Northern Lights chord[1] Play (help·info).
Northern Lights chord[1] Play .

In music, the 'northern lights' chord is an eleven-note chord from Ernst Krenek's Cantata for Wartime (1943), that represents the Northern Lights. Krenek's student Robert Erickson cited the chord as an example of a texture arranged so as to "closely approach the single-object status of fused-ensemble timbres, for example, the beautiful 'northern lights'...chord, in a very interesting distribution of pitches, produces a fused sound supported by a suspended cymbal roll".[1] "The 'northern lights' sounds, so icy and impersonal and menacing, are a brilliant orchestral invention."[2]

At eleven notes the chord is one pitch shy of the total chromatic. Every note except E is sounded.


  1. ^ a b Erickson, Robert (1975). Sound Structure in Music, p.166 & 168. ISBN 0-520-02376-5.
  2. ^ Erickson, Robert (1995). Music of Many Means: Sketches and Essays on the Music of Robert Erickson, p.28. Scarecrow. ISBN 9780810830141.