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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.
1. Voyage d'été, 2. Automne Voyage, 3. Voyage d'hiver, Voyage de Printemps
The story behind Bach’s Pianola.
J.S Bach is working on a fugue late one night when suddenly a pianola from the 20th Century drops into his room. Bach puts aside the piece he is working on and wanders over to the pianola and sits down. As he begins to pedal he hears music that he’d never imagined-ragtime, waltzes and swing! The more music he hears, the faster he pedals.
He plays the pianola for a few hours and then after nearly destroying the pianola with his energy and untamed enthusiasm, he goes back to writing his fugue. But as he begins to write again, he is unable to block this new and wonderful music he has just heard from his mind and as such begins to incorporate it into his fugue.
Dedicated to Philippe Geiss and the Strasbourg Saxophone Ensemble.
Commissioned by Sax & Co for the XVI World Sax Congress in St Andrews Scotland - 2012.
Includes Score and Parts: sopranino, soprano 1, soprano 2, alto 1, alto 2, alto 3, tenor 1, tenor 2, tenor 3, baritone 1, baritone 2, bass sax
This work was commissioned by saxophone and piano duo HD Duo, Michael Duke - saxophone and David Howie - piano, with the assistance of Sydney Conservatorium of Music CD/DVD Grant.
Although the program of the piece could be likened to the unseen undercurrent of a creek or river, it is in reality, reminiscent of the movement and shift of human emotion and the old adage ‘still waters run deep’.
A thank you to Finnegan Abbott for his musical ideas and inspiration in the second section of the work.
There is a section in the work for an improvisation/cadenza. The material used can be based on the pre-existing musical ideas already played in the piece and/or material further developed later in the piece that is not yet heard. The soloist is also welcome to play what is written in the score as an alternate to the improvisation. The duration of the cadenza may be extended if desired.
Piano pedalling should be as necessary where marked.
The opening of the work should be very still, in order to contrast with musical ideas to follow.
Contents: Rag, Blues, Latin Bop, Funk
Performed by Continuum Sax