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I was Composer-in-residence at Elmwood Normal School, and had it in mind to write a cantata for the massed choirs there. I was searching for a subject that would capture both my imagination and that of the children for whom it was to be written. My father is a scientist and in conversation he mentioned that pulsars (rapidly spinning, extremely dense stars) emit electromagnetic waves. When these waves are fed through a household radio set, part of the wave produces as an audible tone. A PhD research student working with pulsars, who also had an interest in music, wrote out the tones of various pulsars. I found this intriguing and promptly decided to use the theme of astronomy for the proposed work. To my amazement, when my father showed me the pulsar music written out on a treble and bass stave, the audible tones were clustered around an E major chord with some additional notes added. Thus Psalm of Stars came into being. These 13 notes became the germinal idea on which the whole work was based.
Commissioned by Elmwood Normal School, Christchurch, with financial assistance from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand (now Creative New Zealand)
For my father who loves the stars, for Samuel who told me about the brick wall in outer space, and for the children of Elmwood School Christchurch choirs who are stars in their own right
1: Star Song
2: Planet Canon
3: Hymn to the Sun
4: Stars Splatter Dapple
5: Star Song Reprise
Text by Michelanne Forster, Grant Williams and Felicity Williams
Performed by Elmwood Normal School Choirs, Richard Oswin and Ros Emeleus (conductors), Celia Stuart (piccolo), Brett Painter and Roanna Cooper (percussion)