• Barry Guy
  • Voyages of the Moon (1983)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia

  • 1(pic,afl)1(bob)1(Ebcl,bcl,cbcl)1(cbn)1110percpf(cel)str(4.4.2.2.0[=4.4.4.4.0][=6.6.4.4.0])
  • [amplified] Double Bass
  • 24 min

Programme Note


The work takes its title from a surrealist painting by Paul Nash in the Tate. It is based on the solo material of Statements II, a solo bass piece written in 1973. The orchestral material follows the solo part closely, and in general 'ghosts' the pitch and timbral movement. The solo part itself is evolutionary, in the sense that each area through a gradual metamorphosis leads to a natural consequence of the changes undertaken, for example, natural harmonics that change from soft to hard attacks, indicating a new percussive area - pizzicato. This area in turn changes from soft to hard attacks. The introduction of the bow arrives through percussive areas already established, before taking up its normal role.

Whilst writing the original solo I had in mind a piece of sculpture viewed from every perspective and angle. The various moons that travel through the landscape in Paul Nash's painting become analogous to the harmonics moving their way through the score. Structurally Voyages of the Moon is quite conventional: an orchestral introduction, first subject, second subject, development, cadenza, recapitulation and coda. However, things are not so clear-cut, since certain areas overlap, which gives a continuity of events and changes in the natural order of an evolutionary cycle.

Integrated within the piece are various references to Dido's Lament by Henry Purcell, each reference characterised by special orchestration, woven into the general texture. Previous to the composition of Voyages, I took part in a performance of Dido and Aeneas with Richard Hickox. I was so moved by the lament that its inclusion as an acknowledgement of true beauty in music seemed mandatory. It is also a thank you to Richard Hickox and Ian Ritchie for asking me to write the work. It was commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia, with funds provided by the Arts Council.

© Barry Guy