L'absente - Yann Tiersen

L'absente - Yann Tiersen

L'absente is a solo piano piece written by French composer Yann Tiersen in the early 1990s. An emotionally heavy piece, L'absente has since become one of his most popular compositions and is widely known in France and around the world.

History and Release

Yann Tiersen began writing L'absente in 1990 during a time in which he was in transition, moving from classical training in France to embracing creativity through modern composing techniques. Different from his earlier classical pieces, L'absente featured a slower tempo, continually evolving melody, and a dynamic timbre. He wrote most of the composition in the key of A-minor, with a poetic structure reminiscent of a lullaby.

It was originally released in 1992 on his first full-length album, La Valse des Monstres. Since then, it has been featured extensively in international media. For example, the piece was included in the 2000 French film L'auberge Espagnol.

Simplified Analysis

L'absente has been described as a "minimal piece," due to its sparse use of dissonance and repetition. Instead of relying on improvisational techniques, Tiersen's composition capitalizes on its slowly-evolving melodic line and changes in texture. Though predominantly in the key of A-minor, the piece also includes two contrasting modulations.

Moreover, Tiersen carefully utilizes dynamics to add emphasis and dimension to the melody. He alternates between louder moments with more intense accent marks and softer passages with quiet expressive touches in order to highlight the depth of this melancholic piece.


It is likely that L'absente's immense success is largely owed to both its delicacy and descriptive quality. Similarly to a poem, the piece is laden with emotion and allows each listener to create their own individual narrative. The lengthy composition provides a tranquil escape from everyday hustle and bustle to allow people to tune into their own personal emotions or appreciate the beauty of this masterpiece.

L'absente is a powerful and moving piece of music and speaks to Yann Tiersen's courage and artistry. It is a solid and permanent part of his portfolio and has earned him international recognition.


Yann Tiersen's L'absente is a sophisticated example of solo piano composition. The listener is taken on a journey through emotion as the sparse melody evolves, dynamic changes surprise, and the story is woven into the music. As an iconic piece of Tiersen's musical career and international media, L'absente has gone down in musical and cinematic history.

Publication date: 18. 02. 2023