Notes on Le Creation du Monde by Darius Milhaud 2021 Music Selection

Born in Marseilles France to a Jewish family, Darius Milhaud began as a violinist, later turning to composition, studying at the Paris Conservatory. The rise of Nazism forced Milhaud to leave France in 1940 and emigrate to the United States, where he secured a teaching post at Mills College in Oakland, California. Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck became one of Milhaud’s most famous students when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s.

On a trip to the United States in 1922, Milhaud heard “authentic” jazz for the first time on the streets of Harlem, an experience that had a great impact on his musical outlook. The following year, he completed his composition La création du monde (The Creation of the World) based on African folk mythology, using ideas and idioms from jazz, cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.

  1. The Overture begins with a solo for the saxophone played over a steady pulse. Other instruments are added to reach a climax, and the saxophone resumes. The trumpets come to the fore, the flutes comment on the saxophone tune. There is a general rumbling in the background while the saxophone and bassoon play together until the saxophone plays the end of the tune.
  2. In The Chaos before Creation, the piano and percussion thump out a rhythm and the double bass begins the subject of a jazz fugue. In turn, the trombone, saxophone and trumpet contribute to the fugal texture. Other instruments enter playing the subject as the music gets more and more complex. The fugue ends and slow, somewhat ominous music leads to the next section.
  3. The Creation of Plants and Animals returns to the opening legato melody, played by flute against the tune from the second section played by cello gradually leading to a third tune, a blues, played by the oboe.
  4. Man and Woman Created sees the two violins pitted against the bassoon in a cakewalk.
  5. The Desire of Man and Woman includes a solo for clarinet with a rhythmic accompaniment of piano, strings and percussion and then sees the return of the tune from the first section which eventually gives way to the rhythmic accompaniment which increases in passion.
  6. The Man and Woman Kiss, the final section, includes earlier motives. Music derived from The Chaos is played by the flute utilizing “flutter-tonguing”. The work closes with a gentle D Major 9 chord from saxophone and strings