Olivier Messiaen

(unattributed newspaper clipping)


“The postwar avant-garde composers who studied with Messiaen—Boulez, Stockhausen, Xenakis—wanted to eradicate all traces of the old world, but their teacher was not afraid to look back. “

by Alex Ross, from here

“We shall not reject the old rules of harmony and form; let us remember them constantly, whether to observe them, or to augment them, or to add to them some others still older (those of plainchant and Hindu rhythmics) or more recent (those suggested by Debussy and all contemporary music). One point will attract our attention at the outset : the charm of impossibilities. It is a glistening music we seek, giving to the aural sense voluptuously refined pleasures.”

pp.13 ‘The Technique of My Musical Language’ – Olivier Messiaen’ (1944)


[youtube http://youtu.be/GSWatsiBErU]
[youtube http://youtu.be/4Of1u4JBpH8]
[youtube http://youtu.be/9QdgUJss9BU]
[youtube http://youtu.be/xkKrD9knBvU]

‘Afterwards I went to Messiaen, in 1953, or something like that. I went just after Boulez and Stockhausen. Messiaen was inspiring when discussing other people’s music, and he was unbearable when he talked about his own! (Laughs) He kept going on about the birds, and I couldn’t care less about birds, and then it was colours, these chords which were mixtures of colours, and it all seemed so incredibly naïve to me. And the Lord God, Jesus and Mary and all that came up again and again in what he said, and I was completely atheist. Bugged the hell out of me. I didn’t think his music was any good. He had no sense of movement. It was music written in sections which didn’t establish itself over time, or continue an idea. Music made up of little ideas stuck one on top of the other, in the same way as he stuck in the birdsong-there would be a gap somewhere and hey presto! he’d stick in a birdsong from somewhere or other. The concept was to put into music everything he heard and liked. It seemed a little thin to me. But he was an inspiring guy…’

(Luc Ferrari, interviewed by Dan Warburton, 1998)

Eight pieces by Olivier Messiaen
1. ‘La Colombe’ – Alice Adler
2. ‘Oraison’ – Ensemble d’Ondes de Montreal
3. VIII. ‘Regard des hauteurs’. Vif’
4. ‘Joie du sang des étoiles’ – 05 – Turangalîla Symphony
5. ‘La Grive des bois’ – Des canyons aux etoiles
6. ‘Intermede’ – 04 – Quartet for the End of Time
7. ‘Louange a l’Eternite de Jesus’ – 05 – Quartet for the End of Time
8. ‘Danse de la fureur’ – 06 – Quartet for the End of Time

Further resources
A list of Messiaen’s works, maintained by Malcolm Ball – here
The Boston University Messiaen project – here
Julian Anderson’s appreciation of Olivier Messiaen in the Musical Times, September 1992 – here
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