Musician Charles Rosen departs our world at 85, and Messiaen's would-be 104th birthday is celebrated.
A talented performer, Rosen is best known as a musicologist with a particularly sharp tongue. He was a thinker of alarming lucidity, and even when I have found his writings obstinate and wrong-headed, I have never found reason to deny his clarity of thought. A good composer is constantly fighting back a sea of unanswered questions, which makes Rosen's assured perspective on us all the more incredible.
Messiaen the composer changed the course of music forever. Messiaen the performer, however, found stability in action; his 61 years of organ playing in the Église de la Sainte-Trinité must have grounded his adventurous mind. It should be a given that all musicians explorers and inventors, but perhaps it is equally important to establish in our lives the backdrop against which our adventures can be understood, for fear of going too deeply into our own brains.