Adh-dhohr, concerto for serpent and orchestra
by Benjamin Attahir (2018)

New Orchestral Works Commissions

Adh-dhohr is the second in a cycle of five pieces around the Salah which set the rhythm of the Muslim everyday, by Benjamin Attahir, composer in residence at the Orchestre National de Lille on the season 2017-2018.

Fascinated by the call to prayer in Arab countries, where the voice of the muezzin blossoms in a grand lyrical gesture to every corner of the East's cities, Attahir sees the snake as an eminently vocal instrument.

This work is inspired by a “zenithal” moment (in the Arab countries, the zenith used to be estimated using an ordinary object, pitched into the soil, the duration being calculated when the shadow cast was equal to the object’s own length) that deploys in concentric circles, but above all marks the high noon point in the friendship between this young Toulouse-born composer and serpent player Patrick Wibart. Secondary school classmates who went on to study together at conservatory, the two musicians, after a first work premièred to great acclaim in 2010, are taking their creative relationship further.

What is the serpent? A fascinating but technically-daunting instrument that combines the embouchure techniques of a brass instrument with a very woodwind-like sound, bored through with holes like a recorder. Originally used to support sung verse in churches that had no organ, the instrument is currently seeing a revival thanks to a new generation of musicians and composers.


Alexandre Bloch directing and Patrick Wibart playing the serpent with the Orchestre National de Lille in Soissons


In a rare instance for a concerto, the orchestra and soloist weave together a monodic ensemble, a single voice. What’s more, the sound of the serpent unveils itself over the course of the work. A tutti instrument at the start, heard only in patches, the serpent gradually brings its ever-so-particular sound to prevail. As the other instruments pull back, like a tide rushing back in, the serpent ends the concerto alone, closing the loop on a vertical shape that spins on itself. And with that, Attahir proposes, through Adh-dhohr, a captivating new vision of the relationship between the individual and the collective in music, as the work goes from the multiple to the one, from the tutti to the solo, from the worshippers to the celebrator, taking the opposite course of the Book’s liturgies.


Haydn, Symphony n°7 “Le Midi”
Attahir, Adh-dhohr, concerto for serpent and orchestra (creation)
Beethoven, Symphony n°5
Conductor Alexandre Bloch
Serpent Patrick Wibart

25th January 2018 Théâtre – Boulogne-sur-Mer / 26th January 2018 Nouveau Siècle – Lille / 27th January 2018  Cité de la Musique et de la Danse – Soissons


see other kits: