Month: March 2017

The Light of the Trees

Rob 4tet concert poster.jpgLast week it was my privelege and pleasure to perform in two concerts of new music for saxophones at St. Mary-at-Hill Church near Monument and the Royal Academy of Music. Joining the incredible Inflexio Duo from the Royal College of Music, I played alto sax in a piece for quartet written by my friend and fellow composer Robert Laidlow.

Rob’s Programme Note

The Light of the Trees for saxophone quartet forms one of many pieces I have written recently based on other-worldly and fantastical stimuli. Each of the three movements relates to a different image drawn by artists Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and John Howe of scenes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s quasi-mythological posthumous opus The Silmarillion. From a more technical viewpoint, the piece aims to explore all sides of the saxophone quartet, from the many timbres that extended techniques can offer, heard in the first two movements, to the rhythmic and textural dexterity for which the saxophone is so famous.

My (Unauthorised) Programme Note

In the beginning there is only a primordial ooze, a mute soup, evolving into the dawn of biology as chords emerge, uneasy with one another, growing in complexity. Now life has grown legs. The first animals are born and begin to walk, a growing sense of movement meeting Stravinskian-flavoured aggression as brutish dinosaurs stalk and snarl.

Then cacophony. The meteor!
Life is wiped from the surface of the planet.
The second movement opens with a lonely, curdling alto multiphonic, a desperate cry echoing in emptiness, giving way to a single voice, alone in the burnt forests. But life prevails. A young humanity is born amidst an alien plainchant and the shamanic voices of the soprano and the baritone sing their austere ruminations and newfound wisdom to the stars. These are peculiar meandering melodies, disjointed but with purpose. At last the meditative tenor speaks, pregnant with knowledge and promise.
The third movement leaps into the picture. A skittish but playful soprano bounces into being, announcing the next stage of humanity’s evolution. The Enlightened perform their dance of learning and transcendence, delicately teasing one another, revelling in their playground of consciousness. A moment of menacing rhythmic unison hints at a danger as yet unguessed.
Then once more the cataclysm. The Flood. Humanity is swept from the planet’s surface as the dinosaurs before them. But our ending is optimistic. Again there are survivors. Humanity has weathered the inundation and emerges, something new. So continues the eternal cycle of life’s renewal.