A study of Oliver Messiaen's song-cycles Poèmes pour mi, Chants de terre et de ciel, and Harawi

Donkin, Deborah Jean (1992) A study of Oliver Messiaen's song-cycles Poèmes pour mi, Chants de terre et de ciel, and Harawi. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




This thesis ventures into the relatively neglected world of twentieth century vocal music, via the three song cycles of Oliver Messiaen. The song cycle is a comparatively young genre, generally dated from Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte or by some, even later to Schubert's Die schone Miillerin. Nevertheless, considerable changes have taken place in the 160 years which separate Messiaen's cycles from those of the 'pioneers' mentioned above. A fuller appreciation of twentieth century cycles is facilitated by observing this evolutionary process and placing the works within an historical and cultural perspective. Such an introduction is provided in part one of this thesis, along with relevant details on the life and interests of Messiaen. The latter information gives insight into the compositions themselves and may satisfy the reader's curiosity on the origin of some of the more unexpected techniques or ideas Messiaen llses. Before embarking on a study of the cycles, it is necessary to look at the highly individual musical language of the composer. Section two undertakes this task in some depth, wherever possible relating the explanations directly to the songs which follow. In order to clarify the text and to simplify the exercise for the reader, numerous musical examples have been used. This contributes to the apparent bulk of this section. The main emphasis of the thesis is the detailed study of the 20 songs contained in Poemes pour Mi, Chants de Terre et de Cief and Harawi. The third section of the thesis deals with this material thoroughly and systematically, dividing it up into musical and extra-musical aspects. The texts are considered in terms of Surrealist, religious, Nature, numerological and, in the case of Harawi, mythological and Peruvian folk symbolism. The relationship of text to music is studied and evelopments highlighted. Musically, the study is further sub-divided into piano part and vocal part. In each case, an extensive exploration of the techniques required of the performer is presented. This makes possible the subsequent categorisation of the songs on the basis of similarities in the musical means. Conclusions reached show a progressive development through the three song cycles in the composer's handling of the text, his treatment of the voice, his use of the piano and his expansion of the voice-piano relationship. This body of solo vocal literature emerges as typical of Oliver Messiaen's compositional style in general and therefore properly representative of the meticulous craftsmanship with which his works are constructed. The detailed analysis of all aspects of the songs contributes original material to scholarship on Messiaen and on song cycles in the twentieth century.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Messiaen, Olivier,1908-1992, Song cycles
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Music and Musicology
ID Code:2036
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:04 Oct 2011 07:55
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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