Olivier Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus

This video features a live recording of pianist Cole Burger performing movement 13 (Noël) from Olivier Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (Twenty Contemplations of the Infant Jesus). Multimedia artist Josh C. Simmons created the animation using the digital animation software Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects. Burger and Simmons met regularly over the course of six months to create animations for all twenty movements, for use in Burger’s performances of the complete cycle. Some movements contain only translations of Messiaen’s program notes, while others are similar to this video in closely following Messiaen’s forms.

This video begins with Burger’s translation of Messiaen’s program note for the movement. It then follows the rondo-esque form of the music. For the refrain, Messiaen includes the instruction “comme des cloches” (like bells). The animation features a bell image with different perspectives and lightings. The gentle middle section uses a mellower circular graphic. Simmons expresses the abrupt ending by having the bell come off its handle.

Messiaen exhibited a kind of synesthesia, which allowed him to visualize colors simultaneously with music. This meant that he associated specific sounds with certain color schemes.1  In interviews and writings, he linked specific pitch collections with certain colors. Messiaen associates orange, gold, mauve, and milky white with different pitch collections used in the middle section of this movement.2  Simmons adopts these colors where Messiaen employs these pitch collections.

For a trailer of the entire set, please visit vimeo.com/simsies/messiaen.

Presentation Type
: Recital

Recording Date: February 19, 2015

Recording Location: Bowling Green, Ohio

Peformers: Cole Burger, piano, Josh Simmons, multimedia



1.Jonathan W. Bernard, “Messiaen’s Synaesthesia: The Correspondence between Color and Sound Structure in His Music,” Music Perception 4/1 (Fall 1986): 41.
2.Ibid., 47.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 17/11/2015

Cole Burger

Cole Burger is an Instructor at Bowling Green State University, where he teaches and coordinates class piano and piano pedagogy. He holds degrees in piano performance and economics from Northwestern University and the University of Texas. 

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