

Among his awards is, most notably, the CalArts Alpert Award in Music (2010); he is a two-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Composition Fellowship (2002, 2008) and of the Austrian State Grant for Composition (1991, 1996), and was awarded the “Förderungspreis” of the City of Vienna in 1990. In 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017, he was cited as a “Rising Star” percussionist in the Critics’ Poll of the leading jazz magazine DownBeat; he was also the winner of the NYC-based “UnCaged Toy Piano” composition competition in 2013. Residencies have included Villa Montalvo (Saratoga, CA) and the Emily Harvey Foundation (Venice, Italy).

In 2015, Lukas was artist-in-residence at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland, where he composed an extensive “performed sound installation” featuring local musicians and material recorded on-site. His 50th birthday was celebrated in NYC with a two-day festival of his classical compositions at the Austrian Cultural Forum and Roulette as well as a week of his improvised music at The Stone. In 2016/17, the Hungarian Institute in NYC presented his music in portrait concerts in New York and Los Angeles in conjunction with an exhibition of works by László Moholy-Nagy at the Guggenheim Museum and LACMA. At the Artists Space Gallery in NYC, he gave a solo performance accompanying the seminal silent film “Phantom Limb” by Karin Schneider and Nicolas Guagnini. Commissioned by Mitteldeutsches Radio (Germany), he composed a suite of music for the joint forces of his band Burkina Electric and the MDR Symphony Orchestra, which premiered in Leipzig. A piece honoring György Kurtág and composed for the Italian trio Costellazione K premiered at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, and a solo drumset work commissioned by Ian Ding premiered at Constellation in Chicago. His newest work was commissioned by Eighth Blackbird for the joint forces of that ensemble and the Amadinda Percussion Group, and premiered in October 2017 in Budapest. In early 2018, he will compose a clarinet quartet jointly commissioned by concert:nova (Cincinnati), Civitas (Chicago), and Soli (San Antonio).

Lukas has been commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra (a concerto featuring himself as improvising soloist on electronic marimba, premiered at Carnegie Hall), Bang On A Can (People’s Commissioning Fund), Kronos Quartet, Ensemble Modern, the Vienna Festwochen, the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, Austrian Radio, Ensemble “die reihe” (Vienna), New York University/Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Subtropics Festival (Miami), Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Icebreaker (UK), Colin Currie and Håkan Hardenberger/Borletti Buitoni Trust, Radio France, Performa, the Austrian Cultural Forum NYC, the Balassi Institute (Hungarian Cultural Institute NYC), Kathleen Supové, Phyllis Chen, Jennifer Hymer, Ben Reimer and David Cossin, Ian Ding, a consortium of 16 American marimba soloists, and many others; his music has also been performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, Contemporaneous, Ensemble mise-en, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble 10/10 (Liverpool Philharmonic), the London Composers Ensemble, Vienna Saxophone Quartet, the Koehne and Flux String Quartets, the Amadinda, Kroumata, Synergy, Third Coast, and So Percussion Groups, violinist Darragh Morgan, and pianists Jay Gottlieb, Mary Dullea, Mark Gasser, and Imri Talgam, among others. He has worked with choreographers (Karole Armitage, Susan Quinn, Panaibra Gabriel Canda, and Bettina Essaka), composed film scores (commissioned by the European TV channel ARTE), and created music for installations (such as a surround sound piece on the occasion of the 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil, commissioned by the Goethe Institute Rio de Janeiro). Festivals where his music has been heard include the Festival d’Automne à Paris, Bartók Festival (Szombathely, Hungary), Bath Festival (UK), Meltdown Festival (London), Hannover Pro Musica (Germany), Other Minds Festival (San Francisco), BAM Next Wave Festival, and countless others worldwide, and he has been a featured composer at the Festival of New American Music (California State University Sacramento) and the New Music Festival of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, among others.

