* This article is a revised version of a paper presented at OXMAC 2000, Saint Peter’s College, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

1. In the Conférence de Notre-Dame, Messiaen stated that his peculiar brand of colored-hearing synesthesia responded to chords, not isolated pitches (see Olivier Messiaen, Conférence de Notre-Dame: Prononcée à Notre-Dame de Paris le 4 décembre 1977 [Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1978], 10). This does not mean, however, that a single pitch cannot affect the color association of the chord in which it functions as either a member or an added note. Indeed, a single pitch frequently adds another color to its parent chord by its doubling in a higher octave register or by its placement as an added note at the top of the chord. See Messiaen’s analysis of a musical passage associated with the blackcap in Le Prêche aux oiseaux, scene 6 of Saint François d’Assise, in the Traité de rythme, de couleur, et d’ornithologie (1949-1992), vols. 1-5 of seven (Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1994-98), 5:346-58.

2. Claude Samuel and Olivier Messiaen, Musique et couleurs: Nouveaux entretiens avec Claude Samuel (Paris: Belfond, 1986); trans. E. Thomas Glasow as Olivier Messiaen: Music and Color: Conversations with Claude Samuel (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1994), 41.

3. Ibid., 40. When comparing Blanc-Gatti’s synesthesia with that of his own in a conversation with Claude Samuel in 1967, Messiaen employed the term "synopsia" ("synopsie") to describe their respective synesthetic conditions. He probably derived the term, moreover, from Blanc-Gatti himself ("that strange disease which Blanc-Gatti . . . called ‘synopsia’"). In its general definition, synesthesia is a blending of the senses in which one experiences a sense-perception other than the sense actually being stimulated. For example, one might perceive a scent when a particular pitch is sounded. With colored-hearing synesthesia, one sees colored effects or phenomena when listening to sound. Messiaen characterized Blanc-Gatti’s colored-hearing synesthesia as physiological and his own as more inward. In Messiaen’s view, Blanc-Gatti possessed "a synaesthesia in its most commonly occurring form: a spontaneous association of the senses of seeing and hearing." In other words, the painter actually saw colors and shapes when he heard music. (In the later conversations with Claude Samuel in 1986, "physiological synesthesia" ["synesthésie physiologique"], not synopsia, is used to describe Blanc-Gatti’s colored hearing.) Conversely, Messiaen described his hearing of color as not involving what he saw in the physical world but what he saw inwardly: when reading or hearing a score, he visualized corresponding phenomena of color. See Claude Samuel, Entretiens avec Olivier Messiaen (Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1967); trans. Felix Aprahamian as Conversations with Olivier Messiaen (London: Stainer & Bell, 1967), 15-17; and idem, Music and Color, 40. For the quotations, see Almut Rössler, Beiträge zur geistigen Welt Olivier Messiaens (Duisburg: Gilles und Francke, 1984); trans. Barbara Dagg, Nancy Poland, and Timothy Tikker as Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen: With Original Texts by the Composer (Duisburg: Gilles und Francke, 1986), 43.

4. Samuel, Music and Color, 43.

5. Besides the emphasis he placed in his later years on sound-color relationships in the formation and use of his harmonies, Messiaen became increasingly attracted to timbre. As a matter of fact, he referred to later works such as Des canyons aux étoiles (1971-74) as including more instrumental effects than those contained in his earlier works (Rössler, Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen, 108). Messiaen’s increasing attraction to timbre may be attributed to a desire to renew his compositional thinking in order to revitalize his music. This desire for renewal can be seen throughout Messiaen’s career in the form of experiments in rhythm, forays into serialism, and the absorption of birdsong into his musical language. Thus, in his preoccupation with timbre in works from the 1970s-80s, we see a continuation of Messiaen’s desire for renewal, which strongly suggests, in the final analysis, a youthful spirit at play in a composer writing music in his old age.

