Atmosphères is a piece for full orchestra, composed by György Ligeti in 1961. It is noted for eschewing conventional melody and metre in favor of dense sound textures. After Apparitions, it was the second piece Ligeti wrote to exploit what he called a "micropolyphonic" texture. It gained further exposure after being used in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Atmosphères was commissioned in 1961 by the Southwest German Radio and had its world premiere on 22 October 1961 by Hans Rosbaud conducting the SWF Symphony Orchestra at the Donaueschingen Festival. The SWF recorded this performance for broadcast, and this recording has been released commercially on CD several times. Paul Griffiths writes that this performance made Ligeti a "talking point". Ligeti says that after this and his earlier piece Apparitions, he "became famous".
Leonard Bernstein conducted the New York premiere in 1964, though the American premiere had occurred earlier at a San Fernando Valley State College concert organized by Cuban composer Aurelio de la Vega. Bernstein later conducted it with the New York Philharmonic and recorded it with them at the Manhattan Center in New York on 6 January 1964 for Columbia Masterworks, reissued in 1968 on Columbia Records, and in 1999 on a Sony Classical CD.
Atmosphères is scored for 4 flutes (4th also piccolo), 4 oboes, 4 clarinets (4th also E♭ clarinet), 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, piano (played by 2 percussionists), and strings (14 first violins, 14 second violins, 10 violas, 10 cellos, 8 double basses).
Atmosphères eschews conventional melody, harmony, and rhythm, in favor of "sound masses" with sliding and merging orchestral clusters that suggest timbre is the central focus of the piece. It exemplifies Ligeti's notion of "static, self-contained music without either development or traditional rhythmic configurations." Harold Kaufman has written that Ligeti's music collapses foreground and background elements of musical structure into a "magma of evolving sound".
The piece heavily utilizes tone clusters of notes (meaning several consecutive notes on a scale are played) in which generally no two instruments ever play the same note. The popular music edition All Music Guide describes the piece as having clusters of notes from which sections fall out, leaving "masses of natural notes". The piece features "shimmering rapid vibrato, multiple high glissandi, waves of string harmonics in different meters, [and] notes moving along the same path but at different speeds".
Program notes provided by Ensemble Sospeso describe Atmosphères as the "first major alternative to European serialism: static masses of orchestral sound that give the simultaneous sense of immobility and motion." On the other hand, a close investigation of Ligeti's relationship to the Darmstadt avant-garde concludes that Atmosphères should "be seen as part of an evolution within the serial tradition and a response to problems articulated within it, rather than as a break from that tradition altogether". The sound masses in Atmosphères are seen particularly to conform to the serial precepts of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s "statistical form", as exemplified in Gesang der Jünglinge (1955–56) and Gruppen (1955–57).
Sense of timelessness
The piece evokes a sense of timelessness in which the listener is lost in a web of texture and tonality. Harald Kaufmann has described it as "acoustically standing still", a stationary sound which has movement within it that is similar to breathing. The classical music edition of All Music Guide says the music "scarcely hints at forward movement. Rather the listener hears an all but motionless series of sound evolutions unfolding at various moments". According to Peter Laki:
One of the central ideas in Atmosphères, the realization of complete stasis through extensive inner motion, germinated during Ligeti’s Hungarian years. The composer later noted that he had been preceded in the writing of “static” music by Wagner (Prelude to Das Rheingold and the Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin), Bartók (opening of The Wooden Prince), and Schoenberg (“Farben,” the third in Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16). But neither Bartók nor Wagner or Schoenberg ever achieved stasis through its exact opposite, as Ligeti did in Atmosphères. Large portions of the piece consist of extremely dense counterpoint, with up to 56 voices (each string instrument has his or her own individual part to play). But the imitative entrances are so close to one another that it is impossible to perceive them separately, with apparent immobility as the result.
Larry Sitsky has written that in Ligeti's music "the density of the successive structures is such that the conventional parameters through which musical form (melody, rhythm, harmony) is traditionally perceived appear to have been evacuated. Consequently, these evolving sound structures seem stationary, as if detached from the passage of time. To paraphrase the composer himself, the micropolyphonic textures tend to hang like a mighty oriental tapestry, suspended outside time." Likewise, Thomas May states that in his breakthrough orchestral pieces Apparitions and Atmosphères Ligeti's "new musical point of view... looked beyond the traditional basic elements of melody, harmony, and rhythm, immobilizing these in favor of the mass and texture of sound itself. Gigantic clusters of chords hover in a stasis that negates familiar signposts of harmony and pulse. This dense sound-fog became known as the signature Ligeti style".
