Messiaen’s Gagaku



Olivier Messiaen, Music avant-garde, Non-western influence, Traditional Japanese music, Religion, Musical aesthetics


The tension between nostalgia and innovation is uniquely manifested in Olivier Messiaen’s Gagaku, the fourth movement of his 1962 composition Sept Haikai. Messiaen’s religiosity represented a form of nostalgia to the intellectual French Avant-Garde. The concept of écriture plays an important role in the past/future dialectic of this transformation, causing structure and style to differ based on the principle of non-imitation and asserting itself as the shaping element that makes Gagaku a piece of distinctly French music.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Luigi Antonio Irlandini, University of the State of Santa Catarina (UDESC) (Brazil)

Adjunct professor at the Music Department of UDESC, where he teaches harmony, counterpoint, analysis, and composition. He studied composition with Hans-Joachim Koellreutter in Brazil, Franco Donatoni in Italy, and Brian Ferneyhough in the United States. He received his master's and doctorate degrees in composition, respectively, from the California Institute of the Arts, and the University of California (UCSB). Irlandini was a lecturer in composition and 20th century music at UCSB and a post-doctoral fellow in composition and electronic music at CREATE, Center for Electronic Art and Technology at the same university. His compositions have been performed in Brazil, the United States, Italy, Holland, Japan, and Argentina. Irlandini wrote the article Gagaku, by Olivier Messiaen, originally in English, and presented it at the symposium Nostalgia & Innovation in Twentieth-Century French Music, of the Royal Music Association, at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts at Lancaster University, England, on May 9, 2009.


DUFOURT, Hughes. Musique, pouvoir, écriture. Paris: Christian Bourgois Éditeur, 1991. Tradução italiana: Musica, potere, scrittura. Lucca, BMG Ricordi S.p.A., 1997.

JOHNSON, Robert Sherlaw. Messiaen. Berkeley e Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975.

KRAMER, Jonathan. The Time of Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1988.

MALM, William P. Japanese Music and Musical Instruments. Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo: Charles E.Tuttle Company Publishers, 1959.

MARETT, Allan. Gagaku. Notas do CD Japanese Traditional Music - GAGAKU (Kunaicho-Gakubu) Gravação Tokyo: KING RECORD 1990.

MESSIAEN, Olivier. Technique of my Musical Language. Translated by John Satterfield. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1956.

_______. Sept Haikai. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1966.

_______. Traité de Rythme, de Couleur, et d’Ornithologie. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1994.

PERIER, Alain. Messiaen. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1979.

SAMUEL, Claude. Olivier Messiaen: Music and Color. Conversations with Claude Samuel. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1986.

STOIANOVA, Ivanka. “Narrativisme, Teleologie et Invariance dans l’Oeuvre Musicale a propos de Rituel de Pierre Boulez”. Musique en Jeu 25 (November 1976): 18-31.

STRYK, Lucien, Takashi Ikemoto. The Penguin Book of Zen Poetry. Londres: Penguin Books, 1981.

TERAUCHI, Naoko. “Gagaku”. The Garland Encyclopaedia of World Music, v.7. East Asia: China, Japan, and Korea. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben, editores. New York: Garland Pub., 1998.

WATKINS, Glenn. Pyramids at the Louvre: Music, Culture, and Collage from Stravinsky to the Postmodernists. , Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995.



How to Cite

Irlandini, Luigi Antonio. 2012. “Messiaen’s Gagaku”. Per Musi, no. 25 (January):1-8.



Articles in Portuguese/Spanish