6. The term additive design is derived from the idea of additivity in Messiaen’s music in which musical elements, through their constant accumulation, project a larger musical picture in the same way that a mosaic of the diverse fragments combined in stained-glass windows projects a visual image.

7. Messiaen refers to his approach to composition in both specific and general terms with respect to color. Because of his colored-hearing synesthesia, the analogy is closest concerning his use of harmonic structures, and increasingly more distant with timbre and rhythm.

8. See Jean-Christophe Marti, "Entretien avec Olivier Messiaen," in Saint François d’Assise, Special Bilingual Program Book of the Salzburg Festival (Paris: L’Avant-Scène Opéra, 1992), 8.

9. Michel-Eugène Chevreul, The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors and Their Applications to the Arts by M. E. Chevreul: Based on the First English Edition of 1854 as Translated from the First French Edition of 1839 De la Loi du Contraste Simultané des Couleurs, a newly revised edition with a special introduction and a newly revised commentary by Faber Birren (West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1987).

10. Sherry A. Buckberrough, Robert Delaunay: The Discovery of Simultaneity, Studies in the Fine Arts: The Avant-Garde, ed. Stephen C. Foster, no. 21 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982), 125. According to Faber Birren, Rood, in his book Modern Chromatics: Student Text- book of Color with Applications to Art and Industry (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1973), "confirmed and repeated many of the findings of Chevreul" (Chevreul, 15). But unlike Chevreul, Rood dealt with the analysis of light, a focus that was of paramount importance to Delaunay (Buckberrough, 125). Rood examined how light was reflected and absorbed by pigments. Rood’s Modern Chromatics, like Chevreul’s book, was influential among French painters, but perhaps especially so with Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and Delaunay.

11. Alan Bowness, Modern European Art (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995), 120.

12. The following discussion is derived from Robert Delaunay, Du Cubisme à l’art abstrait, ed. and with an introduction by Pierre Francastel (Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1957), 60, 67, 180, 184; and Gustav Vriesen and Max Imdahl, Robert Delaunay: Light and Color, trans. Maria Pelikan (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1967), 80-85.

13. Vriesen and Imdahl, 84.

14. For sources of the following discussion, see the Conférence de Notre-Dame, 7-13; Rössler, Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen, 76-80, 87-88, 115; and Samuel, Music and Color, 61-62.

15. Samuel, Music and Color, 61.

16. See Example 8 for a musical illustration of this effect.

17. In his interviews and lectures, Messiaen often uses "complementary colors" or "the phenomenon of complementary colors" to refer to the effects of simultaneous contrast, particularly the complementary afterimages that are evoked in the eye after staring at a given color.

18. Pitch-class sets are identified by their set-class name, their prime form, or both designations. Set-class names are taken from the well-known catalogue of set classes compiled by Allen Forte (The Structure of Atonal Music [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973]). Pitch classes are numbered from 0 to 11 with C = 0. Square brackets ([ ]) are used to indicate prime forms, curly brackets ({ }) unordered collections, and angle brackets (< >) ordered ones.

19.Citing Richard Cohn ("Maximally Smooth Cycles, Hexatonic Systems, and the Analysis of Late-Romantic Triadic Progressions," Music Analysis 15, no. 1 [1995]: 9-40), Anthony Pople speculates that mode 3 may be viewed as "an extension of the ‘hexatonic’ collection which has been shown to underpin some of the expansions of tonality undertaken by composers such as Liszt, Wagner and Brahms, though there is no evidence that Messiaen was explicitly aware of the connection" (Anthony Pople, Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du Temps, Cambridge Music Handbooks, ed. Julian Rushton [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998], 97-98).

20. Examples 2 and 4 are taken from Messiaen�s Trait� de rythme, 3:86-87. The modified V9 chord in Example 2 is Messiaen�s interpretation; from American analytical perspectives, it is an altered V7add2.

