Messiaen Modes and Compositional/Improvisational Technique

Messiaen Modes of Limited Transposition

French 20 Century Classical composer Olivier Messiaen employed his own set of modes. [The first mode is better known as the whole tone scale and the second mode is more commonly known as the diminished or octatonic scale]. The modes have
"limited transpositions" meaning that they get to a point where they have the same notes that they started out with.
[Although it could start on a different degree].e,g, the 2nd transposition of the whole tone scale would be the same as the first but starting on the 2nd degree note of D.

In this lesson I will deal with Messiaen’s favourite mode. This is the second transposition of Mode 3. But, first of all let’s look at all of Messaien’s modes and their transpositions.

The 1st Mode has only 1 Transposition. It is all in Tones and it is the “Whole Tone Scale”

Messiaen mode 1 whole tone scale

Mode 2 is the “Octatonic” scale or as it is also known, the “Diminished Scale” it has 3 Transpositions.

Messiaen octatonic mode 2

Mode 3 has 4 Transpositions and is very useful for jazz. The second transposition was Messiaens favourite of his modes.

Messiaen mode 3 lesson

Messiaen mode 3 lesson

In the video below I go through the 3rd mode 2nd transposition with examples.

messiaen's favourite mode lesson

Below are some examples employing this scale for improvisation which in turn can be used to create interesting 
composition.

MESSIAEN MODE 3 [2ND TRANSPOSITION]: EXAMPLE 1

MESSIAEN MODE 3 EXAMPLE 1/improvised line

INTERVALLIC IDEA: EXAMPLE 2

MESSIAEN MODE 3 [2ND TRANSPOSITION]: EXAMPLE 2 Intervallic

Many composers like Tora Takemitsu and improvisers like Allan Holdsworth have manipulated this mode in one form or 
another. In the example below this mode sort of weaves in and out of itself. nother. As you can see in the example belomode sort of weaves in and out of itself.

Weaving in and out of F major 7th: EXAMPLE 3

Weaving in and out of F major 7th: EXAMPLE 3

WEAVING IN AND OUT OF A ALTERED: EXAMPLE 4

Messiaen mode 3 improvisation/Composition example for jazz

Below is a Short Compositional Study where I use Messaiens Modes.

HERE ARE THE REST OF THE MESSIAEN MODES:

The 4th Mode has 6 Transpositions

Messiaen Mode 4

Messiaen Mode 4

The 5th Mode has 6 transpositions

Messiaen Mode 5

Messiaen Mode 5

The 6th Mode has 6 transpositions

Messiaen Mode 6

Messiaen Mode 6

The 7th mode has 6 Transpositions

Messiaen Mode 7

Olivier Messiaen wrote 2 books [now sometimes contained into one volume] called  La technique de mon langage musical (“The Technique of my Musical Language”). In this volume he detailed his compositional technique including his use of rhythm [which I will deal with in a separate web page].

 La technique de mon langage musical ("The Technique of my Musical Language")

 

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