If you can work out the key signature of this piece, you’re officially a musical genius

17 August 2018, 13:41 | Updated: 17 August 2018, 13:44

Make sure your ears are well-peeled – this Ligeti piece has a horribly confusing key signature that might just fry your musical brain.

György Ligeti, brilliant, avant-garde composer though he was, wasn’t a big fan of sticking to the rules.

And when those rules are the musical standards we have lived by and painstakingly learnt in music theory classes over the years, it can be upsetting and confusing to see them broken.

This is the fourth movement (‘Valse’) of Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata – but can you work out what key signature Ligeti has written it in?


You may have noticed that the movement doesn’t seem to use many notes. The entire Musica Ricercata is a set of 11 pieces, defined by an overall structure that confines each movement to certain pitch classes, with each movement having one more pitch class than the last.

The pitches in the ‘Valse’ are A, B flat, F sharp, G and the new pitch class – G sharp, which Ligeti introduces near the middle of the piece, during a very conspicuous three-octave fortissimo.

To hear all 11 pieces, click here.

For more Ligeti, watch the Xenon Quartet play his Six Bagatelles here: