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Above the Clouds
Lunar Seas

Duration: minutes
Opus: 53
Date: 2010



The surface of the Moon is covered with large dark basaltic plains originally formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Early astronomers mistook these for actual seas, dubbing them by the Latin term, Maria, and ascribing names and characters to the many such plains that cover the Moon’s surface. Christopher Painter’s short suite of pieces for saxophone quartet take names given to these imaginary seas and lakes, extending the original concept and bringing to them the drama and associations of the Earth’s seascapes.

The pun contained within the title pays affectionate tribute to the group who commissioned the work: the Lunar Saxophone Quartet.

The work is cast in five movements.

In the first Lacus Gaudii (Lake of Joy), shifting metrical changes reflects the saxophone’s jazz-like associations.

The second, Mare Vaporum (Sea of Vapours) conjures the mysterious vapours that appear to rise from this “sea”. In it, indefinite pitches are suggested as the players breathe through their instruments, with more focused melodic lines emerging periodically.

The melodic contours of the third movement, Mare Anguis (Serpent Sea), suggest the fanciful shapes of sea serpents that early astronomers perceived in this sea, situated on the near side of the Moon and some 150 miles in diameter.

Lacus Doloris (Lake of Sorrows) forms a dark undulating slow movement whilst the finale, Mare Procellarum (Ocean of Storms) brings the work to a lively and brilliant conclusion.


Soprano Saxophone; Alto Saxophone; Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone

Commissioned by

Lunar Saxophone Quartet

First performance

Lunar Saxophone Quartet
Lampeter University - 9 November 2010.

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