Messiaen Post-Movement 8

I had trouble defining an exact technique that we discussed in class. One thing that stood out to me though was how the two opening phrases (within measures 1-6), share the same rhythm and melodic contour. I do not know if this exactly qualifies as isorhythm since the second phrase has a different color than the first one. However, the rhythm and contour are the same when they repeat. Also, I know that we did not discuss the concept of birdsongs a lot in class (that I remember), however, from what I know of them, the violin melody could almost be imitating a bird to an extent. At rehearsal B, I would argue that the rhythms in the first two measures are non-retrograde able  since every grouping of the eighth notes is symmetrical. Perhaps it may not qualify as non-retro gradable since some of it is triplet groupings and others straight eighth note groupings.

Overall, this movement is short-looking on the sheet, however, its quite slow tempo makes it last almost ten minutes. It is only for violin and piano. It gives a feel of soothing and elegance. The soft and high-ranged violin melody over the soft piano chordal accompaniment almost gives a sense of floating or feeling airy throughout. The movement is overall rather consonant, giving little feel of tension, only some from the violin melody that soon resolves. There is also little tension created from musical techniques like dynamic changes or rubato. There is a lot that is constant about the movement musically.

According to Britannica, “Messiaen calls forth a gently reflective atmosphere with long, flowing lines” in this movement. It seems logical for Messiaen to have this feel in the last movement. For a quartet based on a blatant apocalypse happening, a final movement being chaotic and aggressive would mean that philosophically, the last thing someone may hear is chaos. Instead, a person hearing their last piece of music ought to have it be reflective and to a degree, soothing and meditative. Although the word reflection did not occur to me as I first listened to this, it seems very sensible to describe the movement now that I have thought about it. The part of the long, flowing lines is also logical because the melodic phrases are very prolonged, mostly due to the tempo. Researching this movement has not surprised me a lot more, primarily, it has given me more insight.

One thought on “Messiaen Post-Movement 8

  1. Good response, Alex. I think it is difficult to try to connect, specifically, with Messiaen’s musical world and theology–it is very particular, and while it may evoke some similar imagery or emotions for listeners, it might be better to simply enjoy the musical sounds and not try to reconcile our experience with the composer’s stated program.


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