21. I define inferior resonance in Messiaen’s music as involving the sounding of notes that represent artificial harmonics below a given chord to modify its timbre. These artificial harmonics should be absorbed as much as possible into the sound of the given chord. Robert Sherlaw Johnson characterizes inferior resonance as taking the form of a chord played loudly in the low register of the piano against a note or chord sounded above (Messiaen [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989], 17).

22.Traité de rythme, 3:86. Messiaen’s explanations regarding the construction of turning chords are more metaphorical than precise. For instance, in the Traité de rythme (3:238), he refers to an earlier version of turning chords used in pieces such as Visions de l’Amen (1943) and Harawi (1945) as "‘columns of air in mobile resonances’ (like the wind in the trees)" ("‘colonnes d’air en résonances mobiles’ [comme le vent dans les arbres]"). Yet, turning chords feature some of the most complex color associations of any chord type in Messiaen’s music. In fact, Messiaen’s analysis of the turning chords used in Strophe I of Chronochromie (1960) provides a detailed picture of their coloristic complexity (see Traité de rythme, 3:85-86). In the example provided, the turning chords of this particular transpositional level elicit the dominant color of "pale yellow striped with white, black, and gray, with green specks" ("jaune pâle, rayé de blanc, de noir, et de gris, avec des taches vertes"). Moreover, each chord contains a varied assortment of colors: first turning chord: "pale yellow, mauve,–copper-colored rose, pearl gray"; second turning chord: "chrysoprase [apple-green], dull bluish green–dark sardonyx, white, and reddish brown–with some pale yellow"; third turning chord: "rock crystal–glistening deep green "cat’s eye" [a gem displaying opalescent reflections from within]."

23. Conférence de Notre-Dame, 10.

24. In his study on Messiaen, Harry Halbreich, a student of Messiaen’s at the Paris Conservatoire, was the first scholar to list the color associations suggested by specific modal transpositions in the composer’s colored-hearing synesthesia. Specifically, Halbreich lists the color associations for every transposition of modes 2, 3, 4, and 6 (modes 1, 5, and 7 are not listed). While he does not list the source or sources for these attributions, we can only surmise that Halbreich must have obtained the information from either Messiaen himself or from both published and unpublished descriptions of the composer’s works, for the colors listed by Halbreich for modes 2 and 3 and most of the colors listed for modes 4 and 6 match many of Messiaen’s published statements regarding the colors he associates with these modes. In both his 1986 article and later book chapter, Jonathan W. Bernard supplements Halbreich’s work by tracking down Messiaen’s coloristic descriptions of specific modal passages in his music and tabulating them (see the tables entitled "Modally-Based Coloration in Messiaen’s Compositions" in both sources). While listing every transposition of modes 2 and 3 and the colors they suggest in specific compositions, Bernard provides a partial list of the colors associated with modes 4 and 6 (due to the omission, no doubt, of certain transpositions of modes 4 and 6 and their color associations in Messiaen’s descriptions), implying further preferences on Messiaen’s part as to both the specific modes and transpositional levels he uses. See Harry Halbreich, Olivier Messiaen (Paris: Fayard/Fondation SACEM, 1980), 139-40; Jonathan W. Bernard, "Messiaen’s Synaesthesia: The Correspondence between Color and Sound Structure in His Music," Music Perception 4, no. 1 (Fall 1986): 47; and idem, "Colour," in The Messiaen Companion, ed. Peter Hill (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1995), 207. In his later publication (p. 218, n. 10), Bernard notes another table of color attributions similar to those found in his two publications in Aloyse Michaely, Die Musik Olivier Messiaens: Untersuchungen zur Gesamtschaffen (Hamburg: Karl Dieter Wagner, 1987), 220-22.

25. Mode 2 can be transposed three times before repeating its original pitch-class content, mode 3 four times, whereas both modes 4 and 6 can be transposed six times.

26. For information on contrasting- and analogous-color combinations, see Chevreul, The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors, 75-83; and Faber Birren, Principles of Color: A Review of Past Traditions and Modern Theories of Color Harmony (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1969), 34-44.

