Built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the south of France, not far from Draguignan, every year welcoming over one hundred thousand visitors, the Abbey of Thoronet boasts a remarkable acoustic record of about twelve seconds of reverberation.
The monastery was designed according to pure Cistercian tradition, so that the monks could provide for their needs without having to leave the monastic enclosure. Thus there is water, a mill, a garden: in short, sustenance in material terms.
Essential, but insufficient: in order to progress and stay alive, man also needs to nourish his spirit, and for this purpose what finer food than the quest for harmony with the Creator — or with Nature, as the profane would have it? In this wise the acoustics of the Thoronet oratory were conceived, so as to give a celestial dimension to the monks’ chants.
The panorama was taken on September 22nd during a concert given by Jacques Dudon and the Atelier d'Exploration Harmonique as a tribute to Alain Daniélou, in celebration of the centenary of his birth. At the heart of this performance: the Sémantic Daniélou, a microtonal instrument with thirty-six notes per octave, constructed by Michel Geiss and your obedient servant according to Alain Daniélou’s theories. Tuned to just intonation and consequently obeying the natural laws of acoustics, this instrument can, in particular, play traditional, ancestral music from the four corners of the Earth: Indian (the Daniélou scale is in a way a “super-set” of the 22 Shrutis), Balinese, Egyptian, and so on.
Like Alain Daniélou striding around the globe, as he recounts in his book "Le Tour du Monde", now being reissued, this evening his Sémantic has allowed us to scour the music of the planet, on the tracks of civilisations that, in their quest for a perfect tonal system, quenched their thirst for harmony and sustained themselves spiritually.