The charm of impossibilities: Musical language, theology and narrative discourse in Olivier Messiaen's "Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum"
Lee, Chi-Kuen (Martin)
MetadataShow full item record
My dissertation falls into what Robert Fallon describes as "an ongoing third wave of Messiaen studies" and furthers his recommendation for a new approach in Messiaen scholarship that requires scholars to step away from the established path, adopting new and fresh perspectives from the complex context of Messiaen's cultural, musical, and theological world. In my dissertation, I investigate Messiaen's commissioned work Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (1964) with respect to the cultural, theological and musical elements interpreted in relation to musical semiotics and narrative discourse. Chapter 1 offers a review of the secondary literature related to my general topic and the methodology that I adopt. I provide summaries of notions concerning recent publications in these related fields. These include Byron Almén's A Theory of Musical Narrative , Kofi Agawu's Music as Discourse , and Andrew Shenton's Olivier Messiaen's Systems of Signs: Notes Towards Understanding His Music . Here I explain the analytical strategy that I derive from the secondary literature, as well as my analytical procedures. Chapter 2 surveys Messiaen's harmonic language. Based on Messiaen's Technique de mon langage musical and the seventh volume from Traité de rythme, de couleur et d'ornithologie , I illustrate Messiaen's unique modes of limited transpositions and special color-chords with set-class labels and interval succession for purposes of identification and comparison. I also provide the details of colors that the harmonic complexes carry according to Messiaen's own synaesthetic experience. In Chapters 3 and 4, I begin with identifying Et exspecto as a narrative in itself followed by analyzing each movement in five stages according to the procedures and concepts mentioned: the overall narrative scope, the biblical narrative, the musical narrative, the musical discourse, and the narrative discourse synthesis. The Epilogue at the end of Chapter 4 concludes this dissertation. Based on the analytical results, I indicate fifty topics used in Et exspecto , which help us to understand not only his music, but also his personal beliefs concerning Catholicism and eternity through empathy, speculation, and play.