Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time": A look at "The Abyss of the Birds" and socio-political issues, religion and performance practice in reference to the bible and the holocaust
by Hey, Sarra Elizabeth, M.M., California State University, Long Beach, 2015, 104; 1587904
Abstract (Summary)

Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time stands as a commentary on the end of both literal time (the end of the world) and musical time (ie. time signatures and meter). Written during World War II in a prisoner of war camp, the Quartet signifies a point in history steeped in turmoil and destruction. In a way, it reinforces the apocalyptic nature of World War II. Furthermore, The Quartet for the End of Time demonstrates Messiaen's dedication to God and the Catholic Church. His unwavering faith encouraged his strength throughout his imprisonment. As a devout Catholic, he incorporated his interpretation of God into many of his compositions. The Quartet for the End of Time presents one of his most religious works, outlining the end of time as described in the book of Revelation. Messiaen connected this end of time to an end of metric time in music. He used the Quartet as a medium to express the restrictions time and meter place on music and on one's spiritual life. Moreover, Messiaen, an amateur ornithologist, believed birds a reflection of God in nature. He saw them as representative of spiritual freedom, or freedom from the bonds of physical time. In the Quartet, Messiaen utilizes the free-spirited nature of birdcalls to evoke a sense of timelessness.

Chapter one outlines Messiaen's life from early childhood, throughout his schooling, and into World War II. It describes Messiaen as a composer; delving into his religious beliefs and studies in ornithology to better explain the foundation of his works. The end of chapter one defines Messiaen's imprisonment and the beginnings of The Quartet for the End of Time. It introduces each member of the original quartet and focuses on the history of clarinet player Henri Akoka. Chapter two relates Messiaen's religiosity and his interest in ornithology to The Quartet for the End of Time . Furthermore, the second chapter describes The Quartet for the End of Time within the context of the Holocaust. Finally, chapter two describes the third movement of the Quartet, "Abyss of the Birds" in terms of performance practice. It outlines the difficulties involved in performance of the movement and describes the deeper meaning of "Abyss of the Birds".

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hickman, Roger
Commitee: Carnahan, John, Goode-Castro, Helen
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 54/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, Holocaust Studies
Keywords: Abyss of the birds, Birds, Catholicism, France, Holocaust, Messiaen, Olivier, Quartet for the end of time
Publication Number: 1587904
ISBN: 978-1-321-72365-6
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