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Title: Olivier Messiaen : musical and symbolic aspects of three later organ cycles
Author: Ainscough, Juliana Mary
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2011
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Abstract:
The main part of this submission is a portfolio of five selected compositions, representative of my compositional development between 2003 and 2009, three of which explore the expressive qualities of the solo voice, soprano, counter-tenor or baritone, in settings of highly symbolic or surreal poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins (Life's Masque Mirrored), St. John of the Cross (En una noche oscura) and Federico Garcia Lorca (Virgen de la Soledad). While the Hopkins cycle features the piano in a substantive accompanimental role, the other two works make use of unusual chamber combinations. Hopkins' poetry also features in The May Magnificat for choir and organ; while the potential of the piano as a solo instrument is realised in the Sonata. Also included are recordings of two of the works, Virgen de la Soledad (2005-06) and Sonata for Piano (2007), programme notes and composer's analytical commentary, the latter of which outlines techniques and methodologies employed in the composition of the above works and acknowledges the diverse influences which have had some bearing upon them. A major component of the submission is a dissertation entitled Olivier Messiaen: musical and symbolic aspects of three later organ cycles, which has some relevance to the submitted compositions, most of which are settings of symbolic texts. The purpose of this study is to consider the particular nature and circumstances of Messiaen's own, deeply-held faith and to evaluate the extent to which the truths which he sought to illuminate were determinants of the form, structure and content of his compositions and to what degree these truths inform our understanding of his music. Three of the later organ cycles, each being representative of a different period of Messiaen's compositional development and each dealing with one of the most important mysteries of the Roman Catholic faith, are analysed in detail to achieve this end. Religious symbolism has, down the centuries, been a source of inspiration in many different areas of creativity, e.g. fine art, architecture, poetry, drama and music. A number of the more established contemporary composers look to some form of religious symbolism to underpin their work : James Macmillan, Arvo Part, and John Tavener come to mind. Olivier Messiaen himself said that "all art which attempt~ to express the Diivine Mystery may qualify as religious" and that “all music which approaches with reverence the Divine, the Sacred, the Ineffable, IS truly religious music in the full strength of the term". Most of Messiaen's music is strongly symbolic, but the organ repertoire is of particular importance since it is performed usually within a consecrated space, sometimes as part of the liturgy; furthermore, it spans his whole compositional career. The purpose of this present study is to consider the particular nature and circumstances of Messiaen's own, deeply-held faith and to evaluate the extent to which the truths which he sought to illuminate were determinants of the form, structure and content of his compositions and to what degree these truths inform our understanding of his music. Three of the later organ cycles, each being representative of a different period of Messiaen's compositional development and each dealing with one of the most important mysteries of the Roman Catholic faith, are analysed in detail to achieve this end.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.551154  DOI: Not available
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