Année de composition
16 minutes
Instrumental ensemble [18 musicians] : 6 percussionists and 12 strings (4 violins I, 3 violins II. 2 violas, 2 cellos, 2 double bass)

With the title Silenciaire, the author intends to propose a kind of breviary of silence, a material which our time has made a precious phenomenon among all. From this contemplation of silence, which he tends to consider as the source of all creation and all life, comes a discovery of inner space, both for the creator and for the listener. Le Silenciaire also attempts to suggest, like certain phenomena in nature, the absence of noise through an entanglement of sounds that can go as far as a din. At other times, the work punctuates with spurts of sound, areas of silence woven with veins that are barely perceptible to the ear. Only the total impression left by this work, once the resonance of the last verse has died down, will tell each one if he or she has been able to isolate and identify along the way a little of the precious absence that is the quest of Silenciaire.


Notice by Maurice Ohana


It is thus a work in hollow, which rests on this astonishing paradox that it is necessary to resort to this impressive arsenal of percussions to give the dimension of silence. And Ohana superbly orchestrates this game of opposites, which he always indulges in with delight, and without ever ignoring the contradictions. At the time of the French premiere of Le Silenciaire, he confided to the filmmaker Paul Seban: “Absolute silence, total silence must be something perhaps unbearable. (…) You know very well that we are fed up with noise and how much we want silence”. He added: “There is a kind of meditation to be led on the silence”, and his work is an eloquent illustration of it, in a dialectic desire / fear of the silence. At the same time, it is a meditation on the very reason for music, which is born of silence and returns to it, and one cannot help but think of this sentence of a Chinese sage that Henri Dutilleux likes: “If what you have to say is not more beautiful than silence, then be silent.


Excerpt from “Maurice Ohana”, by Édith Canat de Chizy and François Porcile, published by Fayard

Création mondiale
September 6th, 1969 | Festival de Lucerne | Swizerland
Éditions Billaudot

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