Rhythmic and Harmonic Analysis of the First and the Last Piece of VingtRegardes Collection by Olivier Messeain
As rational human beings, we always think and look back upon our predecessors and forefathers, how they have lived and what they have accomplished, in order to learn from their experiences and broaden our horizons. There is no doubt that Olivier Messiaen is one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, because of his unique musical approach, language and style. Thus, western modern music is to no small extent indebted to him. The first part of this research deals with Olivier Messiaen’s life and some of his musical thoughts and ideas such modes of limited transposition, special chords, added notes, and the rhythm. The prominent modes of limited transpositions include whole-tone, octatonic and enneatonic modes, which are appealing to Messiaen. The special chords include the chord of dominant, resonance and the chord in fourths that are unique to him. The latter chord, however, is somewhat similar to mystic chord of Scriabin in using perfect and augmented fourths. The rhythmic theories include added values, augmentation and diminution, as well as non-retrogradable rhythms. The added values could be short notes, rests or dots which are used to obscure the rhythmic flow. Messiaen’s interest in the charm of impossibilities and limits found in modes of limited transposition is also evident in his extensive use of prime numbers in the rhythmic figures. In combination with added values, these rhythmic units create a more or less a metrical music which is frequent in Messiaen’s works. In the second and third parts of the article, the first and last pieces of Vingt Regards collection for piano are analyzed. These movements called Regard du Pere and Regard de l’Eglise d’amour share a triad-based idea called the God’s theme. The study focuses on harmonic and rhythmic elements, both of which feature unique aspects as well as dependence on the past. For instance, while the prominent three-note figure features a prime number which Messiaen was fond of, it could be a symbol of Christian Trinity that is also used extensively in Bach’s music. One can also see additive and subtractive rhythmic process in some parts of the last piece. From harmonic point of view, Messiaen’s principles of added notes are found throughout the pieces in form of added semitones, tritones, and sixths. Furthermore, several variations of the chord in fourths are used in Regard de l’Eglise d’amour. Some of these variations feature note displacements to change the sonority and density of the harmonies, while others include omissions to create lighter chords. Analysis of these two pieces illustrates how Olivier Messiaen has applied some of his compositional thoughts and ideas in a piece of music, in a very practical and contemplative way. There is a world of difference after all, between theoretical learning of musical intricacies and techniques, and seeing them applied and used in a work of music, masterfully and meticulously as Olivier Messiaen has done; not forgetting and overlooking that many of these techniques have arisen from his own musical mind.
Honar-Ha-Ye-Ziba: Honar-Ha-Ye Mosighi Va Namayeshi, No. 53, 2016
51 - 64
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