Saxophone Solo – Vagrant Contemplation

Vagrant Contemplation demonstrates the full range, power, and sensitivity of the saxophone. This unaccompanied solo has all the characteristics of a staple in the classical saxophone repertoire. It features:

  • Single sustained notes that showcase the saxophone’s dynamic potential. These also allow the performer to creatively grow sounds over time with with vibrato and timbrel control.
  • Flourishes of notes that idiomatically cover the entire traditional range of the instrument.
  • A soft passage in the low range of the horn.
  • Wide leaps in the melodic line that can be effortlessly and beautifully executed.
  • A tonal center (which can be very hard to find in sax repertoire).
  • Passages that are to be played freely and passages in strict time.

The piece opens with a single straight tone and nearly inaudible note that grows over time. This evolves into a foreshadowing of the secondary melody. Then the main theme begins to unfold without becoming too intense. This elegantly flows into a full statement of the opening phrase.

The second section of Vagrant Contemplation begins with a near reiteration of what has already been played, but the strict time completely redefines how the music is perceived. The definitive rhythm is combined with dissonant tonal harmony that builds in intensity. This flows into a third musical idea that almost builds this intensity to a peak. A rhythmically ambiguous statement of the secondary melody follows. As this secondary theme finishes developing, we find ourselves back in strict time with flurries of rapid notes and phrases. The music pauses briefly before the final climactic build (see sample above) and finally finishes with a low and meditative rendition of the opening lines.

Listen to the entire work below to hear this dramatic build from start to finish.

Additional Information for Vagrant Contemplation

Instrumentation: Unaccompanied Saxophone (Soprano, Alto, or Tenor…maybe Baritone)

Duration: 5:00

Difficulty recommendation: Advanced high school student through the professional level.

Musical Interpretation: Vagrant Contemplation portrays a person having a dark thought that is never resolved. The thought keeps feeding off of itself until the person simply accepts their depressed state. The thought causes distress simply because the person will not let it go. The music represents what results when a person refuses to let God handle problems that are out of their control.

Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

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