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Image by Weston MacKinnon

Consortium Opportunity

Les Canuts / The Silk Weavers

Weaving lines. Hidden passageways. A French revolt.

  • 4-5 minutes

  • Grade 4 - String Orchestra

  • Delivery of score & parts by December 2024

Weaving lines. Hidden passageways. A French revolt.


The silk weavers (les canuts) shaped the city of Lyon, France economically and structurally. By the 16th Century, Lyon was the capital of the European silk trade. Poor working conditions in the 1800s led to the Canut Revolts, the catalyst that began an era of social movements and workers fighting for fair rights.


The silk weavers worked primarily in the districts of La Croix-Rousse and Vieux Lyon. Here, 12-foot-high ceilings accommodate the large Jacquard looms needed for their trade, and hundreds of traboules (hidden passageways and alleys that crisscross Lyon) helped the weavers quickly and safely transport their goods. Many traboules are covered to protect the precious bolts of silk from the elements. Some open into interior courtyards. You can easily miss some entirely, passing by and never noticing it was there. 


During World War II, the traboules prevented the Germans from completely taking control of Lyon. The traboules were perfect for escaping, hiding from the Gestapo, or conveying messages, especially in the early days of the occupation when only the Lyonnais knew of their existence.


Today, 40 traboules are open to the public. Like a scavenger hunt, a couple walking paths that connect multiple traboules across blocks are marked with small symbols if you can spot them!


In 2023, I traveled to France, wrote some musical motifs inspired by the silk weavers, and recorded structured improvisations with these in the traboules. Now, I am planning a new work for string quartet and string orchestra using some of this material. 

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