Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Calgary Philharmonic teams up with ACAD for display of sound and colour

Tour de Force: Carnival of the Animals and Turangalîla is at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary Saturday at 8 pm.

There's a reason Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla isn't performed very often. A challenging piece, to say the least, it is an epic, extremely avant-garde and complex work of music – "a heavy, heavy listen" is how Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Director of Artistic Planning Heather Slater puts it.

It's also masterful. And when the CPO began putting together its J'aime Paris Festival (on now), Turangaglîla, which premiered in 1949, was a natural. "It deserves to be heard," says Ms. Slater.

How to make it more accessible? For Turangalîla's Alberta debut, the CPO commissioned the Alberta College of Art + Design to create a visual installation that would serve not simply as a bells-and-whistles complement but as a spectacular explainer.

Story continues below advertisement

Building on Messiaen's synesthesia – he perceived music as colours – a team led by ACAD's Kurtis Lesick created a revolutionary visual interpretation of this revolutionary orchestral work.

"That installation component is basically there as a bridge … providing symbolic meanings, colour codes, emotive context, insights about him, insights about the time [with] references to popular culture," says Mr. Lesick.

At rehearsal, the work's unsettling wood block was accompanied by a disjunctive burst of colour.

And the eerie low brass "statue theme," as Messiaen called it, unleashed a ghostly image of a woman walking the distance of the stage in tempo with the music.

"It's almost like a listening guide," says Ms. Slater. "[It] makes you feel like you're inside his head."

Tour de Force: Carnival of the Animals and Turangalîla is at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary Saturday at 8 pm.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at