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Esprit de la lune : for soprano saxophone and organ

by Andrián Pertout (2012)

Also known as: Spirit of the moon

Work Overview

'Esprit de la lune' or 'Spirit of the Moon' was commissioned by Noah Getz (saxophone) and Heinrich Christensen (organ), and especially for the occasion of a February 2013 performance at King's Chapel in Boston, Massachusetts, USA featuring the Opus 44 (1964) organ by C.B. FISK, Inc. (the first American made 3-manual mechanical action instrument in the 20th century). The work is dedicated to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CBE (1934-), and serves as an exploration of the musical properties of the 'Magic Square of The Moon' - a 9×9 magic square with a magic constant of 369 (each row, column and diagonal adding up to 369). The magic square features the following numbers associated with the Moon: 9 (number of integers in each row and column), 81 (eighty-one numbers within the range of 1 and 81), 369 (magic constant), and 3321 (sum of all the numbers). A multimedia component in the form of a photographic stage projection presents a selection of 'lunar' images created by New Zealand cellist and photographer Charles Brooks.

'Esprit de la lune' pays tribute to the work of Peter Maxwell Davies in the 1970s, and in particular - as Jonathan Cross explains in 'Composing with Numbers: Sets, Rows and Magic Squares' (an article published in 2003 within Music and Mathematics: From Pythagoras to Fractals) - to Ave maris stella (1975), in which the "Gregorian chant 'Ave Maris Stella' is, in Maxwell Davies's words, 'projected through the magic square of the moon.'" Similarly to Maxwell Davies's approach, a 9×9 matrix (numbered from 1 to 81) containing the 9 transpositions of a 9-note melody, or 'pitch row' is mapped on to the magic square, which is then utilized to generate all pitch material (from left to right, bottom to top; right to left, top to bottom; and combinations). Melodic contrast is additionally provided via the utilization of three separate scales (introduced in each distinct section of the work) to transform the melody. A separate 9×9 matrix based on the numerical sequence of the 9-note melody (featuring an additive scheme reduced to modulo 9, and adopted as augmentations and diminutions of a quaver-beat interpretation of the 'tone row') provides all the rhythmic material.

Work Details

Year: 2012

Instrumentation: Soprano saxophone, organ.

Duration: 7 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Professional

Dedication note: Dedicated to Peter Maxwell Davies

Commission note: Commissioned by Heinrich Christensen, Noah Getz.

First performance: by Noah Getz, Heinrich Christensen — 24 Feb 13. King’s Chapel, Boston, MA, USA

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc on this work:
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CBE (1934-), Magic Square of The Moon, ‘lunar’ images

Performances of this work

24 Feb 13: King’s Chapel, Boston, MA, USA. Featuring Noah Getz, Heinrich Christensen.

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