The Writing of the God


An immersive opera that surrounds the audience with sound and story

The Writing of the God is a new opera created by composer Ethan Braun and visual artist Kenturah Davis, commissioned by Contemporaneous. Inspired by the Jorge Luis Borges story of the same name, The Writing of the God tells a story of a South American priest who has been captured and imprisoned by conquistadors. Alone with a jaguar in his cell, he recalls all the knowledge passed down to him from his predecessors in search of the name of God. In a seemingly hallucinatory, ecstatic moment of revelation, he reads the name in the lattern of the jaguar’s spots, and a vision comes to him granting him divine power. But rather than escape in this moment, he chooses to return to his state of imprisoned contemplation.

Braun’s work, drawing on the resonance of the story’s exploration of liberation and cultural erasure, creates a meditative and immersive experience over its 2 hour duration. Scored for large ensemble, two singers (soprano and bass), electric guitar, the electronic processing of the singers’ breath, and an array of tam-tams scattered throughout the space to augment a sense of consistent reverberation, The Writing of the God is a unique experience, offering the audience an opening to the sense of reverence and wonder at the heart of Borges’s writing, as well as its meditation on the legacy of colonialism.

The Writing of the God is a project of Contemporaneous IMAGINATION, the ensemble's commissioning initiative which seeks to give voice to the wildest and most meaningful dreams of composers of all backgrounds from around the world.

In short:

  • Music by Ethan Braun; designed by Kenturah Davis

  • Story inspired by Jorge Luis Borges

  • Duration: 2 hours

  • Instrumentation: Soprano and bass singers with large ensemble and electronics

  • Co-commissioner and world premiere opportunities available for the 2020-2021 season

The Writing of the God Artists


Ethan Braun, composer

“a diaphonous haze [...] that drifts almost imperceptibly [...] a heady taste of pure weightlessness.... A disappearing act.”
The New York Times

“a sound that these ears — raised on Thurston, Lee et al. — find irresistible.” — The Rambler


Kenturah Davis, designer

“The core of my work oscillates between portraiture and design, exploring themes related to the body, language and the formation of identity. From rendering a figure by writing a text repetitively to sewing highly individualized uniforms, my work unpacks layers of meaning embedded in how we socialize and perceive one another.”

— Kenturah Davis


Vikram Devasthali, librettist

Adam Linder, director


For booking inquiries, contact Contemporaneous Executive and Co-Artistic Director Dylan Mattingly at or (510) 333.2543.