Turangalîla is a purely an instrumental work, and itstitle is more enigmatic than descriptive. The title comes from two Sanskrit words: turanga, meaning “time” as applied to movement and rhythm, and lîla, meaning “‘play’ in the divinesense of cosmic creation and destruction, life and death” (Barker 54). It is imperative to examine the workscomposed before and after Turangalîla tothen better understand the work’s programmatic content. At the time of the commission Messiaen wasdeeply fascinated by the myth of Tristanund Isolde, and his symphony is the central work in a trilogy concerning thethemes of love and death. Preceding Turangalîla is Harawi (1945), a song cycle for soprano and piano, and it is thefirst work in the triptych. The piecereceives its name from a Quechan word utilized in Peruvian folklore meaning “anirresistible and profoundly passionate love, which often leads towards the deathof the two lovers” (Sholl 35). This ideaprovides Messiaen with an impetus to continue his exploration on the love-deaththeme from the Tristan myths, as thesetwo themes are explicitly stated in the work’s subtitle: Chant d’amour et de mort (“Song of love and death”).
Harawi canbe considered a cathartic work,