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Project:   Hawaiian Moons & Variations

While most cultures experience the moon as a set of phases that wax and wane in relation to the calendar month, Hawaiian tradition has 30 moon phases and considers each moon phase to be unique with specific attributes. Like an almanac, some phases are considered to be advantageous for fishing, planting, harvesting, worshiping, or marriage, and may overlap.  Under certain phases it is advised to do nothing.

I assigned a color for each of the activities --  blue for fishing (water), green for planting, raspberry red for harvesting, purple for worshiping, white for marriage, and black (or the absence of color) for doing nothing.  To see how these patterns of consecutive moon phases would appear visually and as sound, I grouped the patterns in multiples of 30.  Each version offsets the sequence in a new way.


For each color, I then assigned a pitch and duration based on the actual shape of the phase (full or new as a whole note, gibbous as a dotted half note, first and third quarters as half notes, and crescent as quarter notes).  I grouped each line of the music the same way – in multiples of 30.  One line is single notes separated by rests. Then two notes together separated by rests, etc. The melody can then be experience differently by each rhythmic variation.  I also looked for traditional music and discovered the mele or chants had rhythms very similar to the music I was transcribing from the phases.  You can visit the website to hear the music.


A sculptural interactive piece of percussion instruments related to the visual patterns can be played by viewers to “jam” with the art and music throughout the length of the exhibition.  Following the sequence of moon phases from 1-30, the number of beans inside correspond.  The sound of the numbers and variations in tone can be heard and compared.


For more information about the Hawaiian moon phases and meanings, visit:

Hawaiian Moons 30-1-1-30 - Tina Seligman
Hawaiian Moons 15-2-2-15 - Tina Seligman
Hawaiian Moons 10-3-3-10 - Tina Seligman
Hawaiian Moons 6-5-5-6 - Tina Seligman

Project with Viewer Participation

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