Commissioned by the Fires of London

  • fl(pic,afl).cl(Ebcl,bcl)/perc/pf/vn(va).vc
  • 21 min

Programme Note

GERANOS, an ancient Greek word meaning ‘crane’, was the term for two kinds of chain dance. Firstly, it was a dance invented, according to legend, by Theseus, who danced it for the first time in Delos after the rescue of seven youths and seven maidens form the Labyrinth. The intricate movements of the dance were supposed to represent the mazes leading out of the Labyrinth. GERANOS was also a dance imitating the flight of cranes.

The names of many other dances -sacred and secular- survive to tantalise us with their potent imagery. I became intrigued by these dances and with the connections between the dance, lyric poetry and music. In particular I was interested by rhythm as expressed in both dance and music and their use and juxtaposition of different types of basic metre. It is interesting that these basic rhythms are still just as prevalent in much of today’s popular dance music.

GERANOS is on three movements of nearly equal length (fast-slow-fast) played without a break and preceded by a quiet introduction which is repeated in slightly modified form at the very end of the work. The chord used in the introduction dictates the material throughout the piece. The third movement ‘shadows’ the first. The slow movement is sub-tilted ‘ADONIDIA’, the name of a lament for Adonis who was also known as ‘Gingras’. Women bearing images of Adonis and expressing the utmost grief proceeded through the streets, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of the aulos gingras.

GERANOS was commissioned by the Fires of London with funds made available by the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was completed in September 1985 and lasts approximately 18 minutes. It is dedicated to Susan Bradshaw. The first performance was given by the commissioners, conducted by Günther Bauer Schenk on 5 November 1985 in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Brian Elias


Geranos: I. -
Geranos: II. -
Geranos: III. -


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