Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992) was a French composer, organist, and
ornithologist. He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and
numbered Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré
among his teachers. He was appointed organist at the church of La Trinité in
Paris in 1931, a post he held until his death. On the fall of France in 1940
Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, and while incarcerated he composed his
Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four
available instruments, piano, violin, cello, and clarinet. The piece was
first performed by Messiaen and fellow prisoners to an audience of inmates
and prison guards. Messiaen was appointed professor of harmony soon after
his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris
Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. Messiaen's
music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient
Greek 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. Messiaen found
birdsong fascinating; he believed birds to be the greatest musicians and
considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer. He notated
birdsongs worldwide, and he incorporated birdsong transcriptions into a
majority of his music.
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Today's selected anniversaries:
The Papal States, France, Aragon and the Holy Roman Empire formed the League
of Cambrai, an alliance against the Republic of Venice.
The first traffic lights were installed outside the Houses of Parliament in
London, resembling railway signals with semaphore arms and red and green gas
lamps for night use.
The first Nobel Prizes were awarded, on the anniversary of the 1896 death of
their founder, Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel.
Edward VIII signed his instrument of abdication, becoming the only British
monarch to voluntarily relinquish the throne.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of
Wiktionary's word of the day:
froward (adj) Disobedient, unmanageable, with an evil disposition.
Wikiquote quote of the day:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of
the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you
say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.