Download Gareth Healey-Messiaen's Musical Techniques_ the Composer's View and Beyond-Ashgate Pub Co (2013) PDF

TitleGareth Healey-Messiaen's Musical Techniques_ the Composer's View and Beyond-Ashgate Pub Co (2013)
Tags Musicology Pop Culture Entertainment (General) Leisure
File Size2.5 MB
Total Pages224
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Music Examples
List of Tables
Companion Website
Note on the Translations
1 Introduction
2 The Theoretical and Analytical   Writings of Messiaen
3 Theoretical and Written Sources
4 Extra-Musical Influences
5 The Influence of Debussy and Stravinsky
6 Rhythmic Evolution
7 Harmonic Evolution
8 Harmony: An Alternative Perspective
9 Form
10 Implementation of Analytical Methodology
11 Conclusion
Appendix 1: Technical Inventory
Appendix 2: Selected Work List
Document Text Contents
Page 2


Page 112

Harmonic Evolution 93

7.12: Chord of Total Chromaticism

The moniker chord of total chromaticism has a specific usage in Messiaen’s work
and is one of the ways in which he utilised the 12-note total. Instances of total
chromaticism are present as early as the start of the 1940s, but this chord finds favour
later in the composer’s career.8 The 1960s and beyond see it coming into fruition as
a (fairly) regular harmonic tool, where it appears according to Messiaen’s definition
(that is, as an eight-note chord followed by the remaining four notes of the set). The
chord of total chromaticism is fundamentally the same at each manifestation but
lack of development is an understandable trait of this device.

7.13: Personnages Mélodiques and Harmoniques

These techniques were used very sparingly in Messiaen’s work, and the combination
of all three types of personnages in the fifth movement of the Turangalîla-symphonie
has them functioning at the maximum of their potential. At Fig. 14 the theme of
the refrain is subjected to three related techniques: personnages rythmiques,
personnages mélodiques, and personnages harmoniques. They function in three
strands of the orchestral texture: the brass, woodwind/strings and piano.

Personnages Rythmiques9

The three personnages rythmiques are found on the brass. A is the increasing
personnage, B decreases, while C remains (apart from slight discrepancies)
immobile. Both A and B have three values within each cell, while C has one. They
proceed as shown in Table 7.1.

Table 7.1 Values of Personnages A, B and C

Personnage A Personnage B Personnage C

4, 1, 4
5, 2, 5
6, 3, 6
7, 4, 7

8, 4, 8
7, 3, 7
6, 2, 6
5, 1, 5


8 See sections 8.1 and 8.2 for a consideration of the varied types of total chromaticism.
9 Personnages rythmiques will be discussed here as they form an integral part of the

total personnages concept in this passage.

Page 113

Messiaen’s Musical Techniques: The Composer’s View and Beyond94

This movement of the two personnages can be directly connected to Messiaen`s
observations in his analysis of The Rite of Spring, where it is stated that if one
personnage acts then another personnage must as a result be acted upon. It can
also be seen in Table 7.1 that Personnage B performs a retrograde movement of A
except that its ‘outer’ values are increased by a semiquaver.

Personnage C proceeds as follows: 10, 9, 10, 10, 11, 11, 5. This sequence
would appear to be at odds with its supposed immobility. However, the immobility
is only applicable to the first four values, as these follow the four appearances of
A and B after which the whole process is suspended. The second value of C is
reduced to 9 semiquavers due to the interruption at Fig. 17 of seven bars unrelated
to this process. The last three values of 11, 11 and 5 are in actual fact unconnected
with the personnages rythmiques, as they are just a prolongation of C.

Personnages Mélodiques

The personnages mélodiques are performed by the woodwind/strings and piano.
As the name suggests, personnages mélodiques are an application of the idea
behind personnages rythmiques to the field of melody. The woodwind/strings have
semiquaver thirds in groups of seven, with each group separated from the next by
a semiquaver rest. The piano has the same groupings but starting a semiquaver
later. In the groups played by the woodwind/strings the first five thirds in the
group descend by a semitone on each appearance, while the last two thirds remain
melodically immobile. The groups on the piano reverse this procedure; the first two
thirds remain melodically immobile, while the last five thirds ascend by a semitone
on each appearance. The resulting combination of the woodwind/strings and piano
has an increasing element (ascending), a decreasing element (descending) and
one that never moves. This is the first occurrence of personnages mélodiques in
Messiaen`s music, but the technique is very similar to the instances of asymmetric
augmentation in earlier works. A clear example of asymmetric augmentation can
be observed in ‘L’échange’ from the Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, which
has six melodic fragments that ascend, descend or remain immobile. The main
distinction between asymmetric augmentation and personnages mélodiques is the
former’s more rigid nature, often completing its expansion over a set period and
then ending. The personnages mélodiques allow for the greater flexibility required
of them to combine with the other types of personnages. This would suggest an
application of different terminology to the same technique, and also reveals the
influence of Stravinsky to be traceable back to before the Turangalîla-symphonie.
The technique of personnages mélodiques highlights how Messiaen reconstitutes
a process observed in Stravinsky’s work and not only used it in his own music, but
also developed its potential.

