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.


Alto Saxophone Solo – Psalm 51

February 17th, 2012

This alto saxophone solo is a musical depiction of Psalm 51; a biblical text describing David’s sorrow over his sin. Using a concert A drone (from any source you want) to create harmonic tension and release throughout the solo, the music follows the same emotional path that the psalm does. It begins in lament and brokenness and slowly moves towards repentance, and restoration.

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Below is the text off of which this alto saxophone solo is based:

Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
   and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
   and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
   sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
   you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
   you who are God my Savior,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion,
   to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
   in burnt offerings offered whole;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.

-Psalm 51 (NIV)

Double Bass Solo – Insentience

November 5th, 2011

When working with very low sounds, I enjoy keeping the same amount of tension in the texture that I’m accustomed to using by implementing dissonant intervals that are more widely spaced. Insentience is a difficult double bass solo for this reason; keeping the various intervals in tune while using the entire range of the bass is its primary challenge. Once learned, however, the various sounds can be executed without much physical difficulty so that the performer can focus on musical interpretation. In addition to this rewarding feature, there is also a variety of extended techniques including multiple idiomatic double stops, slow portamenti, left and right hand pizzicati, ricochet, natural harmonics, and lush combinations of all these techniques simultaneously. Advanced student performers interested in coming outside the box will be intrigued with the pleasing yet atypical sounds that come out of their bass.

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Sample Score

Additional information

Duration 5:00

Suffering is the indirect result of desire. We want something, we don’t get it, and then we’re unhappy. When a person has reasonable desires that aren’t being fulfilled, they are dissatisfied with life and have a difficult time being content. In order to become happy a person must either take steps to satisfy their desires, or stop desiring. There are times when a person has a lot of bad luck and cannot fulfill even their basic human needs despite how hard they’ve tried. Since they cannot fulfill their desire, one might think that the answer to all of their problems is to stop desiring.

The problem with this is that when one stops desiring, they die. Their heart is still beating, but it gives no life to their spirit. Hunger is good because it drives the worker forward. If he stops wanting food, his role as a human being is nullified because his hunger causes him to do things that are natural to human beings. An even better example is love. When I met Liz (my wife) and got to know her for a while, I developed a desire to start a romantic relationship with her. I’d never been the type of guy that enjoyed asking a girl to go on a date, but my desire for her overcame my fear of failure. Had I decided that it was too hard to win her and killed the desire instead of pursuing it, the life-giving and healthy relationship that has come out of those early efforts would never have come about. Killing desire instead of taking persistent steps to fulfill it is not the behavior of a healthy human being and a human being’s spirit will eventually die along with desire. Desire makes us alive.

Not all desires can coexist. Again, the heart cannot cease its longing, or it will die. Therefore, desire must be channeled into something or someone that can conquer our heart and leave nothing behind. Liz can’t do this for me. Money can’t do it. Fame can’t do it. The only thing in the universe that can is Christ. Therefore, we must set our desire solely on Him if we want to truly be happy. Then we will be filled.


Vagrant Contemplation

November 5th, 2011

This sample is taken from my album, Prelude. Click here for more information.

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Instrumentation: Unaccompanied Alto Saxophone

Duration: 5:00

Performance notes: This piece doesn’t have anything extraordinarily challenging and very much sticks to the saxophone’s traditional capabilities. Except for a few very soft notes in the lower range of the instrument, there is very little that an advanced high school level performer shouldn’t be able to do after a bit of practice. There are a few technical passages that can be considered difficult, but as a last resort the performer can easily change the tempo to make the piece easier to play. I would highly recommend this to students who are attempting to broaden their dynamic range and learning to play out of time.

Interpretation: The mind itself is one of my favorite topics of discussion in philosophy, theology, and science. Here I have attempted to capture the occurrence of a mind having a dark thought that is never resolved, but keeps feeding off of itself until the mind simply accepts its depressed state. In my thinking, this occurs when a person is distressed but refuses to let the source go. This work is 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.”


Flute Solo – Ivory Desert

November 4th, 2011

This flute solo was written for a composition seminar in which Dr. Ricardo Lorenz paired each participating composer with a participating performer in order to write a solo for each performer’s instrument. Throughout the semester, Joelle Willems (the flute player whom I consider a co-composer of this work) and I met periodically to discuss the flute solo I was writing. She would play passages that I’d written and together we’d make detailed modifications to make the solo more idiomatic for the flute while still keeping my creative intent intact. As I expected, these sessions not only changed the way I originally intended certain things to be played, but it changed the sort of flute solo that I wanted to write. As we went along, Joelle showed me certain aspects of the flute of which I was unaware, and I immediately took that knowledge and applied it to the solo. Working directly and as often as possible with a performer is the most effective compositional technique I have ever encountered.

Performer: Joelle Willems

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Preview first page of score

This flute solo is still extremely challenging. It uses the full range of the flute in dynamics and pitch as well as several extended techniques. Between slow lyrical sections, rapid and aggressive passages, sweeping melodic gestures, expressive grace notes, flutter tonguing, and guided improvisation this piece offers the advanced flutist everything they could want in a short unaccompanied solo.

The title refers to an object of beauty that is incapable of being observed because it destroys the life that is attracted to it with the very thing that makes it beautiful. Thus, the piece reflects radiant beauty, loneliness, and lifelessness.

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