'It was in 1937. In addition to the magnificent Exhibition which attracted to Paris the curious of the whole world, the City of Paris had organized some parties for the sound, the water and the light, which took place on the Seine river. By nightfall, vast audio-visual shows, where rockets fell from the sky and spurts of water jets mingled with the harmonies of symphonic scores. For the musical ornament of these evenings, the city of Paris commissioned twenty composers.

I was one of the twenties. My colleagues choosed wheater orchestras, choirs, or chamber formations. I had the idea of a sextet of Ondes Martenot. The sounds having to be amplified by loudspeakers placed on all the buildings surrounding the Seine River, the ondes were well suited to this music outdoors. Specialized architects brought me some huge draws carefully timed and representing the various moments of the party which were attributed to me. The form and the music of the work are therefore absolutely dependent on these divisions and imposed timings. The night is mysterious, the deep water has a funereal aspect, the rockets are cheerful, playful, casual, the fireworks display the same cheerful character. On the other hand, the spurts of the water are furious and terrible, or dreamy and contemplative. It is this last feeling which predominates, and in the most valid moments of the "FETE DES BELLES EAUX", that is to say when water reaches twice a great height, one hears a long slow phrase, almost a prayer that makes water the symbol of Grace and Eternity, according to the words of "the Gospel according to St. Jean": "The water that I will give will become a source of water springing up to the eternal life".[1]


[1] Messiaen, Olivier « Fêtes des Belles Eaux » Score Préface, Éditions Musicales Alphonse Leduc 175, RUE saint-Honoré – 75040 Paris Cedex 01



Mother and Child celebrates the miracle of childbirth. It also celebrates Mary in her universal aspect as mother of all Prophets, and co-redemptress with Christ. But behind all this is the Theophanic Light, single and infinite, and the same in every Religious tradition. The music is at once tender, ecstatic, and luminous and follows the text. I have interpolated into Brian Keeble’s poem, texts celebrating the Eternal feminine in Greek, and then at the climax an outburst in Sanskrit of ATMA. This is supreme Reality, the true Self, shining and infinite, the one single God, expressed in music by pulsating awesome strokes on the Hindu Temple Gong with organ and choir in massive blocks. This seems to say that the real ‘Mother and Child’ are both beyond birth and beyond death and beyond time.

JT 2002