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image of the dancers performing the ballet Omphalos

omphalos (2023/2024)

a ballet in five scenes for mixed chamber ensemble of 10 players

ca. 30' minutes

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Omphalos (2023/2024)

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fl (dbl. pic), Bb cl, alt. sax (dbl. brt. sax), tpt in c, tbn, vln, cb (4-string), perc (1 player), pno, acrd.

I. The Renowned Orders of the Night

II. Marionettes and Mechanisms

III. These Writings, When They Are Burned

IV. Murmering Louder with Time

V. Traces of the Last Moment's Light

Composed between September 2023 and June 2024

Premiered by:

Written for the Art Academy Deinze (KADE), Hanne Schillemans and her students. Premiered by José Brandão (conductor) and students from the Royal Conservatory of Ghent on June 20th in the Don Concert hall (Deinze, Belgium) and on June 22nd in the MIRY Concert hall (Ghent, Belgium).

anselm kiefer painting as inspiration for milo paulus' original ballet omphalos

program notes

"Omphalos" - 'navel' in Ancient Greek and a stone in Delphi (Greece), which according to mythology indicated the centre of the earth ("the navel of the world") - is a piece created in collaboration with Hanne Schillemans and the Department of Dance at KADE (Art Academy Deinze) during the 2023/2024 academic year. 

The term omphalos has a second meaning, and was also used as the middle part of epinikia; or Ancient Greek epic poems and victory songs consisting of dance and choral singing in honour of victors of certain games or war heroes.

The conceptual content of this work was conceived in consultation with the choreographer and her dancers, and attempts to lead the listener through a complete, but abstract, lifecycle over the course of about 35 minutes in five scenes (some of which merge directly into one another), from the emergence of the first germs, to the extinction of the last light.

German visual artist Anselm Kiefer's paintings provided additional content support, inspiring the atmospheres and titles of each individual scene. 

I would like to extend my gratitude to my friend and the conductor of this project, José Brandão, who really took this project under his wings and ran with it. Jesse Broekman and Michaël Penson for assisting with the recording of this piece, and most of all my composition teachers Daan Janssens and Dominique Pauwels, whose invaluable insights have guided me along the arduous one-year long writing process of this work.

performance photo of the dancers performing Milo Paulus' ballet Omphalos


Scene I, “The Renowned Orders of the Night”

In darkness, from nothing, the first sounds of the universe are born. Air, darkness, light and all struggle for a place. The moon illuminates a beating heart which slowly expands into a breathing organism. Falling stars start illuminating the dark night-sky, building into a massive cluster of light and sound. Out of this darkness, movement and life is born.

Scene II, “Marionettes and Mechanisms”

Out of the rumbling mystery, while the smoldering embers remain burning, a most rash and frivolous exploration open up this new lively world. With chatter and dialogue between the foreground and background, dizzying movement emerges bouncing widely across the space with a certain naivety.

Scene III, “These Writings, When They Are Burned”

Attraction and repulsion. An unheard violence opens up a new stage in the life’s cycle where new boundaries are touched and crossed. It progresses with an unearned confidence and security, leading to an unstable presentation of personality. Echo’s and references of the past are overlapping, resulting in cacophonous asynchronicity.

Scene IV, “Murmering Louder with Time”

Finding your rhythm in a haze of perpetual movement and darkness. Long moving lines are broken up and scattered, by other people’s declamatory interruptions. A constant pulse lets us march forward, while the individual lines are slowly merged into a homogenous climax. Continuous accents burst out of, and escape from, the constant textural development.

Scene V, “Traces of the Last Moment’s Light”

A single ray of light shines high above the rest, while it’s being colored, transformed, and helped by the stars around it. In gradual but jittery motion, the light source starts to fall, dim and grow smaller as it gets passed around from one to another, lower and lower, until almost nothing remains and we’re left in dark silence. 

portrait of milo paulus


Milo Paulus (b. August 14th, 1999) is a Dutch composer, conductor, orchestrator and score producer specializing in original music for concerts, screen and stage productions. His catalog spans a diverse range of styles and influences for both instrumental and vocal works, as well as countless original soundtracks for films and video-games. His works have been commissioned by various performing groups, festivals and institutions.

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