OlivierMessiaen the Paris Conservatoire at the age

OlivierMessiaen (1908–1992) was one of the most important composers of the 20th century.He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11. During this period, he was fascinated bybirdsongs, starting to notating them worldwide and later incorporating the transcriptions into hismusic.Catalogue d'oiseaux, in which he employed the technique, is one of his most outstandingworks. His innovative use of colour, his conception of the relationship between time and music,and his use of birdsong are among the features that make Messiaen's music distinctive.1 The Content of Catalogue d'oiseauxThe collection of thirteen pieces for piano Catalogue d'oiseaux was completed in 1958. Messiaenincorporated birdsong into all of his compositions.The thirteen pieces are:First BookI. Le chocard des alpes (The Alpine chough)II. Le loriot (The Eurasian golden oriole)III. Le merle bleu (The Blue rock thrush)Second BookIV. Le traquet stapazin (The Black-eared wheatear)Third BookV.-VI. La chouette hulotte & L'alouette-lulu (The Tawny owl & The Woodlark)Fourth BookVII. Le rousserolle effarvatte part 1 (The Eurasian reed warbler)VII. Le rousserolle effarvatte part 2Fifth BookVIII. L'alouette calandrelle (The Greater short-toed lark)IX. La bouscarle (The Cetti's warbler)Sixth BookX. Le merle de roche part 1 (The Common rock thrush)X. Le merle de roche part 2Seventh BookXI. La buse variable (The Common buzzard)XII. La traquet rieur (The Black wheatear)XIII. Le courlis cendré (The Eurasian curlew)Among the 77 kinds of common birds in France, Messiaen sorted out four types of birdsong asthe prototypes. Messiaen's bird observing is as scientific as it is poetic. Within 27 hours, he hadheard the birds singing for seven times from the morning to the evening while he captured thelight and temperature changing. There are also themes like "cliffs", "water waves" and "shrubs"found in the collection. Messiaen intended to depict the birds flying in nature, rather thanimitating the birdsong.2. Aspects of Compositional TechniqueCatalogue d'oiseaux does not convey a single melody line in a conventional sense. In most cases,notes are rather segregated and fragmented, presenting a prominent style of punctualism.The work achieves its effects through the following mechanisms:1) Duration and rests:A large amount of notes are of momentary duration as to imitate the sound of singingbirds.2) Dynamics:The work features wide dynamic contrast ranging from harsh fff chords to a wispering pppnote.3) Intervalic relationship and timbre:There is an absence of diatonic functional relationship, as each note pertinentlycontributes the overall harmonic context that is intended to further depicting thebirdsongs, via the use of dissonant interval. Timbrally, some birdsong evokes beatingdrums, while others evoke the sound of ringing chimes and bells.4) Rhythmic device:Catalogue d'oiseaux reputedly employs unique rhythm systems. By studying and analysingIndian talas and Greek metre, Messiaen has found the vocabulary of rhythm, in which hediscover varies rhythmic rules and established his own language of rhythm. For instance,"Superposition of Rhythms of Unequal Length", "Angmented or Diminished Rhythms","Nonretrogradable Rhythms" etc.. These rhythmic techniques correlate, juxtapose andsuperinposed upon each other, playing a decisive role in the development of Messiaen'smusical language.3. Musical Context and ImageryIn Catalogue d'oiseaux, the bird song is the incarnation of nature and plays a quintessential role.Messiaen delivered everchanging tone colours to depict the richness of nature. The reflection ofnature was achieved through his musical recreation of his long-term studies of bird songs aroundthe world. The musical content of the work is expressed through the following two aspects:1) The language of music:The uniqueness of Messiaen's music vocabulary comes from the employment of a varietyof sources of sound – birds, Indian music, plainsong, oriental percussion, Poulenc'sharmony and Bartok's noctural music and so on. His music is distinctive and iconic,renowned for his bold combination of sound and lush tone colour. On a single piano,Catalogue d'oiseaux vividly recreated the sounds of birds and forests, transporting itsaudience into a a world of nature and serenity.2) The colour of music:The synesthesia between sound and colour is one the hardest factor of Messiaen 'scomposition to be fully comprehended. So much so that Samuel, who suposedly to knowhim well, has said: "This perception of color from the sound is quite astonishing, and I donot think there are many composers who have ever had this experience …" Messiaen'sspecial perception of color comes from the fact that Messiaen can literally see the colourfrom music and used his synaesthesia as one of the guiduice to compose Catalogued'oiseaux. Obviously, it will be of great help to properly perform Messiaen's work if aplayer possesses his ability to assiociate colour and sound. As for the birds, his took anartistic approach. He had made accurate transciptions of bird songs, but his presentationof them in music was more of a conceptual or impressionistic representation. Here theaudience can hear the solos and choir from the birds, as the composers organizeddifferent sound of birds in a counterpointal way.4. Philosophical and aesthetic statements.Behind Messiaen's creation is the idea of "sincerity, generosity, artistic conscience", the motto ofof "La Jeune France". Messiaen was also heavily influenced by symbolism and his catholicbackground, resulting in that theological connotations run through his works. In addition, thebirds and birdsong is also an important motif of western music.Conclusion:Catalogue d'oiseauxvividly reflects nature through music. It is only possibly done by the artist'sexquisite composition techniques and a long history of observating the birds. The bird songappears repeatedly in Messiean's music, not only as a symbol of nature, but also express amystical gratitude to the God. His musical works express emotions and reflect his uniqueaesthetic taste. There are traces of "love" everywhere in these works. Whether it is the love forGod or the love for nature, the fact that Messiaen composes with emotions is evident.furthermore, the modernism music of Messiean does not point to a relm of eccentricity ordepair, but rather to simplistic beauty that brought comfort into mortal life. For this reason,Messiaen has become one of the most influential composers since the twentieth century.


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