Messiaen and time: philosophical reflections on the performance of Visions de l’Amen for two pianos

Shan, Liang (2020). Messiaen and time: philosophical reflections on the performance of Visions de l’Amen for two pianos. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis focuses on the performance of Visions de l’Amen by Olivier Messiaen. The approach taken is broadly philosophical, concentrating on the work of three philosophers, Henri Bergson, Vladimir Jankélévitch and Theodor W. Adorno, whose thought will guide our analysis of Visions and its performance.

In the Introduction, we will first introduce Messiaen’s emphasis on the notion of time in music, and how he translates Bergson’s notion of time into musical perception. Different philosophical views, relating to the pursuit of genuine experience, will be introduced for further philosophical reflection on music and performance, particularly with respect to Visions de l’Amen. In Chapter 1, we will analyse Messiaen’s rhythmic thinking. Here, Messiaen’s Stravinsky analysis will feature prominently, and different notions of compositional ethics will be discussed. Chapter 2 will analyse the construction of Visions and its musical perception from both Bergsonian and Adornian perspectives. Different theories of performance, derived from Bergson’s, Jankélévitch’s and Adorno’s philosophies, will be also be presented here. In Chapter 3, a section from the second movement of Visions will be analysed to demonstrate the compositional technique of superimposition before we present related philosophical reflections on the Messiaens’ and others’ recordings of the work. Finally, Chapter 4 will explore Loriod and Messiaen’s pianism and performance aesthetics. This thesis is submitted together with my performance of the piece (as first pianist), and the dissertation concludes with reflections on the ways in which my performance was informed by my research.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Music
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
M Music and Books on Music > M Music


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