27. In both compound and contrasting additive designs, the textural layers intersect frequently, thereby avoiding gaps between the layers that would not only insulate their registral boundaries but also facilitate their perception in the total musical texture.

28. Orchestral timbres are defined in Saint François by standard instrumental families and sub-families (woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion) and by more specialized combinations (e.g., xylos [a percussion ensemble composed of a xylophone, xylorimba, and marimba], Ondes Martenot).

29. Mode 1 [0,2,4,6,8,10] is contained in mode 3 [0,1,2,4,5,6,8,9,10].

30. The friar’s ornithology lesson encompasses the span of music from R23:1-R30:3, shorthand for the first measure of rehearsal number 23 to the third measure after rehearsal number 30.

31. Rössler, Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen, 79.

32. I identify different modes and their transpositions by two numbers separated by a colon: the number to the left of the colon identifies the specific mode and the number to the right its transposition. All transpositions begin on C, which are designated by the number 1. Thus, mode 2:1 refers to Messiaen’s second mode of limited transposition beginning on C.

33. Messiaen identified this sonority as a chord of total chromaticism suggesting ruby red in its bottom layer, crimson red in its middle layer, and blue-gray in its top layer. See Samuel, Music and Color, 148.

34. [1] Paul Griffiths has noted the use of paired color chords in Sept haïkaï (1962) and Couleurs de la cité céleste (1963) that are pitch-class complements of one another but whose associated colors according to Messiaen are not complements according to color theory. For instance, in the third measure of Miyajima et le torii dans la mer from Sept haïkaï, Messiaen combines a turning chord (8-14 {3,5,6,7,8,10,11,0}) played by the strings with its literal complement (4-14 {9,1,2,4}) played by the piano. The turning chord is labeled in the score as evoking red, while its complement is labeled as evoking blue. For Griffiths, if one applies the rules of color complementation to these aggregates, then the chord in the piano should suggest green rather than blue. He concludes that instead of seeking a direct correlation between color and harmony in these paired color chords, one should focus on the musical interaction between them when considering Messiaen’s coloristic effects. To reinforce this viewpoint, Griffiths explores harmonic relationships in the modes of limited transposition, especially what he refers to as the complementary relationship between A major and Eß major in mode 2:1. See Paul Griffiths, Olivier Messiaen and the Music of Time (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), 203-6.

[2] Griffiths’s conclusion warrants further discussion. If one employs the rules of color complementation to predict the colors associated with Messiaen’s aggregates, then one will be disappointed, for that particular correlation between color and harmony is distant in Messiaen’s music. However, if one interprets these aggregates as comprised of two contrasting textural layers with the upper layer’s pitch materials and timbre providing the musical equivalent of a coloristic glow above that of the lower layer’s, then the correlation between color and harmony is closer. In other words, our attention focuses on the interaction between the two opposing layers–the essence of simultaneous contrast–rather than on each layer individually. Indeed, this point underlies Messiaen’s remarks to Almut Rössler mentioned above. When Messiaen refers to his use of pitch-class complementation in terms of the "well[-]known phenomenon of complementary colours," he is underscoring the analogy between the musical interaction of two sonorities that are pitch-class complements of one another and the coloristic interaction of two hues in simultaneous contrast, best exemplified by complementary colors. The rules of color complementation have little, if any, relevance to analyzing the sound-color relationships involved in Messiaen’s aggregates.

35. In the context of Saint François d’Assise, "perfect joy" occurs when a person, in the spirit of Christ, accepts suffering as repentance for sins, those of himself and others.

36. Within the passage, Messiaen uses set class 6-Z17 {6,7,8,10,1,2} to suggest a chord of transposed inversions on Bß (first inversion {1,2,3,6,7,8,10}).

