A friend of mine played this song to a group of us once, a while ago now. There were maybe four or five of us in the room and, while we’d all been pretty talkative beforehand, we all went silent and just listened when he put this song on. There is something incredibly captivating and vivid about 20th century French composer Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Quatuor pour la fin du temps’ and with the end of time purportedly approaching on Friday, now seems as good a time as any to share the intensely sublime piece.
It blends together various strange, slow paces, creating a sense of something almost majestic while melodically it interweaves between evocative moments of dissonance and gentle brushes of harmony. It is truly powerful listening which messes with your perception of time – after playing the section embedded above, my friend asked us how long we thought we’d been listening for. We all guessed around two to three minutes. It was around nine minutes long.
Inspired by the Book of Revelation (William Blake’s depiction of which is above), there is certainly a holy magnitude to the piece too, and something somehow intangible. Indeed, it is an odd sensation listening to it but, in this Quartet as a whole, Messiaen created something stunning and slow and strange and, ultimately, something very, very beautiful.