Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Messiaen's last work

I heard the debut performance of Messiaen's unfinished Concert a quatre this last night, from the Proms series on BBC Radio 3. I ended up plugging headphones into my little radio and sitting outside in the evening light, listening intently. Amazing stuff.

As with a lot of his compositions, this one was partly inspired by birdsong. The presenter read a list of 16 birds involved, almost all European, but I noticed that New Zealand's bellbird was also involved. You can hear real bellbirds in the background of this recording I made with Alan and friends in Motueka in late 2006. (Or were they tui's? No one I met could tell them apart.) Lots more tui's and bellbirds audible here.

The concert also involved some pretty far-out works by Varèse and Jonathan Harvey (including a tribute to Messiaen, a newer piece based around orchestrations of human speech patterns, and an older one involving taped recordings of the biggest bell in Winchester Cathedral and the voice of Harvey's son, a chorister there in the late 70's).


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