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I've decided to learn La Colombe by Olivier Messiaen, but the score looks like this, and I can't make any sense of it. What might be the purpose of this notation? Thank you very much :) enter image description here

  • A somewhat related answer here. – guidot Apr 25 at 13:09
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The purpose of the notation is to show more clearly the different independent lines of the musical texture. By using three staves, we see more easily the bass/accompaniment voice in the bottom staff, a melodic line in the middle staff, and a shimmering texture in the upper staff.

As for playing it, it's typically up to the performer how to split this material up into two hands. Composers split them up in different ways, so choose what makes the most practical and musical sense for you, and feel free to change your approach as needed.

Notice, for instance, that the top staff has rests on the downbeats, and both outer staves have (non-notated) rests at the end of each measure. These are clues that suggest when hands are supposed to be playing material in other staves.

In many cases, one hand will be playing two staves; in other instances, a single staff will occasionally need to be split among both hands.

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    Even with two staves, you really should generally feel free to split up the notes however is more convenient for you, not by staff. – Alexander Woo Apr 24 at 20:24
  • @AlexanderWoo True! – Richard Apr 24 at 20:39

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