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The Astrolabe is the name of the strip of water between Adele Island and the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand’s Nelson Region. The Astrolabe Roadstead was named by Dumont d’Urville a French navigator who charted the waters of this beautiful peninsula in the mid 1820’s. D’Urville’s journey was not without incident and his ship very nearly capsized in the treacherous channel further to the east on the coast of Tasman Bay, which was subsequently named French Pass.
The astrolabe was an ancient navigational instrument, the name of d’Urvilles ship and also the name of a reef close to the entrance of Tauranga Harbour in the North Island where the container ship the “Rena” went aground in October 2011 spilling its cargo and causing much pollution of the nearby beaches and coastline.
The four dance-like movements of From The Astrolabe reflect these events and proceed from one to the other without a break.
Throughout the piece muted cornets and trombones evoke images of natural calls. These help to bind the piece together.
- Dawn Hornpipe: a lively sailors dance
- Habanera: a haunting Spanish dance
- Aground: based on a musical ground bass of four pitches
- Line Dance: a boisterous “splice the mainbrace” dance