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Murail Serendib & L’esprit des dunes



Murail: Murail Serendib & L’esprit des dunes
Like Gondwana, Serendib has a geographically inspired title, this time an old Arab name for the island of Sri Lanka which later became the root of the word “serendipity” – the making of happy discoveries by chance. One of Murail’s most exuberant, colourful and appealing works, Serendib neatly illustrates the evolution in his style since Gondwana, with a far more discontinuous musical narrative whose mercurial and unpredictale progress – so different from the rather deterministic unfolding of earlier works – seems to evoke something of the fortuitous, accidental pleasures of composition which Murail had previously eschewed.

Begun the year after Serendib was completed, L’esprit des dunes (“Spirit of the dunes”) is a kind of miniature desert symphony, suffused with a plangent melodic writing which sounds almost Arabian, though in fact the underlying harmonies of the work are derived from Mongolian overtone singing and Tibetan religious music (the first time Murail had delved into such exotic sources for his basic material). Even more than Serendib the work displays an expressive directness and descriptiveness – complete with computer-generated suggestions of whispering sands and other desert phantasmagoria, plus the brief, disembodied chanting of monks – which shows just how far Murail has travelled from his rather abstract early works, and the success with which his music has bridged the gap between studio and concert hall, and between theory and practice.

CD Recommendations

3x Serendib and L’esprit des dunes: Ensemble Intercontemporain; Robertson. (Accord 465 305-2 with Désintégrations)

France’s premier new music ensemble give a virtuoso account of the sparkling score of Serendib, coupled with a second recording of Désintégrations (although there’s not much to distinguish it from the first – see above) and the haunting L’esprit des dunes.
Sheet Music by Murail