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Olivier Messiaen

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Olivier Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist. Messiaen's music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greece and from Hindu sources), and is harmonically and melodically based on modes of limited transposition, which were Messiaen's own innovation. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", drawing on his unshakeable Roman Catholicism. He travelled widely, and he wrote works inspired by such diverse influences as Japanese music, the landscape of Bryce Canyon in Utah, and the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Messiaen experienced a mild form of synaesthesia manifested as a perception of colours when he heard certain harmonies. For a short period Messiaen experimented with "total serialism", in which field he is often cited as an innovator. His style absorbed many exotic musical influences such as Indonesian gamelan (tuned percussion often features prominently in his orchestral works), and he also championed the ondes Martenot.


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