A brief thought about new music for saxophone

Here’s a comment I made by email to Sy Brandon, regarding the saxophone movement of Divertissement, the new multiple woodwinds piece he is writing for me.

So much contemporary saxophone music is bombastic and grating—I always make sure I bring some aspirin when I attend the saxophone conferences. But the saxophone has such wonderful lyrical qualities, and I’m pleased that the saxophone got assigned to play something pretty in this piece.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the saxophone’s expansive palette of tone colors, and will happily flutter-tongue or play multiphonics or whatever. But it’s nice to play a melody once in a while.

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 … Read more

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.

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New multiple woodwinds commission: 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 … Read more