Saxophone and Clarinet – Essence Altered

October 7th, 2010

I originally wrote this saxophone and clarinet duet for Liz and I to play at our wedding. It is, however, perfect for any setting whether it be for a wedding, church service, or a recital (I’ve used it for all three). However, since it was designed to be played by a bride and groom, the idea is to depict two people becoming one in the music. This is exactly what happens at a wedding, and the piece’s dissonant beauty reflects this sacred concept. This concept should be made clear to your audience so that they properly understand the piece.

This sample is taken from my album, Purpose. Click here for more information; its total length is 5 minutes

Download score (PDF) ($5.99)
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Sample score

Additional information

I am now going to disclose my full intended meaning for this saxophone and clarinet duet, and I fear that both good-willed and malicious people may misunderstand. Discussing sexuality can be a very sensitive thing because of how our culture has mutilated it. We have taken an innocent and beautiful part of creation and removed it from its proper context thereby perverting the entire concept; from the act itself to its relational and spiritual application. Currently, sexuality is always associated with copulation in one way or another and people cannot seem to get this out of their minds. Sexuality can be (and in this context should be) understood as a deeply intimate relational concept that refers to a certain level of connectivity between physical sentient beings. It cannot be related to animals and it cannot be related to spirits. It is for the spirit-animal hybrids that we humans are. It has something to do with sex and as well as something to do with the marriage relationship and its intimate spiritual connectivity.

While this piece refers primarily to the spiritual aspects of sexuality, the sex act makes the spiritual aspects possible which is why its purpose in uniting man and wife cannot go undiscussed. Between Genesis 2:24, I Corinthians 7:4, and Ephesians 5:28-31, it is quite clear that a married couple is to be regarded not just as a unit, but a single physical organism. How this works is something of which Paul writes in Ephesians 5, “This is a profound mystery.” When a couple gets married, their resultant relationship is so deep and so profound that eventually their body, soul, and mind literally begin to function as a single unit. Two separate beings slowly growing to know each other perfectly and in every way in order to become one while each individual maintains the wonderfully complex distinctiveness that God gave each of them. Sex seems to have something to do with this, but it’s simply a means to an end. This end is what I’m attempting to get at with this piece; that profound mystery that I will never understand.

The first thirty seconds or so begin with a technique in which I give the performers a set of notes and tell them to improvise for a set amount of time. I’ve written the pitch sets in such a way as to leave no possibility for resolution so that by the time this section is over an unsettled and yet profoundly peaceful atmosphere has been created. This resultant texture represents two restless spirits of a living man and woman who are longing to be with one another; the essences of two human beings passionately desiring the fundamental change needed for them to become a single entity without compromising their distinctiveness.

After this opening improvisatory section, the rest of the piece consists of a simple three part form. The outer sections resemble a series of long sighs in which the instruments slowly merge in and out of each other’s timbre and pitch. The resultant sequence of dissonance and consonance is reflective of the intensity, depth, beauty, and mystery of the love found within the marriage relationship. However, since I’m depicting a change, the first of these outer sections deals with the relationship before the fundamental change that begins after marriage.

The middle section takes a motive from the limited melodic material presented in the first section and elaborates on it. This development is accompanied by the same type of improvisation as in the beginning, but this time with direction and intent. These elements work together to push the sound back into the sighs depicted at the beginning. The saxophone’s improvised texture is designed in such a way as to envelop the the clarinet’s sound while still allowing the clarinet to be clearly heard. Heading towards the climax of the piece the clarinet and saxophone both begin to have windows of improvisation. The lines (both improvised and not) dance around one another with increasing energy, finally pausing on a single pitch in unison. The two lines then separate with a sharp attack on the same dissonant interval which we heard in the beginning that resolves to reveal a much more intense and in depth joyful sigh compared to what we heard in the beginning. When the saxophone resolves the sigh, the clarinet responds by cascading down to a lower register which results in a related and peaceful sound caused by all of the sound that came before it.

The final section represents the goal of this fundamental change. The two distinct and complimentary people are now seen as one person. Their essences can now freely pass in and out of one another without fear and without shame. They know and are known deeply by one another.


Wedding Processional Music – The First Song

August 30th, 2010

It is very rare for me to write a piece quickly and have it be worth anyone’s time. But sometimes the meaning behind the sound in my head is so obvious that it takes very little time to make it into a coherent musical unit. One Sunday afternoon I sat down to put a few initial ideas down and ended up not stopping for eight hours. This work resulted in the first draft of the wedding processional music Liz and I ended up using for our wedding, “The First Song”. After meeting with Dr. Lorenz (my teacher at that time) twice about the work, tweaking the formal structure, and perfecting notation for the improvisational aspects, I finished the shortest piece I had ever written.

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

Dowload score (PDF) ($2.49)
 Foreign Currency? Click Here.

The length of The First Song was determined by the use I had in mind for it, which was wedding processional music. But its transient nature also contributed meaning by leaving the mystery of romantic love a mystery.  My main goal was to tell my wedding guests exactly how I felt as the woman I wanted to marry walked down the aisle to become my wife. However, the piece works very well without the visual aspect being present.  It is a simple depiction of what happens in a man’s heart the first time he sees the woman that God is about to give to him.  It didn’t need to be long, because this emotion in its specificity happens once in a lifetime and is very short.

This emotion is apparently also very predictable (although this does not detract from the emotion but rather intensifies it with anticipation). Because this life changing emotional experience had been foreshadowed on so many different occasions it was surprisingly easy to predict accurately.  The very first note in particular was a very obvious one:  A single sharp and high pitched percussive strike on a grand piano with the sustain pedal engaged in order to bring the entire sound spectrum of the piano into a subtle state of anticipation to depict the literal physiological reaction of a man’s heart when he sees the object of his deepest and most passionate affection from a distance.  I’d felt this many times before when seeing Liz from a distance and to describe the emotion musically was very simple.  From there it was simply a matter of imagining her walking towards me with the intent o giving herself to me and (I to her) for the rest of our lives.

The flurry of nervous tremolos and glissandi following the first note describes the excitement I had while anticipating my bride’s walk towards me. The way I use the sound spectrum here is designed to be a direct reaction to the first note’s sympathetic resonance just as the anticipation of Liz walking towards me was the result of seeing her.  I think it is also important to point out that I use the black key pentatonic scale to color the sound with a slight stereotypical oriental impression.  This was motivated by Liz’s patriarchal Chinese heritage, but I masked the color because it’s very hard to see that she’s part Chinese.

The next minute or so of the piece describes the anticipation, nervousness, and wonderful joy I felt as she walked towards me.  I could do nothing but bless God and rejoice in my bride’s beauty, the richness and depth of her spirit, and her love for me.  The various components of the sound are designed to fit together in such a way as to put into the mind of the listener a snapshot of the passionate and complex mixture of emotion  This texture builds and comes to a point at which it can no longer be contained and collapses out of necessity.  The bride has arrived face to face with the man rejoicing before God over her, and his joy must be contained in a permanently lingering conclusion that will be preserved for as long as they both live.

Long story short, I love my wife.

“The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called “woman,”
for she was taken out of man.'”

Genesis 2:23, NIV

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