37. The xylos are joined by the tubular bells and suspended cymbal in the skylark I’s music (not shown in Example 9). Since the sounds produced by these two instruments are only tangentially related to the musical contrast generated by the xylos and woodwinds, they should not be considered from a textural standpoint to be on a par with the music played by those two ensembles. Every note of the skylark I’s song is provided with a chord played by the xylos, which is in keeping with Messiaen’s approach to birdsong in which he attempts to reflect the timbre of a bird’s music through harmonic means. The tubular bells and suspended cymbal augment the xylos’ sound through a sustained sonic wash of both pitched and non-pitched resonance elements: throughout the entire "perfect joy" commentary, the tubular bells play a more sustained melodic line when compared to the xylos, and the suspended cymbal plays a sustained trill.

38. Samuel, Music and Color, 219-20, 247-48. Figure 4 is taken from Camille Crunelle Hill, "The Synthesis of Messiaen’s Musical Language in His Opera Saint François d’Assise" (Ph.D. diss., University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, 1996), 163.

39.Olivier Messiaen, Saint François d’Assise (Scènes franciscaines): Opéra en 3 actes et 8 tableaux, 8 vols. (Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1983, 1988-92), Tableau 3, Analyze.

40. In Les Laudes (scene 2), Saint Francis wants to overcome his fear of lepers. He asks God that he be allowed to meet a leper for whom he could show compassion, which will be symbolized by kissing the leper he meets. In Le baiser au lépreux, Saint Francis’s prayer is answered as he meets the Leper in a leper-hospital near Assisi. The Leper is filled with rage, complaining about his condition and cursing God. With the Angel’s help, Saint Francis encourages the Leper to have a change of heart. The scene culminates in the two men embracing, which initiates the double miracle of the Leper’s cure and Saint Francis’s elevation to sainthood. In Messiaen’s view, Le baiser au lépreux is the opera’s key scene because of this embrace and double miracle (Samuel, Music and Color, 214).

41. Mode 3:3 yields quickly to a diatonic collection (5-35 {2,4,6,9,11}) that accentuates the return of the A-major chord. The sonority, which can be analyzed as a DMadd6, 9, and its progression to the A-major chord parodies a plagal cadence at the foreground.

42. All color associations mentioned in this discussion (and in the one on L�Ange musicien) are taken from Rössler, Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen, 43, 117-18.

43. George Ferguson, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art: With Illustrations from Paintings of the Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), 91.

44. Samuel, Conversations with Olivier Messiaen, 20.

45.The actual passage by Saint Thomas Aquinas reads as follows: "Just as human reason fails to grasp the import of poetical utterance on account of its deficiency in truth, neither can it grasp divine things perfectly on account of their superabundance of truth; and therefore in both cases there is need of representation by sensible figures" (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q 101, a 2, ad 2; Summa Theologiae, Latin text, English translation, introduction, and notes by David Bourke and Arthur Littledale, 60 vols. [New York: Blackfriars in conjunction with McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1969], 29:118-21).

46. Ferguson, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, 91-92.

47. While Example 12 displays only the first four measures of the Angel’s music (R89:1-4), the pitch schemes described in these measures apply to the rest of the music (R89:5-16).

48. In like manner, the simultaneous contrast of two complementary colors suggests all primary colors. For instance, red coupled with green implies the presence of red, yellow, and blue.

49. [1] To illustrate a compound additive design that exhibits a high degree of disassociation among its pitch-timbres, let us consider a passage from the orchestral introduction of Le baiser au lépreux (R4:1-R5:4). This compound additive design is composed of three simultaneous pitch schemes that are played by the strings, brass, and woodwinds, respectively. Each scheme yields different pitch collections (modes 3:3 and 3:1, chords of contracted resonance, and two quasi-chromatic hexachords [6-Z37 and 6-Z38]) that are fixed in register and dynamics. The pitch collections, moreover, overlap vertically and produce a thick chordal texture.

