It was in his Quartet for the End of Time that Olivier Messiaen began a life-long process of discovery, not only into his inner world of colour but, also, into a sound world which eliminated conventional notions of musical time. He regarded himself as a composer and rhythmatician and the task he set himself, in his Quartet, was to produce a rhythmic system that could emulate the patterns of nature. The Apocalyptic inference of the Quartet’s title was deliberate; it followed directly from the vision Messiaen experienced when he was a prisoner of war, in 1940.
My own visual interpretation of Abîme des oiseaux, the 3 rd movement of the Quartet, has been influenced by two key facts. First, Messiaen’s ability to see his own music, and that of other composers, in vivid colours. Secondly, the life-long inspiration that Messiaen gained from the shimmering stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral. Details of just one Rose Window have enabled me to interpret, visually, the extreme conflicts of mood conveyed by Messiaen’s music. For the composer, the Angel who announces the End of Time means the dissolution of musical time in a multitude of new rhythmic ways. My aim has been to create a pattern book of images where each of Messiaen’s innovative rhythmic patterns has its visual counterpart. To achieve this end, I have explored new techniques and methods for producing Visual Music which seek to give some outward expression to the composer’s Apocalyptic vision.