Chamber ensemble (2-7 players)

For viola and piano

Moonstone was commissioned by Glynne Adams, with funding assistance from the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). It is dedicated to Glynne Adams and Janetta McStay. The first performance was probably given by Robert Ashworth and Sarah Watkins in 2021.

About the work

Moonstone was written in London and Orkney around 1976 or 1977.

At that time I was exploring the possibilities of using proportions based on the patterns of magic squares, known since the Middle Ages and even earlier, and associated with the planets, sun and moon. In these squares, a series of consecutive numbers (1-9, 1-16, 1-25, etc) are arrayed to form a solid square in which the vertical, horizontal and diagonals all add up to the same number.

It’s not necessary to know any of this to experience the piece, but the title, as well as being the title of a book by Wilkie Collins, indicates the use of the square of the moon — the numbers 1 to 81. This was the first time I’d experimented with that square, which was also the basis of a number of later pieces such as Moon, Tides and Shoreline and Resurgences.

There are 4 movements. The first and most substantial, can stand alone, while the second is scherzo-like. The third, which again can stand alone, has elements of improvisation — the performers are given 9 boxes, and it’s up to them to determine the order, dynamics and tempi of the fragments. The piece ends when one box is played for the third time.

Score and recording

I’d like to thank Elliot Vaughan for his transcription and editing of a fairly complex handwritten score, and Robert and Sarah for their tremendous dedication to giving the piece life.

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Moonstone — SOUNZ

A CD including this work can be bought from all good record stores.

Moonstone — CD