Nature, a source of inspiration - 2. Messiaen, Nature and the 6th Haikai


Olivier Messiaen is a French composer of the XXth century, who can symbolise by himself Nature’s inspiration on mankind.

Nature can be found across the great composer’s very research of sound, beauty, balance, and of course divinity.

For instance, in 1964 he wrote the “Mélodie des planètes”, where he creates a parallel between planets and the functioning of organ’s pipes. His intuition and scientific knowledge relied on the similarities in vibrations of planets, and the air in the pipes of his first and beloved instrument.

In “Méditations sur la mystère de la Sainte Trinité”, he uses complex octaves relationships to symbolize the principles of the yin and the yang in Nature, to express the complementarity of light and obscurity, of man and woman, of fire and water – all to the service of a mystic understanding of our world.

Olivier Messiaen is even more famous for his deep knowledge in ornithology, having toured the world to study birds’ song and having transcripted them in his music for human instruments. His seven Haïkaï were composed in 1962 after an influential trip to Japan. Messiaen had to be struck by the numerous elements found in Japanese culture and close to his own thoughts, interests and philosophy - including of course the contemplation of and inspiration by Nature.

Interestingly, this piece is dedicated to a number people (his wife, French & Japanese musicians & ornithologist), and “to the landscapes, music and all the birds of Japan”. Haïkaï number 6 is named after the mountain birds of Karuizawa, next to the Asama volcano.

It is typical of Messiaen’s reinterpretation of birdsongs for a number of instruments – in this case a mix of piano, wind and string instruments and percussions – all based on their complex rhythms he will have recorded or memorised. 


Messiaen’s 6th Haïkaï is yet another masterpiece directly inspired by Nature. It teaches us how Nature has to be contemplated and gently re-interpreted for our benefit, be it intellectual pleasure, mystical search or physical needs (including of course taking care of our skin).

You can listen to it by clicking here.