Letter-by-MessiaenTon de Leeuw’s music is essentially diatonic. He uses modes, melodic lines, counterpoints, chords, but it all remains diatonic. Hardly any discords. The clour white, or just a shade bluish, sometimes a golden light is added. Treatment of the 12 voices in his work about the “Cantique des Cantiques” [Song of Songs] also remains diatonic, both in his pianissimo and forte. His work on part of “l’Apocalypse” [The Book of Revelation] provides a new timbral element with staccato of the horn and the clarinet. Plainsong is introduced in his “Psaumes pour la Messe des Morts” [Psalm for the Requiem Mass], as well as dramatic effects where the beating of the tam-tam comes up against the ostinatos of the marimba, against the calls of the female voice. There are even bunches of chords with the use of modes. But the spirit always remains diatonic in a static way that is very close to the type of oriental music which penetrates the listener and gets him into a semi-oneiric state, the state of a waking dream.

Olivier Messiaen