the great moon hoax [2015]

Marc Yeats - Composer

the great moon hoax [2015]

the great moon hoax for two pianos | Dedicated to Anna Ferro | duration: circa 13 minutes

Note about the title:

A piece perhaps full of fantastical imagery? This is abstract music; no programmatic interpretation is intended. The title was found after the music was created:


‘The Great Moon Hoax lithograph of “ruby amphitheater” for The Sun, August 28, 1835 (4th article of 6)
“The Great Moon Hoax” refers to a series of six articles that were published in The Sun, a New York newspaper, beginning on August 25, 1835, about the supposed discovery of life and even civilization on the Moon. The discoveries were falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, one of the best-known astronomers of his time. The story was advertised on August 21, 1835, as an upcoming feature allegedly reprinted from The Edinburgh Courant. The first in a series of six was published four days later on August 25.

The articles described fantastic animals on the Moon, including bison, goats, unicorns, bipedal tail-less beavers and bat-like winged humanoids (“Vespertilio-homo”) who built temples. There were trees, oceans and beaches. These discoveries were supposedly made with “an immense telescope of an entirely new principle.”‘

The author of the narrative was ostensibly Dr. Andrew Grant, the travelling companion and amanuensis of Sir John Herschel, but Grant was fictitious.

Eventually, the authors announced that the observations had been terminated by the destruction of the telescope, by means of the Sun causing the lens to act as a “burning glass,” setting fire to the observatory.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Performance notes:
The two pianists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only with both pianos starting at the same time [including silent bars]. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the pianos. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.

The score and parts:
I have not produced a score for the great moon hoax, difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via both piano parts. Consequently there is no definitive performance of the piece.

the great moon hoax can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.

Time code:

Time code is not used to imply the use of any kind of click-track in performance or as a straightjacket to flexible performance within the ensemble. However, players are advised to use a stopwatch individually during the performance to help guide timings, prevent long-term tempo-drift and delivery of their material to achieve an outcome that most closely matches the composer’s intention. This is particularly useful after longer pauses or where tempo has slipped due to playing under or over the metronome markings and enables the performer to compensate by playing a little faster or slower to ‘catch up’ or extend / cut short pauses and rests as necessary to remain broadly on track with the time code.

0.0” time code corresponds to the start of the piece and allows both performers to set their stop-watches/timing devices together before physical playing commences. 0.0″ is in effect a ‘synchronise watches’ event following which approximately 6 seconds elapses before playing begins.

Time code has been added to each instrumental part for two further purposes.

1] To help gauge the overall duration of each part during personal practice thereby enabling the performer to get a good ‘feel’ for the various tempi and overall duration of the material.

2] To serve as a collective reference point in any area of the piece during rehearsals where the ensemble can start rehearsing by each player locating the nearest time code point to the agreed starting point and beginning from there. This is in lieu of rehearsal marks being used for vertical reference and rehearsal purposes in the usual way.

3] to prevent tempo drift and keep the tempi / delivery relationships between the two pianos ‘tight’.