Back to catalogue
TARANIS(Opus 91)
June 200540'Orchestral, Musique vocale
Radio-France Orchestra and Choir, cond. by Alexandre Briger


For Taranis, I conceived both the sung poem and the music at the same time. The unfolding of both follows a spiral form, an archetype already exploited on several occasions since my Éridan quartet (1986). In other words, everything is recurrent (except for the sections that define a new spiral), but everything rises with each return to a plane further away from the untraceable origin.

[Read further]
I revisited Séféris’s poem Sterna, which I had transmuted into music in an earlier orchestral work, La peau du silence. And I transformed his metaphor of a cistern in which the flow of poetry accumulates drop by drop, into a darker vision of temporal paradox. Neither origin nor repetition are really thinkable by man. Pluto, the “rich” who never gives anything back, has no use for the dead he collects. Nor do we understand how Taranis, the Celtic god whose attributes are lightning and the wheel, can govern both the eternal return and the definitive destruction of all things. Perhaps only music can take on the paradox it embodies: killing time by unfolding it, or making it implode?

At a time when five centuries of post-Christian humanism are coming to an end, it is the irreplaceable institution of Radio-France that has enabled me to use the exceptional resources of a large orchestra and chorus for the second time, 25 years after Andromède. Let’s hope that such resources will continue to be available under the global cultural empire that is currently being established.


Living in two opposing dimensions: that of myth and that of history, and waging a losing battle against time, such is the context of this vast secular oratorio. More than any other art form, music sometimes suggests a new dimension of time, where everything is immediately present. I’ve tried to make this paradox tangible through a text, a five-level form, in which the impossible abolition of past and future takes shape. A few images taken from the magnificent poem by Séféris were used to make this metaphysical utopia of the absorption of linear time into cyclical time as physical as possible. Taranis is a mysterious figure who seems to have embodied this paradox of motionless time, since his two attributes – the wheel and the thunderbolt – designate him as both master of repetition and master of catastrophe.

Instrumentation orchestra, 4 perc., (I : Low spring Tb., spoons, maracas, claves, vibra, 3 low toms, 3 congas. II : low spring drum, susp. cym. med. & low, bow, maracas, w-bl. pitched C4-F6, lithophone C3-C5, 3 med-low-pitched toms , vibra 4 oct., 3 congas. III : marimba F2-F6, Thunder sheet, maracas, 3 med.-high-pitched toms, timpani C1. IV : marimba C1-C6, T-T grave, spoons, trgl, marac., 3 geophone high-pitched toms, bell bowl C5. 5 timp., rain stick, Pno, celesta, cymbalum, 2 hp., 6-voice choir (minimum 60), narrator.

First performance

05/10/08 Paris, Festival Présences de Radio-France, Cité de la Musique, Radio-France orchestra and choir conducted by Alexander Briger, narrator André Wilms


Commissioned by


Dedicated to

à Philippe et Lily Staib


Image gallery