Ligeti's musical theory
In an essay titled "Metamorphoses of Musical Form", Ligeti developed the concept of musical "permeability" according to which a musical structure is "permeable" if it allows a free choice of intervals and "impermeable" if not. Ligeti here considers Palestrina’s music as having "perhaps the lowest degree of permeability" because its handling of consonance and dissonance was the most sensitively defined of all historical styles. Ligeti saw permeability and impermeability of groups, structures, and textures in serial music as substitutes for the form-shaping function of melodic lines, motifs, and harmonies in older styles. Some textures could be layered and juxtaposed; some musical structures will mix with others seamlessly, while other structures will stand out.
Atmospheres exemplifies much of Ligeti's theory suspending harmony in favor of sustained sounds. The piece opens with a "fully chromatic cluster covering more than five octaves, held by strings and soft woodwinds", out of which various groups of instruments drop out successively, followed by various "strands of sonic fabric" reenter the composition, first white notes then black notes along with shifts in timbre and duration of notes which drive the piece forward. Consequently, Griffiths writes, "the whole piece is a study in what Ligeti's essay had called the 'permeability' of musical structures, how some will mix with a great many others, some stand always apart; it is also a demonstration of what can be achieved when all the usual regulators, being so finely tuned at the time by other composers, are left open."
Ligeti noted that Atmosphères had a polyphonic structure, but one organized by his own rules. The polyphonic structure, he stated, cannot be heard by the listener, but remains "underwater", hidden from the listener. Ligeti coined the term "micropolyphony" to describe this texture.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick chose this piece and others by Ligeti for the scenes in deep space and those with the monolith in his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey because its quality of mystery was a good sonic realization of his vision. This resulted in the exposure of Ligeti's music to a much wider audience. The recording of Atmosphères used in the soundtrack to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was with the South West German Radio Orchestra conducted by Ernest Bour. Kubrick would go on to employ other Ligeti compositions in his films The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut.
According to program notes published by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Ligeti was not pleased that his music occurred in a film soundtrack shared by composers Johann and Richard Strauss. Nevertheless, the piece has been performed in concert several times with other works featured in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, such as a 2010 performance by the Nashville Symphony which performed it along with the full-length version of Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Notable recent performances
A 2006 performance of Atmosphères by the London Philharmonic was noted for its direct transition without interruption into Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which Sunday Times music critic Hugh Canning described as a "stroke of programming genius", continuing:
Jurowski preceded Stravinsky's Rite with Ligeti's static cloudscape, Atmosphères. Instead of presenting these seminal modernist works as separate items, Jurowski segued seamlessly from the nothingness of the Ligeti's close into the opening bassoon solo of the Stravinsky. The contrast between these two pieces—the Ligeti a study in motionlessness, the Stravinsky a convulsive eruption of movement—was only enhanced by Jurowski's device, making one listen with refreshed ears.
Edward Seckerson of UK's The Independent also described this segue as a "startling coup" while Richard Morrison of the daily edition of The Times noted that "Jurowski even kept a beat going, to fool us ... so that Stravinsky’s bassoon emerged out of Ligeti’s wispy, endlessly drifting clouds of clusters."
Another recently acclaimed performance was that by Austria's Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester (Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra) performing in England, a performance described as "a focused reading" in which the conductor "Nott duly coerced a delicacy from each section of the orchestra—particularly the centrifugal strings—that gave a wonderful smoothness to the performance".
Belgium born classical guitarist Tom Pauwels wrote a reduced arrangement of Atmosphères for a small chamber orchestra of eight instruments, using a graphic score for clarinet, cello, accordion, guitar and lap top (sine tones) based on the Ligeti original. It has been performed by Plus-minus ensemble, and posted by the ensemble as a video.
In chronological order of recording, many of which have been released in different couplings.
- SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden, conducted by Hans Rosbaud [recording of the world premiere in Donaueschingen on 22 October 1961]
- 1990. 40 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage 1950–1990. Col Legno AU-031800 CD. 4-CD set + 1 booklet. Munich: Col Legno Musikproduction; Staufen im Breisgau: Aurophon. (With music by Hartmann, Boulez, Nono, Xenakis, Penderecki, Stockhausen, Stravinsky, Zimmermann, Holliger, Lachenmann, Raseghi, Messiaen, Carter, Rihm, and Kalitzke.)
