Night shining is the third work in my cycle of cloud-inspired pieces that all feature the bass flute. The first two works in the cycle, The invention of clouds and The modifications of clouds take as a starting point Luke Howard’s 1804 essay that first defined the cloud types as we know them today: Cirrus, Stratus, Cumulus…This work takes the most recent scientific research into clouds as its inspiration.

Found on the edge of space above polar regions, noctilucent, or ‘night-shining’ clouds are the most mysterious, and least understood clouds in Earth’s atmosphere. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds, and are the only clouds to occur in the mesosphere, forming c.80km above Earth’s surface. They are only visible from Earth at night, lit by the Sun after it has set.

Noctilucent clouds were first spotted in the late nineteenth century, around the time of the Second Industrial Revolution. A recent surge in observations of this cloud type has led scientists to suggest links with global warming. In 2006 NASA launched the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere satellite (AIM) to gather more data on the formation of noctilucent clouds (photographic, chemical, dust/meteors, temperature).

The piece draws on photographs of noctilucent clouds and data (in the form of charts and graphs) from NASA’s AIM satellite. These images were used to shape structure, direct timbral change, and to generate pitch material for the piece.

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