As a drummer, he co-leads several bands including Burkina Electric, the first electronica group from Burkina Faso in West Africa, and the innovative jazz trio Hypercolor (with Eyal Maoz and James Ilgenfritz). He has performed at the Montréal, Rochester, Angel City (Los Angeles), Mulhouse, Vicenza, and Tampere Jazz Festivals, the Opéra de Monte Carlo, High Zero (Baltimore), Angelica Festival (Italy), Wien Modern (Austria), Luminato Festival (Toronto), World Music Meeting (Netherlands), Sauti za Busara (Zanzibar), the Sharjah Biennial (UAE), Salihara Festival (Indonesia), etc., and has worked with musicians such as John Zorn, Henry Kaiser, Raoul Björkenheim, Elliott Sharp, Gary Lucas, Frisk Frugt, Tarek Atoui, “Pyrolator” Kurt Dahlke, Marilyn Crispell, John Tchicai, Fred Frith, Jon Rose, Paul Dutton, Wadada Leo Smith, Borah Bergman, Robert Dick, Miya Masaoka, George Lewis, Thollem McDonas, Benoît Delbecq, Gianni Gebbia, Susie Ibarra, Stefan Poetzsch, Frank Gratkowski, Vincent Chancey, Mari Kimura, Michael Manring, Aly Keïta, Fritz Novotny, Guillermo Gregorio, Jonas Hellborg, Wu Fei, Khyam Allami, Jim O’Rourke, Rupert Huber, Eugene Chadbourne, DJ Spooky, DJ Khan, members of Sonic Youth and the Grateful Dead, and many others. He performs frequently on the marimba lumina, an electronic marimba designed by engineer Don Buchla, and has given solo concerts of his music for this instrument on four continents including at the London Jazz Festival, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Visiones Sonoras (Mexico), Kala Ghoda Festival and Carnival of e-Creativity (India), Kraak Festival (Belgium), Winter Nights (Israel), Irtijal Festival (Lebanon), Unyazi Electronic Music Festival (South Africa), etc.

He has led or co-led experimental intercultural projects since 1994, when he was commissioned by the Goethe Institute to conduct a workshop in Côte d’Ivoire; this led to founding an ensemble, Beta Foly, based in Abidjan, and much touring throughout the late 1990s. His current group Burkina Electric, based in Burkina Faso, is a long-term consequence of this work. Other commissioners of his intercultural work have included various African NGOs and the Austrian Development Cooperation. As part of the American Composers Forum’s Continental Harmony project, he composed an extended piece for musicians from various Caribbean islands residing in Miami, Florida. He collaborated with Nubian musicians in Egypt, performing at the Cairo Opera; in Uganda, he created music in collaboration with members of that country’s foremost music and dance group, the Ndere Troupe. In Zimbabwe, he worked with musicians of the Batonga tribe; in Lesotho, he collaborated with some of the few remaining virtuosos of the lesiba, an unusual and nearly-extinct instrument, while in Kenya he was a guest artist in the Goethe Institute’s Ten Cities project, a exchange of ideas about electronic dance music.

In 2014, Lukas founded Pidgin Culture, an organization dedicated to experimental intercultural collaboration. Through this entity, Lukas plans to conceptualize, curate, and facilitate innovative intercultural collaborations in music and other disciplines, as well as educational programs in the U.S. and internationally.

Lukas Ligeti’s music has been released to high acclaim on three CDs on the Tzadik label as well several more on the Cantaloupe, Intuition, Leo, TUM, Wallace, and Innova labels, among others. He has curated various festivals and concerts including “Ohren auf Europa” (2007), a festival consisting of four concerts of contemporary music at the Tonhalle in Düsseldorf, Germany; on that occasion, he was commissioned by the Tonhalle to compose a piece for the Notabu Ensemble, a Düsseldorf chamber orchestra. He has also curated a month of concerts at The Stone in NYC (2009), and the CD compilation “The Politics of Sound Art” for Leonardo Music Journal (MIT Press, 2015). He is a member of the curatorial team of the new Brooklyn concert venue National Sawdust, and is on the board of NewMusicSA, South Africa’s ISCM chapter. Articles by Lukas Ligeti on various aspects of his music have been published in academic periodicals such as Leonardo Music Journal and Postamble (University of Cape Town) and in the book Arcana II, edited by John Zorn.

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