Songs, Dances and Ellipses was commissioned by the Barbican Centre for the Chilingirian String Quartet on the occasion of their 25th anniversary.
Quoting Saxton: 'The title Songs, Dances and Ellipses refers both to the character and the architecture of my quartet. The fundamental nature of the relationship between the extra-human music of the spheres and human musical expression, manifest in song and dance, lies behind much of my music; in the case of Songs, Dances and Ellipses I was absorbed by the idea of the most humanly intimate medium - the string quartet - set in the context of the all-embracing, and very real, elliptical orbits of the planets. The music consists of five linked movements which form three larger sections. Movements one and two form the first part, the central slow movement is the second part, and movements four and five form the third, and final section.