- 1996. 75 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage 1921–1996: CD 9. Col Legno WWE 12CD 31899 (12-CD set); Col Legno WWE 1CD 31908 (single CD number). Munich: Col Legno Musikproduction; Staufen im Breisgau: Aurophon.
- 2000. Musiktage Donaueschingen: Uraufführungen 1955–1989. Musik in Deutschland 1950–2000; Konzertmusik; Musik für Orchester; Sinfonische Musik; Porträt. RCA Red Seal/BMG Ariola 74321 73510 2. 1 CD, 12 cm. + booklet. [Munich]: BMG Ariola Classics. (With music by Xenakis, Penderecki, Messiaen, Holliger, Lachenmann, and Rihm.)
- New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein [recorded in New York City at the Manhattan Center 6 January 1964]
- 1965. Leonard Bernstein Conducts Music of Our Time. Columbia Masterworks MS 6733 (stereo). LP recording, 1 sound disc, 331⁄3 rpm, 12 in. New York: Columbia Records. (With music by Morton Feldman, Larry Austin, and four improvisations by the New York Philharmonic. Program notes by Edward Downes on the jacket.)
- 1968. Music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Suite from Aniara. Columbia masterworks MS 7176 (stereo). LP recording, 1 sound disc, 331⁄3 rpm, 12 in. New York: Columbia Records.
- 1999. Music of Our Time. Sony Classical SMK 61845. 1-CD. New York: Sony Classical. (With music by Morton Feldman, Edison Denisov, Gunther Schuller, Olivier Messiaen, and four improvisations by the New York Philharmonic. Program notes by Tim Page in English with German and French translations inserted in container.)
- Sinfonie-orchester des Südwestfunks, Baden-Baden, cond. Ernest Bour [recorded April 1966]
- . György Ligeti: Atmospheres (1961) für grosses Orchester und Schlagzeug. Continuum für Cembalo solo. Wergo Taschen-Diskothek Neuer Musik. Wergo WER 305. LP recording, 2 sides, 7 inch, 331⁄3 rpm, stereo. Baden-Baden: Wergo Schallplattenverlag, GmbH.
- 1966. György Ligeti: Aventures (1962), Nouvelles aventures (1966): für 3 Sänger und 7 Instrumentalisten, Atmosphères, Volumina für Orgel. Studio-Reihe neuer Musik. Wergo WER 60 022. LP recording, 1 disc, 331⁄3 rpm. stereo, 12 in. Baden-Baden: Wergo Schallplattenverlag, GmbH.
- 1968. 2001, A Space Odyssey: Music from the Motion Picture Sound Track. LP recording, 1 sound disc, 331⁄3 rpm, stereo, 12 in. MGM 1SE 13 ST. [New York]: MGM.
- 1970. György Ligeti: Aventures (1962); Nouvelles aventures (1962–65); Atmosphères; Volumina (1961–62, 1st version). Heliodor. (Program notes by the composer and others on container and on leaf inserted in container.)
- 1988. György Ligeti: Kammerkonzert für 13 Instrumentalisten; Ramifications für Streichorchester; Ramifications für 12 Solostreicher; Lux aeterna; Atmosphères. Wergo WER 60162-50. Compact disc, 1 sound disc, 43⁄4 in. Mainz: Wergo. (Program notes by the composer and others in German with English and French translations inserted in container.)
- [1990s]. 2001: A Space Odyssey—Original Soundtrack. Polydor 831 068-2. Compact disc, 1 sound disc: digital, stereo., 43⁄4 in. Hamburg: Polydor.
- 1996. 2001: A Space Odyssey—Original Soundtrack. Rhino Records 72562. Compact Disc. 1 sound disc, stereo, 43⁄4 in.
- 2000. Musik in Deutschland 1950–2000: Konzertmusik, Musik für Orchester, Sinfonische Musik, Porträt. BMG Classics RCA Red Seal 74321 73508 2; 74321 73509 2; 74321 73510 2; 74321 73511 2; 74321 73512 2; 74321 73513 2; 74321 73656 2. Compact disc 6 sound discs, stereo, 43⁄4 in. [Germany]: BMG Ariola Classics: Deutscher Musikrat; [N.p.]: RCA Red Seal.
- Yomiuri Nihon Kokyo Gakudan, cond. Seiji Ozawa [programme recorded live at Tokyo's Nissei Theatre on May 1, 2 and 4, 1966]
- 1967. Orchestra Space at Nissei Theatre, 1966, vol. 2. Victor SJV 1513. 1 LP sound disc : analog, 331⁄3 rpm, stereo. ; 12 in. [Japan]: Victor.
