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Solar Canon is a study of the interval patterns between sunrise and sunset times in New York for each season of 2009 based on solstice and equinox.  In music, a canon is a round where each voice comes in slightly offset, such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and intervals are the difference between two notes – in this case harmonic.

Project:  Solar Canon

Solar Canon - Tina Seligman

Starting with the sequence of  Winter – Spring – Summer – Autumn, the distance between sunrise and sunset times was transcribed into musical intervals. Pitch was chosen by the positions of the sunrise and sunset using a “ruler” with octaves of a C major scale, rather than inches.


Visually, as the scale rises (C, D, E, F, G, A, B), the note value and thickness of paper ascends so that C is an eighth note and 1/8 inch, D is quarter note and ¼ inch, etc. Once this pattern was established, I shifted the seasons so Spring begins the next sequence ending in Winter, then Summer starts a third sequence and Autumn the fourth. The result is a visual and musical intertwining of the shifts.  I repeated the same composition on four separate panels.


For each season, a different color or texture was chosen.   To highlight the differences in the patterns from season to season, the colors were then shifted by one step in each panel, starting with blue/orange for Winter in panel 1 with lines for Spring, white for Summer and gloss white for Autumn.  In panel 2, Spring becomes blue/orange with lines for summer, etc.


While the seasons on the collage are visually layered, the musical shifts are offset using stretto, a method in canons and fugues for creating an overlap. The first vibraphone begins with Winter and as it continues into Spring, the second vibraphone begins Winter as Spring is starting, etc.  


Originally I planned compare different years, but discovered that, unlike the moon phase patterns which shift from year to year, sunrise/sunset patterns are almost always the same time in the same place, with only imperceptible shifts of a minute or two over large periods of time.


Project with Viewer Participation

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