I dived into 5 pieces from Messiaen’s Infant Jesus Reflection. It’s not hard once you step through the rabbit hole and start working on them. The contemplation part somehow takes control.
The drums of the overture of the prophets, the shepherds, and the kings turned into arrogant goose-going Nazis. I was amazed that a man receives and musically conveys everything that goes through a woman’s mind when she finds out she is pregnant. And don’t start with what musical meanings you get for what your child will endure …
Of course, occasionally I had to get up in the air – back to real life. As I taught, I began to notice more and more parallels between the pieces of the contemporary era that my students worked on and the Messiaen I studied. Several features stood out. Impressionism: use of full keyboard, programs, text painting and sound effects, rhythm: irregular patterns, changing meters and the importance of each beat, and Dissonance: clusters, modes / constructed scales and exotic harmonies
We started working on short compositional projects that highlighted these qualities. We even made some soundtrack music. Many times, composing activities are designed to develop a strong sound center, sense of measurement, and balanced expressions. My disciples and I have discovered great teaching truths in working with non-traditional elements of dissonance, impressionism, and rhythm.
I called this truth the law of contrasts. To find out what the opposite of something is, you need to understand this thing. Creating a contrast between a strong tone center, balanced expressions, and regular gauges helped my students discover and truly understand more traditional elements.
Best of all, my students connected the music they created with their own lives and experiences. The titles included Crashing Knights, Coyotes and the Moon, The Sad Harvester, The Maze, The Argument in the Garden, the … Commemorative and Summer Rain. I asked them about their experiences and they said a bite. Here are some comments that have been shared.