Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Forte, Allen. “Olivier Messiaen as Serialist.” Music Analysis 21 (March 2002): 3-34.

In composing his serialist works, Messiaen suffered from an anxiety of Viennese influence, manifested as a strong desire to show how his serial methods can produce a totally different music from that of the Second Viennese School. However, certain aspects of Messiaen’s serial music are modeled on famous Viennese dodecaphonic works, as both similarities to and distinctive differences from these works may prove. Livre d’orgue, a set of seven pieces for organ, provides a good case study for these modeling procedures. For example, a significant difference from the Second Viennese School in the first movement is that his serial permutations are not the four “classic” order transformations (prime, inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion); instead, Messiaen uses other permutations which do not necessarily include the whole row, permutations that are unique to his work. This demonstrates that Messiaen was going out of his way to avoid serial techniques of the past, which is confirmed in excerpts from Messiaen’s writings. An example of a similarity to Viennese dodecaphonic music can also be found in the first movement. Several trichords and hexachords, as well as their permutations, specifically evoke the music of Bartók and Webern. Furthermore, certain large-scale permutations evoke the first section of Berg’s Wozzeck as well as the second movement of Webern’s Symphony, Op. 21. This demonstrates that Messiaen was still influenced by the music of these composers, which he knew well.

Works: Messiaen: Livre d’orgue (5-29).

Sources: Berg: Wozzeck (23); Webern: Symphony, Op. 21 (23).

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Chelsea Hamm

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