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From the Canyons to the Stars -<br>
Des canyons aux Etoiles

"All impressions are transformed into music within me" - Olivier Messiaen

The Project

Chief Conductor Jeffrey Tate and the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, in collaboration with composer and visual artist Daniel Landau, performed Olivier Messiaen's masterpiece Des canyons aux étoiles (From the Canyons to the Stars) in a new cinematic installation, where images of man's impact on the environment create a counterpoint to sounds of untouched nature, the inspiration for Messiaen's historic composition. Through the use of video, film images, and multiple screens, the concert hall turned into an artistic space that invited the audience to enter the multi-sensory experience that was Messiaen's creative process. This unique orchestral and visual experience celebrates the beauty of the earth and our unaltered landscapes.

The Piece

"The grandest and most beautiful marvels of the world must be the canyon's of Utah...there are castles, towers, dungeons, there are turrets, bridges...even more beautiful, there are colors...I observed all of this very carefully, I wrote it all down, notation after notation" - Olivier Messiae

In 1971, Alice Tully commissioned Messiaen to write a piece commemorating America's Bicentennial. After viewing photographs in the encyclopedia Les Marveilles du Monde, Olivier Messiaen was inspired and fascinated with the natural wonder he found in the landscapes of the American West. Des canyons aux étoiles represents Messiaen's sonic impressions of America's last untouched frontier. The composition received its premier at Lincoln Center in 1974, and was revolutionary in its artistic concept. Messiaen translated the visual structures and shapes he experienced during his visit to Utah's Bryce Canyon into sound. The piece was so moving that citizens of Utah successfully petitioned to have Mount Messiaen named after the composer.

Hamburg Symphony and Jeffrey Tate

"To take new paths, to be dramatic, passionate and courageous... To go all-out in the desire to savor the moment: that is the motivation that drives the musical work of Jeffrey Tate and the Hamburg Symphony." - Altona Info

This unique interpretation of Des canyons aux étoiles will inaugurate Jeffery Tate’s second season as Chief Conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra with its debut on September 19, 2010, followed by international presentations in 2012. Maestro Jeffery Tate is considered to be one of the great Mozart and 20th century music conductors of our age. Maestro Tate spent significant time as the assistant to Olivier Messiaen's foremost pupil, Pierre Boulez, and is widely sought after as an interpreter of Messiaen's music. Since 1957, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra has been one of Europe's pioneering ensembles. Under Maestro Tate’s artistic vision, the orchestra promises to continue to lead Europe in broadening the experience of the classical concert.


The Visual Artist

"The idea is that it's one huge, natural event... what I wanted was some visual equivalent of the untouched world and then that untouched world being damaged by us. Messiaen, I think, would be absolutely in favor of that." - Jeffrey Tate

Israeli artist Daniel Landau's unique background as a classically trained composer and visual artist made him a perfect fit for this project, and led the HSO to commission his work for this cutting-edge collaboration. Daniel Landau’s film depicts a journey of survival. Its main characters wander out of natural landscapes into the unnatural, man-made structures of the modern, developed world. Landau contrasts images of nature, pollution, and spirituality, another major inspiration behind Messiaen's compositions.


Daniel Landau: "Clearly, Messiaen’s 100-minutes-composition would be strong enough to be heard with no additives. However, the intellectual complexity of the work (and, thus, a part of its beauty) cannot be revealed through listening alone. The religious, mystical, social and philosophical layers of the work and their fascinating interaction are of incredible contemporary relevance that can only be revealed through a performance of the music within a new aesthetical context. No mere illustration, aiming to dissolve the work’s complexity has been aimed; turning an auditorium into an artistic space for an intellectually complex piece of modern music is what has inspired me to accept the Hamburg Symphony’s commission for the new video installation.

My visual installation for Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles depicts a challenging observation of man’s relations with nature by creating a semiotic and epic film, serving as a polyphonic counterpart to the orchestral piece.

The work’s conceptual point of departure is the cyclical process of decay and creation, as the driving force of a society clinging to its wish for redemption. The opening scene is shot at the Dead Sea, a perishing natural wonder, where the film’s main characters embark on a journey of survival - taking the audience from the breathtaking mountainous landscape of the Judean desert to heavy industrialized Europe. The composition’s twelve movements serve as a key to my interpretation of Messiaen’s work - from Christian Europe and its current twelve-star “aura” to the re-creation of the Last Supper and the twelve apostles. Through a puzzling visual narrative the film unfolds a metaphoric voyage of the geology, mythology, and ecology of man."




· Making-of pictures

· Learn more about Hamburg Symphony

· Learn more about Maestro Jeffrey Tate

· Learn more about filmmaker Daniel Landau

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