Lunar Orbit
for solo cello (2011)
duration: 5’
GRT • 154



CD available
800 Million Heartbeats
Ashley Brown

ABC Classics

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
This work for solo cello is in some ways a companion piece to my percussion quartet, Sea of Tranquility (2004) in that they are both concerned with the Moon. While the material is different, both works also share a triple–time groove, albeit in different tempi.

In the case of
Lunar Orbit (2011), I spent some time contemplating the 1969 Apollo 11 mission (that first landed human beings on the Moon) from two perspectives. Firstly, that of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who after landing successfully on the Moon and having done the required ‘field trip’ (collecting rocks etc.) were then required to sleep before taking off again. This they found impossible, achieving at best a fitful rest in the frigid lander vehicle. Aldrin famously described his impression of the Moon as “magnificent desolation”.

And secondly, the experience of Michael Collins who remained aboard the command module Columbia in orbit of the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface. He experienced unprecedented isolation, not being able to communicate with Earth or even his fellow astronauts while orbiting the so–called ‘dark’ side of the Moon.

This solo cello work, cast in arch form, is somehow a contemplation of all that and is written for and dedicated to Auckland cellist, Ashley Brown.

“Lunar Orbit was written for and dedicated to Ashley Brown. Pianissimo, pizzicato and glissandi create an eerie picture, almost like a cry for help as the astronauts are isolated from their fellow man in the lunar environment. The composer is not afraid to use silence. In this atmospheric work we are transported via a beautiful performance by the solo cello.”
Gwen Bennett, The Music Trust, December 2015

“Dent makes a fine case for Stuart Greenbaum’s Lunar Orbit, a solo that depicts simultaneously two aspects of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission: Armstrong and Aldrin sleeping in the landing module while Collins has to orbit the Moon by himself.  The composer makes uncomplicated pictorial suggestions with deliberately limited material but this was, so far, the most sustained piece of composition on the disc; it makes its case with cogency and comes to an ardent and persuasive conclusion.”
Clive O’Connell, O’Connell the Music, 6 June 2016