Color, timbre, and resonance: Developments in Olivier Messiaen's use of percussion between 1956--1965

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)

First Committee Member

Gary Green, Committee Chair


This essay explores Olivier Messiaen's use of percussion in his works based upon the inherent nature of the instruments' timbre and resonance and how their sonorities interact with other instruments of the orchestra. Percussion groupings are defined based upon instrumental timbre and Messiaen's consistent pattern of combining them in his various works. The main analysis is focused on the percussion usage in four works: Oiseaux Exotiques, Chronochromie, Couleurs de la Cite Celeste, and Et Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum. Two other pieces, Reveil des Oiseaux and Des Canyons aux Etoiles, are also briefly referenced. Literature review and short biographical chapters are included in the essay. Suggestions for further study include analysis of timbre groupings in other pieces by Messiaen and investigation of stage set-ups on the aural effects in his works.



Link to Full Text