Finding Messiaen’s Blackbird: An Investigative Analysis Of Birdsong and Other Techniques Used In Le Merle Noir

Alexandra L. Aguirre-Berman

Abstract

This document explores Olivier Messiaen’s use of serialism, Greek rhythms, Hindu deçi-tâlas, ‘style oiseau’ and other ornithological information as they relate to his composition for flute and piano, Le merle noir. As a result of this exploration, an investigative analysis of several compositional elements is provided, including ancient Greek rhythms, Hindu deçi-tâlas, serialism, and birdsong in order to process their connection with Messiaen’s blackbird. Messiaen’s blackbird is identified as the Eurasian blackbird (Turdus merula), and recorded birdcalls from the Eurasian blackbird have been converted into spectrograms. These graphs facilitated a comparison of the vocalizations produced by the birds with Messiaen’s written music. This investigative analysis provides a new perspective in the interpretation of Le merle noir.