A Moon That Lights Itself

New release by
Michael Begg

CD / Digital (Bandcamp)

Release Date – 14th November 2016


Early in 2016 Michael Begg was commissioned by Scottish National Galleries to compose a new musical work based around the 19th century painter Charles François Daubigny. Daubigny has in recent times been recognised as one of the principal figures contributing towards the emergence of the impressionist movement.

The resulting work, A Moon That Lights Itself, was premiered at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh on September 16th 2016, with Begg being accompanied by cellist Clea Friend.

this studio recording of the work was completed by Michael Begg immediately following the performance.


During the 1870s, Charles François Daubigny, in the last years of his life, took increasingly to painting nocturnal scenes en plain air from his boat studio, Le Bottin. This was a period in time when the idea of the musical nocturne had progressed from being an indication of what point during the evening a particular piece of music should be played, towards becoming an articulation of the unique atmosphere and emotion occasioned by moonlight.

At this time, elsewhere in France, Edouard-Lean Scott de Martinville conceived and produced the phonautogragh. This device, appearing years before Edison’s phonograph, enabled sound, for the first time, to be captured. Unlike Edison, however, de Martinville neglected – or saw no need – to provide the means to playback the recording. Rather, a visual representation was captured on a lamp black cylinder.

It wasn’t until 2008 when researchers at Berkeley University used digital technology to recover the audio. The recording, the first ever made, was of a human voice singing Au Clair De La Lune.

For further background on the context of this recording the National Galleries blog published an article by Begg in which he discusses his approach to the commission: