Perhaps second only to the Big Dipper in Ursa Major, the constellation of Orion is one of the most recognisable patterns of stars in the northern sky. Orion, the hunter, stands by the river Eridanus and is accompanied by his faithful dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. According to Greek mythology, Orion’s tragic life ended when he stepped on Scorpius, the scorpion. Orion’s death elicited the sympathy of the gods, who thus affixed him in the night sky, surrounded by his dogs.

Claude Vivier’s Orion is built on seven different motives representing the seven stars of the Orion constellation. The work also shows the influence of Vivier’s trip to Bali in late 1976, a journey that inspired new compositional approaches. The most significant of these is kotekan, the technique of interlocking rhythms in gamelan music. Vivier extends the basic premise of interlocking rhythms to interlocking melodies, dynamics, timbres, and harmonies. Orion unveils a series of such interlocking melodies in canonic passages and employs oscillating pitches within the same harmony in developmental passages. Much of Vivier’s music evokes a sense of strife between joy and death, always heralded by trumpets – which now seem to suggest a kind of premonition of his own untimely end.