Opus number: 31

Title: The Book of Moonlight

Instrumentation: violin and piano

Date written: 1988, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts

Length: twenty minutes

Commissioner and dedicatee: Peter Ciaschini

Premiere performance: Vahn Armstrong, violinist, Larry Bell, pianist, April 1989, The Boston Conservatory

Important subsequent performances: Ayano Ninomiya, violinist, Larry Bell, pianist, March 30, 1999, Jordan Hall, Boston; broadcast live from WGBH-FM, Boston, March 30, 1999; Ayano Ninomiya, violinist, Larry Bell pianist, January 17, 2002, Weill Recital Hall, NYC

Recordings: North.South Recordings (1031) Ayano Ninomiya and Larry Bell; WGBH-FM in Boston, Ayano Ninomiya and Larry Bell; tape at Boston Conservatory of Armstrong performance.

Program notes:  The best analogy for the structure of the 21-minute piece is the so-called “concept album,” a continuous set of songs based on one theme–  moonlight in music. The title of the work is taken from the Wallace Stevens poem, The Comedian as the Letter C, where, on approaching Carolina, the comedian reflects, “The book of moonlight is not written yet nor half begun.” This work is a set of nocturnes that refer to other music, both popular and classical, that center around the theme of moonlight. Its sections are:

I–On Approaching Carolina

1. Carolina Moon

2. Mr. Moonlight

3. O Holy Moon



III–On Leaving Carolina

1. Harvest Moon

2. Luna di Miele

3. Carolina Moon Revisited

The melody for “Carolina Moon” was written when the composer was fifteen years old; only at its end is the familiar song quoted. The most extensive quotation is of “Mr. Moonlight,” written by Marv Johnson and recorded by the Beatles in 1965: John Lennon’s opening declamation is here reinterpreted by the violin introduction. The words  for the title “O holy Moon” are taken from a refrain in Roger Sessions’s Idyll of Theocritus.

“Mondschein” is the nickname for Beethoven’s Sonata, here used as an accompaniment to the composer’s own melody found in his narrator, cello, and piano work, The Black Cat.

“Harvest Moon” contains some hoe-down fiddle music. “Luna di Miele” is Italian for honeymoon. “Carolina Moon Revisted” reprises the opening original folk melody. Each of the “songs without words” is connected by episodes of ambiguous tonality. There are times when the instruments are playing in separate time frames and their bar lines do not match up.

This work, completed in March 1988, was largely written at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in the summer of 1987 for Peter Ciaschini, concertmaster of the Dayton Philharmonic.