Messiaen the Theologian  book cover
1st Edition

Messiaen the Theologian

Edited By

Andrew Shenton

ISBN 9781138248014
Published September 9, 2016 by Routledge
312 Pages

SAVE $12.59
was $62.95
USD $50.36

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

For Olivier Messiaen, music was a way of expressing his faith. He considered it his good fortune to have been born a Catholic and declared that 'the illumination of the theological truths of the Catholic faith is the first aspect of my work, the noblest and no doubt the most useful'. Messiaen is one of the most widely performed and recorded composers of the twentieth-century and his popularity is increasing, but the theological component of his music has so far largely been neglected, or dealt with superficially, and continues to provide a serious impediment to understanding and appreciating his music for some of his audience. Messiaen the Theologian makes a significant contribution to Messiaen studies by providing cultural and historical context to Messiaen's theology. An international array of Messiaen scholars cover a wide variety of topics including Messiaen's personal spirituality, the context of Catholicism in France in the twentieth century, and comparisons between Messiaen and other artists such as Dante and T.S. Eliot. Interdisciplinary methodologies such as exegesis, theological studies and analysis are used to contribute to the understanding of several major works including Éclairs sur l'au-delá..., Sept Haïkaï and Saint François d'Assise. By approaching Messiaen and his music from such important and original perspectives, this book will be of interest not only to musicians and theologians, but also to readers interested in the connection between spirituality and the arts.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introducing Messiaen the theologian, Andrew Shenton; Part 1 Messiaen the Theologian: Religious literature in Messiaen's personal library, Yves Balmer; Messiaen as preacher and evangelist in the context of European modernism, Peter Bannister; Messiaen's saintly naïveté, Sander van Maas. Part 2 Messiaen's Relationship with Theologians: Olivier Messiaen and Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger: 2 views of the liturgical reform according to the 2nd Vatican Council, Karin Heller; Messiaen's relationship to Jacques Maritain's musical circle and neo-Thomism, Douglas Shadle; Messiaen and Aquinas, Vincent P. Benitez. Part 3 Messiaen, Poets and Theological Themes: Dante as guide to Messiaen's Gothic spirituality, Robert Fallon; Five quartets: the search for the still point of the turning world in the war quartets of T.S. Eliot and Olivier Messiaen, Andrew Shenton; The charm of impossibilities: mystic surrealism as contemplative voluptuousness, Stephen Schloesser. Part 4 Theology in Messiaen's Music: 'Une Å“uvre simple, solonnelle...': Messiaen's commission from André Malraux, Nigel Simeone; Olivier Messiaen and the avant-garde poetics of the Mess de la Pentecôte, Robert Sholl; Messiaen as explorer in Livre du Saint Sacrement, Luke Berryman; Buddhist temple, Shinto shrine and the invisible God of Sept Haïkaï, Cheong Wai Ling; Glossary of people; Select bibliography; Index.

View More



Andrew Shenton holds bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees from London University, Yale and Harvard respectively. A renowned performer, scholar and educator, Dr. Shenton is currently a member of the musicology faculty at Boston University where he directs the Messiaen Project. He was a contributor to Olivier Messiaen: Music, Art, Literature (Ashgate, 2007) and his monograph Olivier Messiaen’s System of Signs (Ashgate, 2008) won the 2009 Miller Book Award.


’...the book holds together critical scholarship in a variety of disciplines without watering down any one of them... Messiaen the Theologian presents a vivid display of the life and work of Olivier Messiaen - a man who refused to shy away from his personal convictions and inspired originality. This book is representative of the leading current scholarship on Messiaen, and provides a critical appraisal of several key issues surrounding the relationship between theology and the music of Olivier Messiaen.’ Catholic Books Review 'The present volume - reflecting the exemplary standards we have come to expect of Ashgate - is to be welcomed as a stimulating and serious contribution to the expanding critical literature of this extraordinary artist.' Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies '...highly accessible...a comprehensible survey of the theological life and times of the great musical colourist, along with a useful bibliography and biographical glossary ... a particular strength of this useful book is the light touch with which its international contributors integrate case studies with more general approaches to specific aspects of Messiaen's work, successfully mapping the correspondences between his music and theology.' Times Literary Supplement 'Messiaen the Theologian sets the stage for a full and compelling exploration of Messiaen's reach outward past Roman Catholicism into the world of global mysticism... fascinating...' The American Organist '... [a] very rich, scholarly book... [with] excellent essays... essential for academic libraries...' Theological Book Review 'The "Glossary of People" is invaluable. Summing Up: Highly recommended.' Choice