Multiple woodwinds commission, second movement (saxophone)

Composer Sy Brandon has posted his work on the second of six movements of Divertissement, the new work for multiple woodwinds soloist. The movement, “Nocturne,” is for alto saxophone and piano. You can check out a synthesized recording and preview the score (using the Sibelius Scorch browser plugin). Go check it out and leave your comments.

Time required for instrument switches

Photo, mbshane

I got some questions by email yesterday from Sy Brandon, about the multiple woodwinds piece (Divertissement) he is writing funded by my Co-op Press Commission Assistance Grant. He is considering a movement that involves switching between instruments, and wanted to know about some of the technical details. Here are my answers:

Keeping reeds wet is a minor hassle but quite doable, especially for a movement that’s only a few minutes long.

Time required for switching instruments is an interesting question. Short answer: anything shorter than about five seconds is risky.

A slightly shorter switch might be possible with something like saxophone to flute or clarinet, since you can just let the saxophone hang from its neckstrap. And switches among flute and clarinet and, to a lesser extent, oboe (due to its fragile reed) are reasonably fast because there aren’t any straps to unhook and you can pick one up while you’re setting the other down. Bassoon is more difficult—it uses either a seat strap or a somewhat awkward harness, and definitely requires both hands to pick it up or put it down. Continue reading “Time required for instrument switches”

New multiple woodwinds commission: Sy Brandon


Sy Brandon

I am pleased to announce a newly-commissioned piece in progress, for multiple woodwinds soloist and piano, being composed by Sy Brandon. Dr. Brandon is Professor Emeritus of Music at Millersville University in Pennsylvania and an active, prolific composer. He also blogs about his composition process at Composing Insights. The commission is made possible by a Co-op Press Commission Assistance Grant.

I was delighted a few years ago to have a fascinating new piece, seventy times seven, written by Dan Bradshaw, which was a blast to perform but required some instruments I don’t own (baritone saxophone and B-flat contrabass clarinet) and some fairly sophisticated electronics operated in live performance by the composer. I fear that, because of the complications involved (did I mention the composer now lives in Hawaii?) I may never get to perform it again.

In my application for the Co-op Press grant, I made the case that even though there are a small handful of pieces for woodwind doublers, few of them are very portable—most require a large ensemble, hard-to-find instruments, or electronics, or otherwise have logistical barriers to performance. I think there is demand among the doubling community for pieces that showcase multiple-woodwind skill and that can be programmed on a recital with reasonable ease.

I’ll be posting updates here, and Dr. Brandon has already started documenting his work on the piece over at Composing Insights. He has posted the first movement, for flute and piano, and is asking for comments, so surf on over and take a look.