Posts Tagged ‘saxophone’

A Love Letter: Minverva’s Dance

Monday, October 25th, 2010



Dancing to the original.

Minerva’s Dance was originally written for my wife and for our first dance as husband and wife in 2004. She loves tangos and the music of Astor Piazzolla, so I decide to write her a tango. I went into my studio and started laying down some tracks. My friend and band mate, Andrew Wilshusen laid down some percussion and a few days later I had it ready to go. Since this was a studio piece with long improvised sections only a small part of it was ever written down. In the summer of 2010 I decided to notate and expand the orchestration.  The flute and soprano sax are featured soloist. The flute solo is a transcription of the original solo I played but the sax solo for the 9/25/2010 SFCCO concert was improvised. My friend Erling Wold was originally going to play accordion on this concert but just be for the concert he got hit by a car and broke his leg.  Minverva is the  goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and the inventor of music.

SFCCO performs Minvera

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Open Ended (redux)

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Open Ended

Do to unforeseen circumstances the composition I planed on having performed on the November 7th 2009 SFCCO concert had to be canceled. So I decided to pull out one of my guide improvisation compositions, Open Ended. I conducted/composed this performance as well as played tenor saxophone. It is a very versatile work that is composed live before your eyes and ears. Based on Rova‘s Radar techniques, Open Ended is less of a composition and more of a color or tool palette. It is an ever-growing collection of rules and games for the performers that are triggered by hand signals by the conductor/composer. The conductor/composer then composes the piece live using these hand signals to guide the performers. This work has no set instrumentation and can be played by any number of performers. It also has no set length; the piece could last 5 minutes or 24 hours. Open Ended has been performed several times, including a performance four years ago by the SFCCO, but every time it is a world première and unique performance that can never be repeated.

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String Theory

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

        String Theory, was premièred February 28th, 2009 by the SFCCO. String Theory is a guided improvisation composition that uses a graphical score which is inspired by the theoretical physics theory of the same name. String Theory is the revolutionary and shocking branch of theoretical physics that combines quantum mechanics and general relativity into a quantum theory of gravity. According to string theory, absolutely everything in the universe—all of the particles that make up matter and forces—is comprised of tiny vibrating fundamental strings. The Strings of string theory are one-dimensional oscillating lines, but they are no longer considered fundamental to the theory, which can be formulated in terms of points or surfaces too. In this composition, I have used graphical notation representing strings, points and surfaces to guide the orchestra in improvisation. Since String Theory may prove Einstein’s unified field theory at the very end of the composition the orchestra unites. If String Theory proves to be true it creates an elegant universe composed entirely of the music of strings.
         One of the exciting things about using guide improvisation as a compositional technic is the fact that music is different during each performance but over all recognizable as the same composition. To help demonstrate this I have a recording of the dress rehearsal of String Theory for a comparison to the concert performance.

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Sun & Moon

Saturday, March 8th, 2008
Score of the Sun movement

Score of the Sun movement

        March 8th 2008 the SFCCO performed one of my circle music compositions; Sun & Moon ( Low / High). The Sun & Moon have been center of mythology since the dawn of time. They represent the balance of man and woman, light and dark, the cycle of life. This musical representation of Sun & Moon consists of two sections, Sun starts from left and moves to the right then moon start from the right and move to the left. These sections are in a form known as circle music. Essentially, circle music uses phrases that can be played at any time and in any order. I first learn about circle music form from Dr. Cindy McTee who wrote a circle music piece for my bassoon teacher.

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Ha-Me’aggel for Orchestra

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

        I recently completed a new composition, Ha-Me’aggel (one who draws circles) for Orchestra (Video Low / High) was premièred June 9th, 2007 by the SFCCO. This the biggest of my jazz and classical music to date. Originally this piece written for my quintet (woodwinds, trombone, cello, koto and percussion), the Cooke Quintet. The group recorded Ha-Me’aggel on An Indefinite Suspension of The Possible just 2 days after the première of “Music for Humans“. The CD was released on my label Black Hat Records. It has four sections, which in the original version could be played in any order, a form known as circle music. I felt that this piece would adapt well as a Concerto for Saxophone or Orchestra, though I had to make the form less flexible for an orchestra. There is some freedom to allow different instruments be featured but in the first performance alto sax (Michael Cooke), clarinet (Jonathan Russell), piano (Alexis Alrich) and timpani (Victor Flaviani) are featured instruments. These featured instruments have improvisational solo sections. The melodies in the piece were written using a Klezmer scale, which made me think of the story of Onias (Honi) Ha-Me’aggel, a first century Jewish scholar who drew a circle and placed himself in the center of it, praying for rain and whose prayers were mysteriously and immediately answered. My prayers where also answered, as this piece was made possible by a Creative Connections Award from Meet The Composer.

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Concerto for Musician

Sunday, May 9th, 2004

         I finished writing a new guided improvisation orchestra piece called Concerto for Musician. Concerto for Musician, what does that mean? Unlike traditional concerto, which are usually for a particular instrument, Concerto for Musician is for a multi-instrumentalist. The first movement is for a soprano instrument, then second movement is for an alto instrument and the last movement is for a bass instrument. At the world premiere the “musician” was me, the composer. I played the first movement on flute, then second movement on alto saxophone and the third moment on bassoon.

        Each movement has a feeling or sound, which is reflected in the movement’s title. The first movement is entitled: Cosmological. This movement has a vast sound with flares of energy and twinkling. The first movement tapers in to the second movement, which is entitled: Mechanical. This movement has a fast pulse and sounds like many mechanisms working at once. Aqualogical is the title of the third movement, which has an organic and liquid sound. One can hear the depths and breadth of the ocean in this movement.
        Concerto for Musician uses an unusual compositional technique: guided improvisation. As apposed to free improvisation where everyone does what ever they hear or see fit during the music, guided improvisation uses some rules to limited the sounds and directions so the composer can get the sound and feeling he is after. Standard Jazz music could be considered guide improvisation, but the “rules” in Concerto for Musician are different then the rules of Jazz music. Some of the techniques used in this work are based on Larry Ochs’ “Radar” techniques. The soloist follows some rules as well, but is basically aloud to do want he/she wants. The soloist is encourage to use extend techniques like multi-phonics (playing more then one note at a time) and sounds on the instruments that are appropriate to the movement. The SFCCO premiered this piece (Program Notes) on May 9th, this performance would not be possible if it was not for the Subito grant I was awarded from the American Composers Forum.

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