What Wondrous Love Is This? – Solo Saxophone

April 3rd, 2012

My arrangement of What Wondrous Love Is This? for solo saxophone opens with a clear and unembellished statement of the melody. This is then followed by a short theme which I’ve designed to represent the overwhelming joy that Christians have in response to the wondrous love being depicted in the text. This theme is reiterated after every statement of the melodic material, and the arrangement culminates with the full version of the theme as high in pitch and volume of which each instrument is comfortably capable. The arrangement ends with another simple statement of the melody but with a repetitive and embellished ending that focuses on the text, “And through eternity, I’ll sing on.”

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Below is the text I kept in my mind as I wrote this saxophone solo:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.


Wedding Music for Piano – Oath of Unity

December 18th, 2010

I wrote this wedding music for piano with an accomplished pianist in mind. However, this detail should not stop anyone from attempting it. I set out to create a broadly usable piece to be used towards the end of wedding preludes and I hope that I have done this well enough to appeal to most performers. The only questionable challenge is that there are some wide intervals throughout the work. I am able to reach a major ninth with ease and therefore wrote many without a second thought. If this is not the case for you, please feel free to change a few notes using your best judgement.

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Sample Score

There are three hymns woven throughout this work. The sample above contains an arrangement of “O Perfect Love”. The other two are “Take my Life and Let It Be” and “Be Thou My Vision”:

     

These samples are taken from my album, Purpose. Click here for more information.

Additional information

I wrote this wedding music for piano to be premiered for my friends, Pam and Ryan, at their wedding for prelude. The danger with this role in a program is that the beginning material is either easily missed, or it rudely interrupts conversations. I have attempted to use this problem to the performer’s advantage by utilizing John Cage’s philosophy: Any sound you hear during the performance is part of the music. While I disagree with Cage on many points, I do believe that there is something to be had with the idea of artistic noise. I actually want the audience to passively participate in the performance by talking at a respectful volume until the piece starts to unfold it’s main themes more clearly. It is the performer’s job to play beneath their mummer and crescendo as they decrescendo by becoming interested. I have yet to see it actually work out that way, but it’s a nice idea…

Since I was writing for a wedding, I have obviously written a piece about marriage. I’m am very passionate about the issue of divorce, and am strongly against divorce outside of marital unfaithfulness and even then only in extreme cases. This work is a charge to any bride and groom to fulfill their oaths to one another out of unconditional love no matter what their situation is. The harsh section of this piece represents the more unpleasant parts of marriage; but this section is fleeting and resolves quickly by returning to the original themes depicting unconditional love and faithfulness. The main take away I want people to have is that the love within marriage unites two people so intimately that the darker parts of the relationship are nullified.


Violin and Clarinet Duet – Proclamation

November 13th, 2010

I’ve learned to never force music into the box I originally intended it to be put into, but this violin and clarinet duet took that concept to a new level for me. My original plan was to write a sacred work for violin and saxophone for my friend and I to play during communion services. Typically, communion has two musical segments; one for each communion element. So, I wanted the work to be two movements with each being less than two minutes long. The first movement came together very naturally and very quickly, but then life happened and I never got around to writing the second movement. When I finally got a chance to work on it again, I realized that there was no good musical reason to add a second movement. I also realized that the only reason I was using the saxophone was because I sound my best on it. Clarinet blends with violin much more naturally (although I attribute this partly to traditional bias) and the very simple part I had written for it makes more sense with a simpler sound. I rewrote the piece for violin and clarinet thinking I would just have my wife play it instead (although I ended up recording it since we weren’t married yet and she was 650 miles away at the time). So I started with a two movement work for violin and saxophone to be used for communion and ended up with a one movement work for violin and clarinet to be used for who knows what.

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The recording process was another matter. I had most of the Purpose project squared away with only this piece left to record. I got off my night shift at 6:00am on Sunday morning and set to work on laying down the clarinet track so that Eva could come and add her part that afternoon. I armed the four microphones I was using and combined several takes to form a satisfactory performance. Before I remembered that I hadn’t saved my progress, the power went out and I was forced to try again and ended up with a significantly better sound (and I still made it to church on time). That afternoon I got all the takes I needed from Eva and finally went to bed (I’d been up since Saturday afternoon). On Monday I woke up only to discover that all of the files for the violin’s tracks had been scattered beyond repair. I was only able to salvage the files from one microphone resulting in a very thin sound. But just for kicks, I tried muting 3 of the four clarinet recordings so that they would both sound thin and be able to blend. To my surprise I liked the result very much. It certainly wasn’t the pristine audio quality I wanted for the Purpose project, but there was an irresistible authenticity in the sound that spoke with an innocence and a sincerity that I could not have possibly come up with intentionally. Instead of redoing the recording, I decided to sit on the idea of using what I had. When I tried listening to the CD in its entirety to see whether or not the transitions worked, I finally decided that this authentic and unrefined sound perfectly captured the reason I made the CD.

From the very first note, everything about this CD is polished and seemingly flawless in the aspects of performance, composition and engineering. Except for a few minor details, I could not have made this project any better even if more resources had been available to me. The first six tracks work together to communicate to the listener that life has value, meaning, and purpose and it is a wonderful gift from God that is worth your time to seek and understand. But what does all this look like? Where does it lead? It leads us to the feet of Jesus with nothing to offer but our love and authentic awe and worship. How would I depict this musically? I pick up an instrument I can’t play well enough to impress anyone with and play Amazing Grace with a sister in Christ Jesus. No virtuosic technique. No polished well-mastered recording. Not even a terribly original composition. Just two people showing authentic and sincere adoration for their creator through sound. A simple “I love you” to the creator of the universe. The very essence of the purpose of life.

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