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Music & Birds @ A Catalog of Birds: Home

Music, other than that created by the birds

Inspired by Messiaen

We've named our project in honor of the French composer Olivier Messiaen and his Catalogue d'oiseaux (1956-68), a collection of 13 piano pieces inspired by birdsong. (Of course, the term "catalog" seems appropriate in itself since catalogs and cataloging are essential to our work as librarians).


An interview with Paul Crossley

Olivier Messiaen and Paul Crossley--Royan, 1968. (Photo courtesy of Paul Crossley.)

One of the inspirations for our Catalog of Birds at CSS has been the great 20th-century composer, Olivier Messiaen, a keen birdwatcher who frequently incorporated birdsong into his compositions. Our colleague Dr. Nicholas Susi recently spoke with the renowned British pianist Paul Crossley CBE about his reminiscences of Messiaen. The interview includes a charming anecdote about Crossley's first meeting with the composer along with his comments on Messiaen's Catholicism and interest and use of birdsong. Crossley also discusses his own remarkable career in music including his work as a writer and host for the landmark 1980s British television series Sinfonietta which highlighted the compositions of leading 20th-century composers. The conversation concludes with Crossley's fascinating comments on just a few of the works by major 20th-century composers--including Tippett, Takemitsu, and Knussen--which were written specially for him.

The Library's Naxos service provides access for CSS students and faculty  to dozens of Mr. Crossley's recordings, including several devoted to the works of Olivier Messiaen.


Dr. Nicholas Susi Plays Liszt

Composed in 1863, the first of Liszt's Two Legends (S.175) is inspired by the story of St. Francis preaching to the birds. It is performed here by our talented former colleague, Dr. Nicholas Susi.

Dr. Nicholas Susi Plays Ravel


Maurice Ravel described his Oiseaux Tristes (translated as "Sad Birds") as "birds lost in the torpor of a very dark forest during the hottest hours of summer." The Work is heard here in a performance by Dr. Nicholas Susi, a former Assistant Professor of Music at the College.