In my saxophone concerto, Full Moon Dances, a female soloist is proffered the role of universal Moon Goddess incarnate, source of plant life and protector of the environment, in which she performs a series of ritual healing ceremonies. Serene and mysterious, she nonetheless has power to unleash ecstasy and terror beyond the bounds of reason.
The work unfolds in an unbroken sequence of five movements:
1. Mantra with night birds and dark moon blossoms An ancient Vedic mantra grows into a chant-like melody which invokes the Goddess, whose appearance is accompanied by eerie night sounds symbolizing the powerful psychic forces of the unconscious. The mantra persists in the background, eventually dissolving into moments of moon-drenched phantasmagoria.
2. First Ritual Dance This cleansing ritual is driven by self-abandoning rhythms whose function is to purge negative thoughts and feelings. After a central climax, the dance abruptly returns to its source and resurges, gathering intensity.
3. Water-Moon Guan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion (who may be compared with the Christian Mary), is venerated in her various guises throughout South East Asia. She is often depicted as a beautiful, graceful woman in a white robe, sometimes with a halo of moonlight. In a Tang dynasty poem by Po Chu-I she is symbolized by the moon’s reflection “floating in pure, clear water.” This dance pays homage to her.
4. Sanctus The stage is transformed into a sacred space. Over an accompaniment of trance-like stillness scored for bell and muted strings, the Goddess sings serenely as she receives and transmits gentle moon radiance. This movement draws, as does its successor, on material from my Mass of the Dreaming (2009) and makes oblique reference to fragments of plainchant.
5. Second Ritual Dance The finale joyously celebrates the earth with drone-based shapes and rhythms that recall Australian Aboriginal chant. The melody that bloomed from the mantra now returns accompanied by a blazing darbuka (a small goblet shaped North African drum), after which a reflective passage leads to a re-statement of the insistent, dance-like hymn to the earth.
Full Moon Dances was commissioned for Amy Dickson, the Sydney Symphony and the Australian symphony orchestras by Andrew and Renata Kaldor with the support of Symphony Services International. Andrew Grams conducted the world premiere with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in the Adelaide Town Hall on 7 June 2012. Once again I have Renata and Andrew to thank for their generous support over many years, and for their friendship and belief in my work.