Birds in Messiaen's Organ Music. A case study on the accuracy of representation of birdsong in music
MetadataShow full item record
Research on the accuracy of birdsong representation in Olivier Messiaen’s music has mainly been focused on birdsong within his piano and orchestra works. This accuracy issue has not been a topic within research on his organ pieces, even though these contain birdsong as well. This paper focuses on how accurately Messiaen worked during the incorporation of birdsong within the ‘Messe de la Pentecôte’ (1949-50) and what restrictions he had to overcome. This has been done by comparing Messiaen’s ‘musical’ birds to their real-life counterparts. Four bird species within the ‘Messe de la Pentecôte’ have been investigated: the blackbird, cuckoo, nightingale and the skylark. First, Messiaen’s birds were musically analyzed. Second, the same real-life birds were selected from recordings of Xeno-canto – an online bird sound catalogue – and analyzed through spectrograms. Results show that although Messiaen’s birds are not completely accurate due to inevitable musical adaptations, he was able to incorporate a lot of identifiable bird characteristics in his music, such as (repetitive) motives, rhythmical patterns and sometimes even intervals.