Olivier Messiaen's Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus : analytical, religious, and literary considerations
MetadataShow full item record
This document offers performers, scholars, and enthusiasts of Olivier Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus a summary of recent research on both the composer and the composition, while probing new directions for future Messiaen and Vingt Regards research. After an opening chapter which contains a brief biography of the composer, Chapter two draws from Messiaen’s two theoretical treatises, the Technique de mon Langage Musicale and the Traité de Rythme, de Couleur, et d’Ornithologie to consider analytical issues surrounding the work. These two documents reveal a wealth of rhythmic and harmonic innovations, as well as a unique connection between sound and color. A particularly significant contribution here is the discussion of Traité in the context of the Vingt Regards. In addition to relevant context from before and after the Vingt Regards, Chapter three discusses religious considerations surrounding the work, including Biblical references, cyclical themes, other formal and symbolic considerations, and the influence of Dom Columba Marmion’s Christ dans ses mystères. The cogent summary of the Marmion is this chapter’s most notable contribution. Chapter four discusses literary considerations relating to the Vingt Regards, including the influences of Messiaen’s family, his personal readings and writings, and Maurice Toesca’s Les Douze Regards, cited in the preface to the music. The chapter also examines the important connection between the Vingt Regards and L’Âme en bourgeon (The Soul in Bud), a set of poems Messiaen’s mother wrote while pregnant with him. The links between the Vingt Regards and L’Âme en bourgeon, deeply analyzed for what is believed to be the first time, are not only thematic, with their similar subjects of birth and infancy, but also include ties to Messiaen’s musical forms, a somewhat overlooked and perhaps somewhat criticized element of his musical language. References to “le ‘Cas’ Messiaen” are part of the document’s efforts to show how the analytical, religious, and literary considerations are all deeply interwoven in both the life of the composer and in this monumental work written at such a challenging historical hour.