Tuesday, February 08, 2005

"Quatuor pour la fin du Temps" by Olivier Messiaen

We listened to this in Carlos' composition class last semester, and it's one of the pieces that really stuck with me. This is Messiaen's most famous work, and it was written in 1941 in Germany where Olivier Messiaen was a prisoner of war. This piece illustrates these memories in his life, as well as his characteristics of time in his music. For instance, melodies often propagate themselves, and each successive return goes on longer with the same material. In this sense, the music spins out through time. It's pretty cool. The first performance of this piece was actually in the camp, using the instruments which were available, the clarinet, piano, violin, and cello. At first his music seemed very abstract to me. But the more I listened to it I realized that underneath the often difficult surface there are many personal and emotional elements. The piece begins with the sounds of birds and explores one of the most images of the Christian faith, the end of the world as prophesied in the Book of Revelations.

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