1990 Music

Moon, Tides and Shoreline

Chamber ensemble (2-7 players)

For string quartet

Moon Tides and Shoreline was commissioned by the New Zealand Music Federation (now Chamber Music New Zealand) with funding from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council for the New Zealand String Quartet. They gave the first performance in Napier on 28 September 1992.

About the work

Moon Tides and Shoreline was inspired by Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast north of Wellington — ‘home’ during a 6-week residency at Victoria University in 1989.

The relationship between music and environment is particularly strong. The cello’s low repeated D, which opens the piece, is the fundamental pitch heard in the sea and the restless semi-quavers evoke the continuous movement of waves crashing on the Paekakariki shore.

My fascination with mediaeval philosophy and music, incorporating natural cycles, is reflected both in the title and in the compositional process, where magic squares were used to generate the background structure.

Scores and recordings

Hire the parts from Waiteata Music Press or buy the score they published in 1993.

Moon, Tides and Shoreline — publication

It was also released on a Waiteata Music Press CD of my works.

Composer portrait: Gillian Whitehead — CD

RNZ Concert recorded Moon, Tides and Shoreline in 2010.

Moon, Tides and Shoreline — audio


‘This is a rich evocative piece that is never merely picturesque, as the title might suggest. It has a lyrical complexity reminiscent of Tippett … [it] achieves moments of great beauty.”

— Tim Bridgewater, The Dominion

‘The highlight for me was the premiere of Gillian Whitehead’s Moon Tides, and Shoreline. … Perhaps there are marine associations to be heard in the score, but, more importantly, one appreciates the work’s cool and eminently logical form. The various musical motifs are inventive in themselves and intriguingly handled.’

— William Dart, Music in New Zealand