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About this Piece

French composer Olivier Messiaen was one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century, playing an essential part in the development of modern music, both as a composer and a teacher, from before World War II up to his death in 1992. Messiaen viewed himself as "compositeur et rythmicien," underlining the importance rhythm played in his musical language - influenced by ancient Greek meters, medieval rhythms and Western developments. Many of his works are explicitly religious in nature, including a large number of works for organ. He also composed for orchestra, chamber ensemble, piano, solo voice, and chorus, as well as works for instruments and tape.

Cinq rechants (Five Refrains), composed in 1949, employs an elaborately developed rhythmic structure that is predominantly Hindu-influenced. While the set is composed in a verse-refrain form, the text remains constant throughout. Variety is achieved instead through an increased musical elaboration; in "Très vif," the fourth of the set, the quasi-instrumental hummed accompaniment is altered with each verse. The text, interspersed with meaningless syllables from Quechua (an Indian language of Peru) and Sanskrit, is a celebration of love written by Messiaen.

Rechant:   Refrain:
Niokamâ palalan soukî   Niokamâ palalan soukî
mon bouquet tout défait rayonne   my crumpled bouquet is radiant
niokamâ palalan soukî   niokamâ palalan soukî
les volets roses Oha amour amour   the pink petals Oha love love
du clair au sombre Oha   from light to dark Oha
Couplet (Verse):
roma tama tama tama roma tama
tama tama ssouka rava
kâli vâli ssouka ssouka ssouka naham kassou