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A Tribute to French Composer Olivier Messiaen  

This 2002 tribute went far beyond the borders of contemporary classical music and highlighted the influence Messiaen still has on today's artistic life. From fields as diverse as computer music (Subotnick, Wessel), jazz (Zorn), and the visual arts (Brereton), artists will present Messiaen's world and personality through their own work. The new opera production was evoked by the performance of short excerpt from Saint Francois d'Assise.

These cross-disciplinary bridges were highlighted by practical and didactic means. Kurt Brereton evoked Messiaen's insatiable quest for birdsongs as well as synesthesia and the essential part musical colors would play in Messiaen's composition, through his paintings and installations. In informal discussions, computer music pioneer Morton Subotnick and eclectic composer John Zorn shared their interest in Messiaen's work. Scientist and improvising composer David Wessel gave a hands-on tutorial on the Ondes Martenot, a rare instrument that is key to Messiaen's Saint Francois d'Assise.  
Live performances included excerpts of the 3rd scene of Messiaen's Saint Francois d'Assise, Morton Subotnick's Gestures..., and John Zorn's Duras, a composition inspired by Messiaen's Quatuor for the end of time.  

Act 1:
Kurt Brereton
(visual artist)
Talk on birdsongs and colors in Messiaen's music.
Illustration of Messiaen's influence over Brereton's
media art.
David Wessel (computer music composer)
and Mary Chun (Ondes Martenot player)
Presentation of the Ondes Martenot, and Messiaen's use of this instrument.

Act 2:
San Francisco Opera ("Saint Francis" team)
A short excerpt of Messiaen's opera Saint Francois d'Assise was staged and performed by SF opera team.
Morton Subotnick (composer) discussed Messiaen's influence on his compositions. He will perform excerpts from his piece Gestures... for computer and spatialized audio.
John Zorn (composer)
John Zorn discussed Messiaen's influence on his piece Duras. Performance of Duras, featuring the Abel-Steinberg-Winant trio:
David Abel violin
John Eichenseer piano
Roy Malan violin
Ches Smith percussion
Julie Steinberg Hammond organ
William Winant percussion
Stephen Drury prompter



-- John Cage