14 Sep 2019

Expressions of the Equinox

From Appointment, 7:00 pm on 14 September 2019
Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox Photo: NASA Cc by 2.0

Movements of the celestial bodies have signposted and informed the yearly patterns of our lives for millennia.  And of all the signposts, the spring equinox is perhaps the most significant as it heralds the season of rebirth and growth.

The equinox happens on the day when the sun appears to pass over the celestial equator.  The celestial equator is an imaginary line projected out into space directly from the earth’s equator, and when the sun moves over that line, on that day, day and night are of equal length.  The spring equinox means that the days continue to get longer up until the time of the summer solstice.  For us in the southern hemisphere, the date of the spring equinox is the 23rd of September.

The Milky Way seen from Aotea/Great Barrier Island.

The Milky Way seen from Aotea/Great Barrier Island. Photo: Mark Russell

How can this be expressed in music?  Spring itself has inspired many compositions over many years.  But the equinox?  Essentially it is just another moment on the unending path of our orbit around the sun. 

Symbolically, however, it represents balance between two opposing forces. 

One of the ancient stories of the stars that illustrates this beautifully, describes the two wives of Rehua, the bright summer star also known as Antares. The wives, Whakaahu and Oipiri were the daughters of day and night.  Whakaahu, the summer wife, symbolised warmth and light, and Oipiri was the wife of night and winter. They and their attendants were caught in an eternal battle to gain the upper hand – and of course the days of the equinox were the only days where they were equally matched.

Te whanau marama is the name given by Maori to the collected bodies of the universe – sun, moon and stars.  Maori mythology tells how they were gathered in baskets and arranged across the body of Rangi the sky father to illuminate day and night.

Music Details:

MILHAUD:    La Création du Monde
MELBOURNE/NUNNS:    Te Whanau Marama
TAKEMITSU:    Equinox
MOSTEL:    Ceremonial for the Equinox
HASSELL:    Vernal Equinox
COLTRANE:    Equinox
KAIPAINEN:    Vernal Concerto
IRELAND:    Equinox
SCHWARZ:   Equinox