- 1978. Orchestral Space. Varese Sarabande VX-81060. LP recording, 1 disc, 331⁄3 rpm, stereo, 12 in. [Los Angeles]: Varese Sarabande. Reissued in 1986 on CD, Varèse Sarabande VCD 47253.
- Wiener Philharmoniker, cond. Claudio Abbado [recorded live, Vienna, Musikverein, Grosser Saal, Oct. 1988]
- 1990. Wien Modern. Deutsche Grammophon 429 260–2. 1 CD sound disc, digital, stereo, 43⁄4 in. Hamburg: Deutsche Grammophon.
- 2006. György Ligeti: Clear or Cloudy. Deutsche Grammophon 00289 477 6443–00289 477 6447. Compact disc 4 sound discs, digital, stereo, 43⁄4 in. Hamburg: Deutsche Grammophon.
- Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, cond. John Mauceri [recorded in Hollywood, CA: July 11, September 20 & 22, 1994]
- 1995. Journey to the Stars: A Sci-Fi Fantasy Adventure. Philips 446 403–2. [N.p]: Philips; New York: PolyGram Classics. (With music by Karl-Birger Blomdahl, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Louis and Bebe Barron, Franz Waxman, John Corigliano, Richard Strauss, Alex North, John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Arthur Bliss.)
- City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, cond. Simon Rattle [recorded 1996]
- 2005. Leaving Home – Music In The 20th Century: A Conducted Tour by Sir Simon Rattle and The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, vol. 2: Rhythm. Arthaus Musik 102035. DVD video recording, 43⁄4 in., region 0 (worldwide). Also available as part of a 7-DVD set, Arthaus Musik 102 073. Leipzig: Arthaus Musik GmbH. (Excerpts from Atmosphères, as well as from music by Stravinsky, Varèse, Reich, Boulez, Messiaen, Mahler, and Nancarrow.)
- Philharmonisches Orchester Heidelberg, cond. Thomas Kalb [recorded late 1990s].
- 1999. Nacht der Planeten, vol. 1. Hoepfner Classics. Antes Edition BM-CD 31.9131. Compact disc, 1 sound disc, digital, stereo, 43⁄4 in. Bühl: Bella Musica Edition. (With music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Alexander Raskatov.)
- Berliner Philharmoniker, cond. Jonathan Nott [recorded Berlin, Philharmonie, 13–16 Dec 2001]
- 2002. The Ligeti Project II. (With: Ligeti, Lontano, San Francisco Polyphony, Apparitions, and Concert românesc.). Teldec Classics 8573-88261-2. Compact disc recording. Hamburg: Teldec Classics
- 2008. Reissued as disc 2 of The Ligeti Project: Atmosphères, Chamber Concerto, Etc. 5-CDs. Teldec 510998; Warner Classics 2564 69673-5. Hamburg: Teldec Classics.; [United Kingdom]: Warner Classics.
- Donaueschinger Musiktage: Program for 1961 (Accessed 17 November 2010); Classical Composers Database: Ligeti (Accessed 17 November 2010).
- Paul Griffiths. Modern Music and After. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). p. 257. ISBN 978-0-19-816511-8.
- Istvan Szigeti (July 29, 1983). "A Budapest Interview with Gyorgy Ligeti". First published in New Hungarian Quarterly. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- See Discography; Theodore Libbey. The NPR Listener's Encyclopedia of Classical Music. New York: Workman Publishing, 2006). p. 423. ISBN 978-0-7611-3642-2. Recording Catalog number is SMK 61845
- The score is published by Universal Edition. Ligeti's homepage also gives the instrunentation.
- Iverson 2009, vii; Drott 2000, Abstract. Ithaca.edu. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
- Richard Steinitz, "Ligeti: Atmosphères", Philarmonia Orchestra website (Accessed 16 November 2010).
- Larry Sitsky. Music of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde: A Biocritical Sourcebook. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-313-29689-5.
- Vladimir Bogdanov; Chris Woodstra; Stephen Thomas Erlewine (2001). All Music Guide: The Definitive Guide to Popular Music (4th ed.). (San Francisco: Backbeat Books/All Media Guide). p. 1104. ISBN 978-0-87930-627-4.
- Joshua Cody, "The Ensemble Sospeso – Gyorgy Ligeti". Sospeso.com (1923-05-28). Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
- Wilson 2004, 11.
- Iverson 2009, 59–62.
