Thursday, December 13, 2007

A quick thought about Messiaen

A number of popes have said that the closer a given kind of music is to the spirit of Gregorian chant, the more suitable it is for worship, and the further away any music is from this spirit, the less suitable it is for worship. This would apply to a number of elements, including rhythm.

I have been noticing a trend in the music of Olivier Messiaen which I have been studying. There is a very regular oscillation between groups of twos and groups of threes in the rhythms which he writes. This is very similar to chant, in which the same oscillation occurs. In both Messiaen and the chant, these beats are indivisible. So, for instance, these are not duples against triplets, but rather two indivisible beats against three indivisible beats. This is not common practice in "regular" music, which is usually bound by strict meter that requires the beats to be divided.

Just one more reason to love the music of Olivier Messiaen.

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