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Messiaen on Composers Datebook

Another day means another great Composers Datebook for wind composers. Although the piece featured on today's Composers Datebook, "From the Canyons to the Stars" by Olivier Messiaen is certainly worthy of discussion on this blog. His music has been featured three times on this website and fans of his music will find a great deal to love about this piece. Enjoy!

Of Mountains and Messiaen

The gourmet composer Giacomo Rossini had a beef dish, Tournedos Rossini, named after him, and over the centuries countless towns have honored their native composers by naming streets after them -- but few can top the honor bestowed on the late Olivier Messiaen by the citizens of Parowan, Utah: They named a mountain after him.

On today's date in 1978, the citizens of Parowan resolved to name a local mountain Mt. Messiaen in honor of the French composer, who had spent a month in Utah five years earlier while working on his symphonic suite titled From the Canyons to the Stars.

Messiaen had been commissioned to write a work for the American Bicentennial in 1976. Apparently back in France he owned of a series of books titled "Wonders of the World," which included striking color pictures of the canyons of Utah, which so fired Messiaen's imagination that he made a special pilgrimage to Bryce Canyon in Utah see them with his own eyes. The result was an orchestra score titled From the Canyons to the Stars, which includes a movement titled Bryce Canyon and the Red-orange rocks.

"Colors are very important to me," Messiaen once said. "I have a gift -- it's not my fault, it's just how I am -- whenever I hear music or even if I read music, I see colors. The colors do just what the sounds do: they are always changing, but they are marvelous."

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