Tonality and modality are no more than words in a dictionary. They are of practical use but by no means indispensable. If you look at history, you’ll see that after birdsong, which imitated rain, the oceans and the noise of storms, people began to sing in octaves and fifths, according to the natural distribution of voices; then came modes — pentatonic modes from China, diatonic ones from Greece and chromatic ones from India. This modal language was used for centuries, because tonality as such didn’t emerge until Bach’s day, when it was merged with a highly modal and chromatic language. Before him, Monteverdi and Gesualdo were highly chromatic, just as Mozart was after him. If you like, tonality proper has existed for only two centuries, and Beethoven strikes me as the only composer who is frankly tonal. With Chopin and even more with Debussy, this famous tonality becomes veiled once again. Beyond these concepts, the only phenomenon inherent to the world of sound and which composers have to take into account is resonance.
Olivier Messiaen, from an interview with Jean-Christophe Marti, January 1992 (via homilius)
… wise and beautiful words