[2] There is a three-way contrast of pitch and timbre in the passage. Through their merging with different timbres, the pitch collections are more successful in maintaining their identities. Thus, we hear a string-colored mode 3, brass-tinged chords of contracted resonance, and woodwind-shaded chromatic collections within a congested pitch space. These pitch-timbres, moreover, exhibit no connections with each other, only separations, which engender a musical shape that has not reconciled itself with its inner conflicts. Indeed, perhaps the inclusion of this passage in the introduction to scene 3 depicts the state of the uncured Leper, who has not reconciled himself to God.

50. In his two articles on sound-color relationships in Messiaen’s music (the latter article an amplification of the former), Jonathan W. Bernard delves into Messiaen’s synesthetic responses to gain a deeper understanding of Messiaen’s harmonic structures and how they are used in his music. See Bernard, "Messiaen’s Synaesthesia," 41-68; and idem, "Colour," 203-19. Paul Griffiths has also written on the subject of sound-color relationships in Messiaen’s music. In an article celebrating Messiaen’s seventieth birthday for The Musical Times, Griffiths investigates how sound and color correspond in order to shed light on Messiaen’s harmonic practice. He incorporates much of this examination of sound-color relationships in his book Olivier Messiaen and the Music of Time (see n. 34 above). See Paul Griffiths, "Catalogue de couleurs: Notes on Messiaen’s Tone Colours on His 70th Birthday," The Musical Times 119 (December 1978): 1035-37; and idem, Olivier Messiaen and the Music of Time, 203-6.

51. Besides what has already been mentioned in this article, there is additional evidence suggesting that simultaneous contrast strongly influences the way Messiaen structures his music. In addition to referring to Delaunay and Blanc-Gatti in his interviews and lectures, Messiaen mentioned the work of other painters in his discussions about the analogies between music and painting and, more specifically, through his linking of various composers with various painters (for example, Schoenberg and Kandinsky). Messiaen noted the use of simultaneous contrast in the works of the more modern painters he mentions. When discussing Wassily Kandinsky’s (1866-1944) influence on his poetry in an interview with his student Larry W. Peterson in New York City on November 9, 1970, Messiaen remarked how "he loved the interaction of red and green in Wassily Kandinsky’s painting." Finally, when interviewed for a British television program in 1985 on the life and work of Messiaen, the composer George Benjamin, who also studied with Messiaen, remarked how Messiaen could give someone listening to his music a harmonic shock by following one sonority associated with red by another one associated with green. Benjamin maintains that while we may not see the actual colors involved, we will notice a difference in sound or timbre between the two sonorities. See the Conférence de Notre-Dame, 7-8, 11-12; Rössler, Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen, 45-46, 76, and 87; Samuel, Music and Color, 43-46; Larry W. Peterson, "Messiaen and Surrealism: A Study of His Poetry," in Messiaen’s Language of Mystical Love, ed. Siglind Bruhn, Studies in Contemporary Music and Culture, ed. Joseph Auner, vol. 1 (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998), 223-24; and Olivier Messiaen: The Music of Faith, prod. and dir. Alan Benson, 79 min., London Weekend Television/Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 1985/2000, videocassette.

52. For an examination of Messiaen’s harmonic vocabulary and its connections to color, especially with respect to the music of Saint François d’Assise, see chapter three (pp. 108-76) of my dissertation, Pitch Organization and Dramatic Design in Saint François d’Assise of Olivier Messiaen (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 2001).

53. In an interview with Rössler (Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen, 118), Messiaen stated that the colors of the stage lighting, scenery, and costumes at the 1983 performances of Saint François d’Assise conformed in only general ways to the sound-colors evoked by the score in his colored hearing, because there were "a thousand colors [on a single page of the score], and that’s impossible to reproduce." While we should not take Messiaen literally about the thousand colors per page, numerous color associations are evoked for him by each page of the opera’s score, as evinced by a perusal of his analysis of the blackcap’s music from Le Prêche aux oiseaux in the Traité de rythme, 5:346-58.

54. Olivier Messiaen: The Music of Faith.

End of footnotes