Page 223

Messiaen’s Musical Techniques: The Composer’s View and Beyond204

Stravinsky, Igor, 2, 94, 163, 173
influence on Messiaen’s formal

designs, 128–9
influence on Messiaen’s musical

language, 45ff.
The Rite of Spring, 8, 9, 40, 59–64,

Symphonies of Wind Instruments, 128

symmetrical permutations, see

Technique of My Musical Language, The,
see Olivier Messiaen

Theme of chords, 97, 101, 106, 143, 144,

Theme of God, 85, 118, 123, 131–2,

total chromaticism, see chord of total

‘total serialism’, 101, 104, 105, 124, 138,
139, 146, 153

Traité de rythme, de couleur et
d’ornithologie, see Olivier

Transfiguration de Notre-Seigeur Jésus-
Christ, La, 12, 27, 28

Trezise, Simon (Debussy: La mer), 48–50,

Trois petites liturgies de la Présence
Divine, 12

1. ‘Antienne de la conversation
harmonic pedal, 83
turning chords, 91

Turangalîla-symphonie, 9, 40, 42, 64, 81,
97, 101, 104, 130, 131, 149

1. ‘Introduction,’
chromatic durations, 72
harmonic pedal, 83

2. ‘Chant d’amour 1,’
fan, 88
refrain-and-couplet form, 122

3. ‘Turangalîla 1,’
chromatic durations, 73
personnages rythmiques, 78

4. ‘Chant d’amour 2,’
anacrusis, accent, termination, 72

5. ‘Joie du sang des étoiles,’

personnages, 79, 93–5
sonata form, 123, 125, 127, 130

7. ‘Turangalîla 2,’
chromatic durations, 73–4
personnages rythmiques, 79
rocket-like groups, 90
sectionalised form, 122

10. ‘Final,’
development by elimination, 76

form, 115
re-use of material in Cantéyodjayâ,

rhythmic pedal, 69
rhythmic canon, 71
superposition form, 123
‘Theme of chords,’ 106, 138n4

turning chords, 33, 91–2, 100, 104, 106,
108, 180–81

twelve-note row, see serialism

Un vitrail et des oiseaux, 28

Varèse, Edgard, 131
Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, 10, 51,

52, 53, 79, 80, 85, 90, 91, 140,
143, 144, 146, 149

1. ‘Regard du Père’
theme and variation form, 121

3. ‘L’échange’ 165
asymmetric augmentation, 89, 94,

single technique form, 124

6. ‘Par Lui tout a été fait’ 145
change of rhythm and register, 89,

non-retrogradable form, 118
rhythmic canon, 70

7. ‘Regard de la Croix’
anacrusis, accent, termination, 72

9. ‘Regard du Temps’
alternate form, 118
closed/open fan, 89
rhythmic canon, 70

10. ‘Regard de l’Esprit de joie’
similarity between sectional and

sonata forms, 131
11. ‘Première communion de la


Page 224

Index 205

chromatic durations, 73n2
melodic borrowing, 141
similarity between sectional and

sonata forms, 131
12. ‘La parole toute puissante’

rhythmic pedal, 69
14. ‘Regard des Anges’

fans, 145
strophic form, 121

15. ‘Le baiser de l’Enfant-Jésus’
sectionalised form, 122

16. ‘Regard des Prophètes, des Bergers
et des Mages’
chromatic durations, 72

17. ‘Regard du Silence’
harmonic pedal, 83

18. ‘Regard de l’Onction terrible’
non-retrogradable form, 118

20. ‘Regard de l’Eglise d’amour’
sonata form, 123

Visions de l’Amen, 10, 80, 91, 99, 112, 121
1. ‘Amen de la création’

irrational rhythms, 68
rhythmic pedal, 67

2. ‘Amen des étoiles, de la planète à
harmonic and rhythmic pedals, 83

3. ‘Amen de l’agonie de Jésus’
anacrusis, accent, termination, 72

5. ‘Amen des anges, des saints, du
chant des oiseaux’
chord of a dominant appoggiatura,

non-retrogradable form, 118
rhythmic canon, 70

6. ‘Amen du Jugement’
total chromaticism, 101

7. ‘Amen de la Consummation’
alternate form, 121
rhythmic canon, 71

presence of modes of limited
transposition, 84–5

Wagner, Richard,
masculine and feminine groups

(Götterdämmerung), 22–3
Wenk, Arthur (Debussy and the Poets),


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