Non Sequitur Music

Moon Cycles

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Play the first 1'20" of
II. The Moon Rules the Night Sky from
Moon Cycles, as performed live by the Indiana University Symphony Orchestra,
Dan Allcott, conducting.




























Composer: David Heuser
Instrumentation: Orchestra (3233 4231, pno, harp, timp, 3 perc, strings)
Year Composed: 1995 (revised 1998)
Duration: 18 minutes (3 movements: 6:30, 5:30, 6:00)
Pages (score): 94
  • Rental: $150.00
  • Purchase: $350.00
I. The Lunar Dance
II. The Moon Rules the Night Sky
III. Sacrificial Moon

Premiere: Indiana University Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Allcott, conductor, April 16, 1997

Percussion Required: 4 tomtoms, snare drum, tambourine, bass drum, 2 triangles, 2 high suspended cymbals, 2 low suspended cymbals, tam-tam, cowbell, wood block, 5 temple blocks, small bell plate, bamboo wind chimes, metal wind chimes, rachet, maracas, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, crotales [one octave]

Program Notes:

Moon Cycles, for orchestra, was composed from November 1994 to April 1995. In three movements, it is about eighteen minutes in length.

Although not truly programmatic, all of the movements were initially inspired by ideas about the moon. In the first movement my inspiration came from the revolution of the moon around the earth; in the last movement it was its changing nature (from our perspective) as it orbits. The cyclic nature of the moon, therefore, lies at the center of each. In contrast, the middle movement is about only one phase (the full moon). This idea of cycles also inspired the formal plans of the piece. For example, in all of the movements, material from the opening returns at the end.

The first movement, The Lunar Dance, is a fast scherzo in 1 with occasional metric syncopations in . In the celestial ballet, the dance of the moon around the earth is certainly a speedy one, and, I think, a playful one, too.

Laid out in an arch form, the movement divides into seven sections: ABCDCBA. The A sections, which act as introduction and coda, fragment and mix together the material of the other parts of the movement, particularly music from sections B and C. The dynamics remain soft throughout, with silence used a number of times, and the percussion plays a central role, especially in creating a link from the introductory A section to the first B section.

The strings dominate the two B sections, which are palindromes of each other, although the relationship is not exact; the second B leaves out some material that is heard the first time, and there are small alterations, particularly in ordering of notes and measures. Like A, the initial B includes some hints of music that are important to other parts of the piece (the C and D sections). (The second B section does not contain the D material.) A three note ostinato dominates the entire section.

The third and fifth parts of the movement (C) are high and soft, with a nearly constant sixteen-note patter. The middle section of the movement (D) divides into three parts, mirroring the structure of the movement. The outer sections are loud (in contrast to the preceding music), with lower registers exploited, although the entire spectrum is used. There are more metric changes here than anywhere else in the piece. Brass, woodwinds and percussion instruments are in force, with the piano as the central player, carrying an ostinato figure which acts a backdrop for this music. In contrast, the central portion of D is soft, with the strings and harp as the focus.

Most of the sections are separated by silence; perhaps this is the cold silence of dividing space.

The second movement pulls our perspective back to earth, where The Moon Rules the Night Sky. As stated above, this movement deals with the moon when it is at its most powerful: when it is full. I thought also of folk traditions (which often take place at planting or harvest time) when someone is crowned King of the Moon. Often this person is subjected to a mock sacrifice (in earlier times the sacrifice was probably real), but while King, he was afforded special privileges, for he was the embodiment of the moon-god.

This rondo (ABABACADA) can also be heard as an ABA form (the C section of the rondo becomes the B section of the three part form). The first third of the movement alternates loud and soft music (ABABA) while the register generally expands upward, until the entire orchestral range appears at the end. The middle section (C) works the opposite way, filling the register in from high to low. Tempo and texture changes also demarcate these two sections. In the last part, a rising melody (during D) supplements the return of the opening material.

The last movement, Sacrificial Moon, could be subtitled "Death and Resurrection." This aspect of the moon dominates primitive religious thinking about lunar gods, beasts and symbols. To one without any scientific knowledge, this monthly cycle of consumption and death by darkness, followed by a subsequent rebirth, must seem the most powerful magic. In mythologies and ceremonies from all over the world, we find this cycle even today.

Sacrificial Moon is in three parts: ABA. Solos characterize the outer sections (oboe at the beginning, violin at the end) which are generally quiet and contemplative. The central portion builds up layers of sound in three "waves," gradually getting busier and louder until a 12-note tutti chord heralds the return of A and the end of the piece.

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