A Rhythmical Ode To The Creation



It is perhaps the greatest miracle of all: Life. Try to fathom the immense complexity of the ecosystem that provides us with everything we need to survive no matter where we live on the planet. Our brains would not be able to think of all those aspects involved, even in our scientific age, with space travel and technology that enables us to look far beyond where we can travel physically. Try a probability calculation on the odds against life developing by pure chance, and the number will get as close to impossible as you can get.
When rationality cannot completely convince us, spirituality fills the gap. And that is the state of mind in which creativity can blossom, why the arts have been born.

Music. Dance. Images.

But we will stay down to earth. We will just wonder, admire and celebrate the miracle of our existance in our own ode to life. A rhythmical one, starring the oldest musical instruments humanity invented. Because what is the very first thing we hear when a new life is in the making? A heartbeat. A pulse that stands for life itself, from the first spark of light to old age.



1. The program starts with just a double bass and a cello, playing the slow, dark and low first pulses of Alfred Schnittke’s Hymn II. It immediately creates a meditative, inward and mysterious atmosphere, but also gives the impression that something is about to happen. Near the end, both instruments climb higher and higher, almost beyond their natural powers, and when they finally dissolve, one cannot help thinking: “and there was light.”

2. Pulau Dewata, (meaning “Island of the Gods”) is a result of a visit to Bali that initiated a new period in
Paul Vivier’s stylistic evolution, written as a tribute. In his notes Vivier explains that he wanted a simple piece: monochrome, a short piece above all full of joy. The rhythmic language is drawn from the Balinese rhythmic line, the ending of the piece is even an exact quotation of the “panjit prana,” the offering dance of the Legong. In his own words: “It is a child’s music...”

3. Teacher and composer Louis Andriessen, one of the key figures in the European contemporary music world was inspired by a non-human lifeform. His incredibly difficult piece for marimba Woodpecker mimics the distinctive rapid sounds of the bird so perfectly one almost starts looking for it. It is a fast paced, exciting and joyful work, reminding us of what animals and children can do so well: live in the moment and fully enjoy it.

4. Thierry Pécou originally wrote his Nanook Trio for accompanying the silent film Nanook of the North (1921, Robert Flaherty). The rhythmic and melodic materials for the three movements are each corresponding to a particular scene from the film, showing some aspect of the hard, everyday life of an Inuit family in the Canadian Arctic. One might expect a serious work, a grave image of this grim struggle with the harsh nature, but instead it is the humour and tenderness of family life that predominate.

After the intermission the ensemble grows to full strength for the two last central works of the program.

5. Thierry Pécou’s Sextuor is inspired on the traditional Indonesian gamelan, expressing his own emotions when listening to it for the first time. According to Javanese mythology, the first set of gongs have even been invented by a God-King. Perhaps that is why this strongly percussive music is still played on formal occasions and ceremonies, often accompanying dance. Without imitating the original, Pécou managed to capture both the festive and the ceremonial feeling in a piece full of strong, constantly changing rhythmical vibes.

6. The grand final is for Louis Andriessen, whose work Life, written for Bang on a Can, is a beautiful
synthesis between the classical and romantic musical heritage of old Europe and the American repetitions of the minimalist composers. Andriessen asked Marijke van Warmerdam to create a film for it, “a brand-new version of Pictures at an Exhibition”. The result is a wonderfully strong musical and visual image, seasoned with some melancholy, which we all feel from time to time while growing closer to the moment our circle of life will be completed.

As such, Life can also be considered as a symbol for Ensemble Variance and its core mission: the exchange between cultures, different disciplines, the old worlds and the new worlds, traditions and pioneers.
What better way to celebrate life as it is right here, right now?

Number of people

Anne Cartel flute 
Carjez Gerretsen clarinet 
Nicolas Prost saxophone 
David Louwerse cello 
Laurene Durantel double bass 
Elisa Humanes percussion 
Pierre Bibault electric guitar 
Thierry Pécou piano 
(8 musicians + technician)


Alfred Schnittke

Hymne II for cello and double bass 

Claude Vivier

Pulau Dewata for free instrumentation 

Louis Andriessen

Woodpecker for marimba 

Thierry Pécou

Nanook Trio for clarinet, saxophone and piano 

Thierry Pécou 

Sextuor for flute, saxophone, clarinet, electric guitar, marimba, cello and piano 

Louis Andriessen 

Life for saxophone [and clarinet], percussion, piano, electric guitar, cello and double bass. With film by Marijke van Warmerdam

The Ensemble Variances receive support from Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication - Drac Normandie, Région Normandie, Spedidam, Sacem, Ville de Rouen, Odia Normandie, Onda. The Ensemble Variances is member of Fevis, Futurs Composés, Bureau Export and Profedim. It is member of Groupement d'Employeurs Solstice, supported by Région Normandie. Caisse des Dépôts, main sponsor of Ensemble Variances.