for string quartet (2021-2022)
25 minutes | no.71

Seléne is the second part of Kosmoscópio, a cycle in which each of the nine "Musica Universalis" components is depicted in a musical composition.

Sometimes referred to as the “Harmony of the Spheres”, this ancient Greek philosophical abstraction contemplates the various proportions in the movements of celestial bodies. It was Pythagoras who proposed that the sun, moon and planets all emit their own unique drone based on their orbital revolution, incorporating the metaphysical principle that mathematical relationships express resonances of energy which manifest in numbers, angles, shapes and sounds – all connected within a pattern of proportion.

Referred to by their Greek names, and in superseded geocentric order of appearance, Kosmoscópio includes the following celestial objects:
Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and all fixed stars.

Seléne consists of five main sections, each four minutes in duration, depicting a predominantly monochrome sky, with in its centre the consecutive lunar phases (as seen from Earth): starting at the obscured New Moon, step by step transforming, from a multi-textured Half Moon to a bright polyphonic Full Moon, then back again to the original starting point. The shorter sections in between, each sixty seconds long, represent the intermediate phases.

In an ideal performance the members of the quartet are positioned in a circular space, facing inwards, with the audience all around them in an amphitheatre setting. The cello is the first to split off and rotate outwards, personifying the first glimpse of moonlight (Waxing Crescent). The viola joins when we reach First Quarter, then the second violin (Waxing Gibbous), and midway the first violin (Full Moon). This process is then reversed until a New Moon is, yet again, nowhere to be seen.

Image: Astronomical diagrams and tables, British Library, Royal MS 16 C Xii, f.41v (3rd quarter of the 16th century)


violin 1
violin 2

composed with financial support from

Performing Arts Fund NL


5 November 2023
November Music, Den Bosch (Netherlands)
Ives Ensemble


Score Excerpts