Description: Oraison, composed by Olivier Messiaen in 1937 for six Ondes Martenot, transcribed for Buchla 200e synthesizer and Haken Continuum Fingerboard controller and performed by Richard Lainhart in 2009.
From the time I first touched the Haken Continuum, I'd wanted to use it to play a composition by Olivier Messiaen called "Oraison". I first heard "Oraison" years ago as a student of electronic music, and had fallen in love with its simple, beautiful harmonies and profound sense of mystery.
"Oraison" is not only a lovely piece of music, but has historical interest too - it may be the first piece of purely electronic music written expressly for live performance. Also of note is that Messiaen re-arranged "Oraison" for cello and piano and used it for the fifth movement of "Quartet for the End of Time", which he composed in a German prisoner-of-war camp in 1941; the "Quartet" is one of the great classics of 20th-century music.
"Oraison" ("prayer") is from a suite of pieces for six Ondes Martenot called "Fete des Belles Eaux" ("Celebration of the Beautiful Waters"), composed for the Paris International Exposition in 1937. The Ondes Martenot was among the first electronic instruments, and is still among the most expressive. The Continuum's own expressive qualities seemed at least the equal of the Ondes Martenot's, while allowing for polyphony and the possibility of performance of the work by a single player. I transcribed "Oraison" for my Buchla 200e/Continuum system, programmed the modern system in homage to the sound of the Ondes Martenot, and now offer this performance to you. - Richard Lainhart