Arafura Dances is in three movements: a lyrical and expressive adagio framed by two pulsating maninyas (Australian dance/chants) in which references to a variety of Australasian and Pacific musical cultures are woven into a fabric of insect rhythms and drones. Edwards, clearly under the spell of Darwin and coastal Arnhem Land as he composed, refers to the turquoise Arafura Sea as a constant backdrop. Other influences include flora and fauna of the region and the colourful Macassan sailing boats in Darwin's Maritime Museum. Edwards also mentions Ian Morris's photograph "of a gloriously flowering Red Bud Mallee against a deep blue sky", an image he likes to think is "somehow inlaid in the music".
Originally composed as a Guitar Concerto for John Williams, who gave the first performance with the Darwin Symphony in 1995, Ross Edwards arranged the work for string quartet especially for performance at the 2006 Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, where it was performed for the first time by Marshall McGuire (who also transcribed the guitar part for harp) and the Goldner String Quartet.
- The Chamber Music Works of Ross Edwards
- In 2023, his 80th Birthday year, we celebrate the Chamber Music of Ross Edwards.