December 10, 2008

The lads in their hundreds (1)

Just saying Olivier Messiaen's name is exceptional. Thomas Grubb's textbook Singing in French includes an appendix in which he cross-references every possible combination of vowels in French, in every possible situation, with the corresponding correct pronunciation in IPA. It's pages of this sort of thing:


But every so often there's a unique word, one that makes its own rule—including this one:


An appropriate inheritance for a creator of singular sounds.

As you probably know, Messiaen would have been 100 years old today. For a birthday card, here's one of my favorite shorter Messiaen pieces, the comparatively obscure "Pi├Ęce pour le Tombeau de Paul Dukas," from 1936. (Today is unseasonably warm here in Massachusetts, which not only brought out scattered celebratory choruses of birds, but also got the piano closer to being in tune than it was at this time last week.)

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