On this morning's Tweet of the Day, Liz Bonin presented the blue rock thrush. Click the button below to hear the original Radio 4 broadcast.
For our Re:Tweet we turn to an old friend: Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). Messiaen was famous for his style oiseaux using carefully notated birdsong as source material for a huge variety of pieces. In his Catalogue d'Oiseaux he created thirteen exquisite piano pieces, each featuring a different species, along with a supporting cast of many more.
Messiaen’s introduction speaks of the bird’s song blending with the sound of the waves. The pedal marking creates some extraordinary resonances with the accompanying bass chords. Throughout the piece these bass sonorities represent the echo given off by rock faces overlooking the blue sea.
The blue rock thrush is a bird that can appear anything from powder blue to black depending on the light, and Messiaen undoubtedly saw in this the many moods of the sea, including terrifying waves and rough cliffs. The many depictions of birdsong are often quite sharply set against four “mood” sections which are announced in the score in characteristically vivid ways: ‘the resonance of rock faces', 'luminous, iridescent, blue halo' and so on. These exquisitely harmonious episodes, according to the composer, complement the satin texture and purple-blue, slate and blue-black shades of the blue rock thrush's plumage. In this most joyous and visual of the Catalogue pieces, Messiaen connects birdsong, landscape and his own sensory perception in a complex but eminently shareable real-world experience.