Birdsong Inspires Olivier Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques

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French composer Olivier Messiaen composed a number of works inspired by his careful transcription of birdsong.(Photo: rutgerw (flickr))
French composer Olivier Messiaen composed a number of works inspired by his careful transcription of birdsong.(Photo: rutgerw (flickr))

This weekend the Columbus Symphony performs Olivier Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques (“Exotic Birds”) for piano and orchestra (1955). Jean-Marie Zeitouni conducts.

Messiaen’s Wikipedia entry describes him as a “French composer, organist and ornithologist” (someone who studies birds).

The tableaux of meditations in Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques features two elements crucial to Messiaen in his private and public lives: His deep rooted Catholicism and his love of birds.

This love of bird song and its incorporation into his music dates back to Le merle noir, for flute and piano (1952), where the flute’s lines are based on a blackbird’s song.

Here’s the composer himself illustrating with music, the bird calls so dear to him:

Listen to an interview with Columbus Symphony Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni about Messiaen and his exotic birds:

[audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/classical/2011/jean-marie-zeitouni-messiaen.mp3"]

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