Composed in 2012 for American saxophonist Kenneth Tse, ‘Rock Us’ continues on from the craziness of my solo saxophone piece Rock Me!, also composed for Kenneth Tse. I wrote Rock Us with two soprano saxophones in mind, but there is no reason (other than the usual challenge of getting multiphonics to work) that it wouldn’t be suitable for other saxophones.
I was looking for something a little different in this piece and I had been doing some experimenting playing the folk song Hava Nigila. One thing I enjoyed about performing Hava Nigila was the flexibility of pitch that could be used to create melodic colour. I like to think of it as ‘slippery pitch’ – just as you lock onto a centred note, you can bend away – tearing the melody in a new direction.
‘Rock Us’ begins with a colourful free opening similar in some ways to my 1996 composition
‘Ku Ku‘ but with a more mournful feel. It explores the tension of moving toward and away from an unstable drone sustained by the other saxophonist. Saxophone players should enjoy the opportunity of being creative (on purpose) with the intonation!
In this piece I make extensive use of different forms of slap tonguing. There is a combination of rapid quasi slaps at q =126, reverse slaps simulating bass drum and a plucked bass line, and unpitched slaps creating percussive-like sounds. The overlaying of these slaps helps to create some of the rock music elements. An acoustic simulation of digital delay can be heard where the two instruments are offset by one beat - rhythmic precision required.
Wild harmonic ripping is called for in the piece (as used in my tenor saxophone piece
‘Beat Me‘) and should be played in an uninhibited and expressive manner. The overtones may be considered as variations of tone colour rather than a literal sounding of the notes indicated.
The multiphonics help to provide the harmonic movement and should be played in a melodic rather than aggressive way.
At times the two parts may play independently of each other, indicated with the squiggly bar lines. Both parts should attempt to be in approximately the same place but vertical precision is not required in these passages.
The piece is about 9 minutes in duration and should provide the listener with an engaging journey of discovery with rock music ingredients and middle eastern flavours.
I had the pleasure to premiere this piece with Kenneth Tse at the World Saxophone Congress in Scotland 2012.