Dissertation Index



Author: Fancher, Joseph E.

Title: Pitch Organization in the Turangalîla-Symphonie of Olivier Messiaen

Institution: University of Oregon

Begun: September 1997

Completed: March 2003

Abstract:

The musical language of Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) retained a remarkably consistent syntax across the entirety of his compositional career. This is all the more remarkable when one considers the astonishing variety of his musical interests. In the realm of pitch, these ranged from planed chords, often paired and moving in contrary motion; to birdsong, which he is famously known to have transcribed in the field; to cyclic pitch collections, particularly his "modes of limited transposition." As a result, the analyst of his music might expect to find in the Turangalîla-Symphonie (1946-48) a veritable pastiche of styles and techniques, and indeed Messiaen's musical structures have been criticized for exhibiting mere juxtaposition of musical materials.

With regard to the organization of pitch in this symphony, however, the picture is considerably more integrated than Messiaen's catholic interests would suggest. Using analytical tools provided by set theory, we learn that in the creation of many of his pitch constructs, both melodic and harmonic, Messiaen employs T±1 transpositions of the (06) dyad to create (016) trichords, typically voiced {0,5,B} or {0,6,B}. So influential is this trichord in many of the pitch structures in the symphony, including but not limited to Messiaen's modes and his transcriptions of birdsong, that (016) in its many manifestations may be considered as the generative pitch cell of the entire composition. The (016) trichord not only informs local harmonic and melodic constructs but, in the fourth movement of the symphony, for example--one of the five movements analyzed in this study--it also knits together temporally distant sections of the musical fabric.

While set theory accounts well for the organization of much of the pitch content of Turangalîla, it is not the only methodology used in this study. References to traditional harmonic structures, untraditionally used by Messiaen, find their place in this study, and Schenkerian analysis reveals the nature of the large-scale structure of the idyllic sixth movement of the symphony.

This analysis is indebted to the analytical work of numerous scholars, not the least of whom is Messiaen himself. His treatises, Technique de mon langage musical and Traité de rythme, de couleur, et d'ornithologie, provide invaluable insights into the pitch organization underlying the symphony. Building on the exegeses of Messiaen and others, this study points toward a coherence of pitch organization across the movements of Turangalîla that is greater than that which has been ascribed to the composer heretofore.

Keywords: Messiaen, Turangalila, Turangalīla

TOC:

I. INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
II. LOOKING IN: AN OVERVIEW OF KEY SCHOLARSHIP ON MESSIAEN
III. A VIEW FROM WITHIN: ASPECTS OF TECHNIQUE DE MON LANGAGE MUSICAL
IV. ASPECTS OF RHYTHMIC AND PITCH ORGANIZATION IN THE SYMPHONY
V. FIRST MOVEMENT: "INTRODUCTION"
VI. SIXTH MOVEMENT: "JARDIN DU SOMMEIL D'AMOUR"
VII. SECOND MOVEMENT: "CHANT D'AMOUR 1"
VIII. FOURTH MOVEMENT : "CHANT D'AMOUR 2"
IX. TENTH MOVEMENT: "FINAL"
X. EPILOGUE

Contact:

Joseph Fancher
1252 Bond Ln.
Eugene, OR 97401
fancher@oregon.uoregon.edu


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