Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Eugène Charles Prosper Messiaen (1908-1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex. He wrote music for chamber ensembles and orchestra, as well as for solo organ and piano, and also experimented with the use of novel electronic instruments developed in Europe during his lifetime.

Birdsong fascinated Messiaen from an early age, and inspired by his teacher who reportedly urged his pupils to "listen to the birds.” Messiaen included stylised birdsong in some of his early compositions, integrating it into his sound-world by techniques like the modes of limited transposition and chord colouration. His evocations of birdsong became increasingly sophisticated, and with Le réveil des oiseaux this process reached maturity, the whole piece being built from birdsong. Messiaen notated the bird species with the music in the score. The pieces are not simple transcriptions; even the works with purely bird-inspired titles are tone poems evoking the landscape, its colors and atmosphere.

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