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Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater - Lietuvos Muzikos ir Teatro Akademija

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Principles of Music Composing 2017

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The purpose of this work is to demonstrate the blend of the intuitive and rational compositional methods used by Olivier Messiaen. The organ works of Messiaen transcend both the rational and intuitive thought and experience process. He practices a highly developed cogent design of harmonies, melodies and rhythmic structures in his music. Using original modes of limited transposition that dictate harmonies, birdsong as a model for melody and Hindu tâlas rhythmic structures to emulate the rhythmic flow in nature, Messiaen weaves an original fabric of music. In this investigation, the reconciliation of these two compositional techniques in Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur (1935) is a seamless illustration of this balance. The perceived dichotomy of intuition and rationality in musical composition is investigated with the writings of Gaston Bachelard, Elijah Chudnoff and others. Messiaen prefaces each movement in La Nativité du Seigneur with a sacred scriptural quote. Being a believer of Catholic teaching, Messiaen manifests this belief through his music. This doxastic disposition and a brief discussion of the proof of time, regarding instinct versus reason, could conceivably illuminate, in a new way, the genius of Messiaen's compositional manner.


Published version. Principles of Music Composing 2017, Vol. 17 (2017): 61-67. Publisher link. © 2017 Lietuvos Muzikos ir Teatro Akademija (Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater). Used with permission.

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