- "Atmospheres". Junge Philharmonie Ostwürttemberg:. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
- Liner notes to Deutsche Grammophon's 1988 CD recording György Ligeti: Kammerkonzert; Ramifications; Lux aeterna; Atmosphères Performers: Ensemble Die Reihe, Stuttgart Schola Cantorum Orchestras: SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra, Middle German Radio Orchestra, Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra; conductors: Friedrich Cerha, Ernest Bour, Antonio Janigro, Clytus Gottwald
- Chris Woodstra; Gerald Brennan; Allen Schrott. All Music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music. (San Francisco: Backbeat Books; Berkeley: Publishers Group West, 2005). p. 746. ISBN 978-0-87930-865-0.
- Peter Laki "György Ligeti (1923–2006): Atmosphères", The Cleveland Orchestra – Program Notes. Carnegiehall.org (2009-02-04). Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
- Larry Sitsky. Music of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde: A Biocritical Sourcebook. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002). p. 256. ISBN 978-0-313-29689-5.
- "San Francisco Symphony – Program Notes & Articles". Sfsymphony.org. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
- Ligeti 1960.
- Ligeti 1960, 8.
- Ligeti 1960, 14.
- Charles Lockwood, "Musical Pluralism in the 1960s: Luciano Berio and György Ligeti" New York University in Prague website (posted 29 April 2003; Accessed 17 November 2010). Similar observations may be found in the liner notes to the CD album Wien Modern, Deutsche Grammophon 429 260–2. 1 CD sound disc, digital, stereo, 43⁄4 in. Hamburg: Deutsche Grammophon. 1990.
- Griffiths 1990.
- Quoted in Byron Almén and Edward Pearsall. Approaches to Meaning in Music. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006). p. 54. ISBN 978-0-253-34792-3.
- Mark Schulze Steinen, (2010-03-05) Berliner Philharmoniker: Between the Concert Hall, the Opera Stage and the Movie Screen. Berliner-philharmoniker.de. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
- "2001: A Space Odyssey—Original Soundtrack. Rhino Records 72562 (Compact Disc, 1996).". ArkivMusic. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- James M. Keller. "Program Notes- Ligeti: Lontano for Large Orchestra". San Francisco Symphony. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- "Nashville Symphony Summer 2010 Broadcasts". Nashville Public Radio. 6 September 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- Hugh Canning, "La Calisto – the Sunday Times review", The Sunday Times (5 October 2008).
- Edward Seckerson, "LPO / Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London", The Independent (Tuesday, 30 September 2008; Accessed 18 November 2010).
- Richard Morrison (September 26, 2008). "LPO/Jurowski at Festival Hall". The Times (UK). Retrieved November 18, 2010.
- Stephen Graham (6 September 2009). "The Mahler Jugendorchester and The Nash Ensemble at the Proms 2009". MusicalCriticism.com. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- "Tom Pauwels, Guitar and Electric guitar". Internationales Misikinstitut Darmstadt. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
- "plus-minus » Watch". Plusminusensemble.com. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
- "Ligeti – (after) Atmospheres". YouTube. 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
- Drott, Eric. 2000. "Stasis and Semblance in Gyorgy Ligeti's Atmosphères". Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Music Theory Society of New York State, Itaca, NY.
- Griffiths, Paul. 1990. "'Wien Modern': Works by Nono, Ligeti, Boulez, Rihm". CD booklet notes for Wien Modern. Wiener Philharmoniker; Wiener Jeunesse-Chor (Günther Theuring, chorus master); Claudio Abbado, cond. Deutsche Grammophon 429 260–2. 1 CD sound disc, digital, stereo, 43⁄4 in. Hamburg: Deutsche Grammophon.
- Iverson, Jennifer Joy. 2009. "Historical Memory and György Ligeti's Sound-Mass Music 1958–1968". Ph.D. thesis. Austin: University of Texas, Butler School of Music.
- Ligeti, György. 1960. ""Wandlungen der musikalischen Form". Die Reihe 7 ("Form—Raum"): 5–17; English edition (1964), as "Metamorphoses of Musical Form", translated by Cornelius Cardew. Die Reihe 7 ("Form—Space"): 5–19.
- Wilson, Charles. 2004. "György Ligeti and the Rhetoric of Autonomy". Twentieth-Century Music 1, no. 1:5–28. doi:10.1017/S1478572204000040
- Bauer, Amy. 2001. "'Composing the Sound Itself': Secondary Parameters and Structure in the Music of Ligeti". Indiana Theory Review 22, no. 1 (Spring): 37–64.
