A Theological Interpretation of Four Pièces Terminales from Charles Tournemire's L'Orgue Mystique
Duffy, Sarah Lottie
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Tournemire wrote in his memoirs, “I offer commentary on Gregorian chant in the modal system which did not know how to exclude chromaticism" (Mémoires, 39). There have been several recent studies of the modal and chromatic musical language found in Tournemire’s L’Orgue Mystique, exploring the idea of Tournemire as a symbolist and a mystic. This dissertation provides a critical interpretation of Tournemire’s musical commentary in the final movements of four suites from L’Orgue Mystique. This interpretation was made by analyzing Tournemire’s use and combination of the symbols of mode and chromaticism, representing God and humanity respectively, in his musical language in light of two literary sources: the texts of the chants that he used as melodic material, and the textual quotations that he included in his manuscript Plan for L’Orgue Mystique. To build upon a phrase used in a recent article by Bogusław Raba, I argue that Tournemire’s L’Orgue Mystique participates in a “mystical musical eschatology” through the synthesis of diatonicism (modality) and chromaticism, in which the modal assumes the chromatic without destroying it and without being diminished by it. The significance of discussing the meaning of Tournemire's language for the performer, especially in relation to the specific quotations from the manuscript Plan, cannot be overstated. The dissemination of information contained within the manuscript Plan is important for understanding Tournemire’s piety and the religious symbolism of the pieces. Appreciating the work of a "mystic" (as he has been called) takes time and analysis by many people; Tournemire’s music deserves this study in order for its depth to be known by performers and audiences. This research is equally important to the study of French music of the first half of the 20th century, attending to the work of a composer who draws from the techniques of many eras to create his own language, and who was an inspiration to many composers who came after him.
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