- Bauer, Amy. 2004. "'Tone-color, Movement, Changing Harmonic Planes': Cognition, Constraints and Conceptual Blends in Modernist Music". In The Pleasure of Modernist Music: Listening, Meaning, Intention, Ideology, edited by Arved Ashby, 121–52. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. ISBN 1-58046-143-3.
- Bayer, Francis. 1989. "Atmosphères de György Ligeti: Éléments pour une analyse". Analyse Musicale, no. 15 (April): 18–24.
- Beurmann, A. E., and A. Schneider. 1991. "Struktur, Klang, Dynamik: Akustische Untersuchungen an Ligetis Atmosphères". Hamburger Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft 11:311–34.
- Burde, Wolfgang. 1993. György Ligeti: Eine Monographie. Zürich: Atlantis-Musikbuch-Verlag.
- Engel, Jens Markus. 2005. "Klangkomposition als postserielle Strategie: György Ligetis Mikropolyphonie und Helmut Lachenmanns musique concrète instrumentale". Masters thesis. University of Lüneburg.
- Floros, Constantin. 1996. György Ligeti. Jenseits von Avantgarde und Postmoderne. Österreichische Musikzeitedition 26. Vienna: Lafite.
- Floros, Constantin. 1997. "Der irisierende Klang: Anmerkungen zu Ligetis Atmosphères". In 'Lass singen, Gesell, lass rauschen...': Zur Ästhetik und Anästhetik in der Musik, edited by Otto Kolleritsch, 182–193. Studien zur Wertungsforschung, no. 32. Vienna: Universal Edition. ISBN 3-7024-0220-9.
- Griffiths, Paul. 1997. György Ligeti, second edition. The Contemporary Composers. London: Robson Books.
- Griffiths, Paul. 2001. "Ligeti, György (Sándor)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Kaufmann, Harald. 1969. "Strukturen im Strukturlosen: Über György Ligetis "Atmosphères"". In Spurlinien: analytische Aufsätze über Sprache und Musik, 107–17. Vienna: E. Lafite.
- Lobanova, Marina. 2002. György Ligeti: Style, Ideas, Poetics. Berlin: Kuhn.
- Nordwall, Ove. 1971. György Ligeti: eine Monographie. Mainz: Schott.
- Restagno, Enzo. 1985. Ligeti. Musica contemporanea 1; Biblioteca di cultura musicale: Autori e opere. Turin: Edizioni di Torino/Musica. ISBN 88-7063-036-6.
- Richter, Christoph. 2004. Religiöse Erfahrungen mit Musik: Johann Sebastian Bach: Christ lag in Todesbanden, Kantate zum Ostersonntag, György Ligeti: Atmosphères, Arvo Pärt: Fratres. Ein musikpädogogisches Projekt für den Musikunterricht, für den Religionsunterricht und für die kirchenmusikalische Arbeit. Altenmedingen: Junker. ISBN 3-937628-02-9.
- Salmenhaara, Erkki. 1969. Das musikalische Material und seine Behandlung in den Werken "Apparitions", "Atmosphères", "Aventures" und "Requiem" von György Ligeti. Forschungsbeiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 19. Regensburg: Bosse-Verlag.
- Schneider, Albrecht, and Andreas E. Beurmann. 1991. "Struktur, Klang, Dynamik: Akustische Untersuchungen an Ligetis Atmosphères". Hamburger Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft 11:311–34.
- Schneider, Sigrun. 1975. "Zwischen Statik und Dynamik: Zur formalen Analyse von Ligetis Atmosphères". Musik & Bildung: Praxis Musikerziehung 7, no. 10:506–10.
- Steinitz, Richard. 2003. György Ligeti: Music of the Imagination. London: Faber and Faber ISBN 0-571-17631-3; Boston: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-551-8 (cloth).
- Suplicki, Markus. 1995. "György Ligeti, Atmosphères: Eine unkausale Form?". Musiktheorie 10, no. 3:235–47.
- Toop, Richard. 1999. György Ligeti. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 0-7148-3795-4.
- Vogt, Hans. 1982. Neue Musik seit 1945. Stuttgart: Reclam.
- Wienke, Gerhard. 1990. "György Ligeti: Atmosphères". In 111 Schlüsselwerke der Musik: von der Mehrstimmigkeit zum emanzipierten Geräusch, 182–83. Bonn: Bouvier-Verlag.
- Hufner, Martin. 1999. "György Ligeti: Atmosphères für großes Orchester: Sensationen in der Luft". kritische musik.de (Accessed 21 February 2010)
- Video including portions of Atmosphères played backwards.