ORATORIO for saxophone quartet

(2014) (13')

Program Notes:

In Spring 2014, Matt Birmingham of the Equus Sax Quartet approached me about writing a piece for the ensemble, and I jumped at the opportunity without hesitation. I sought to write something that would play to the players’ specific strengths & abilities and of the unique timbral qualities & techniques of the saxophone. A special thanks is owed to Soren, Matt, David H., and David D., who played through many drafts and helped guide the direction of the piece.

An oratorio has historically been essentially a (usually) unstaged opera on a religious narrative. While this work certainly doesn’t contain any vocalists or specific biblical story, with the music and the titles I hoped to evoke feelings of sacredness and spiritual contemplation that one might experience with a traditional oratorio. The first movement depicts the internal workings of the mind during meditation, especially that of an inexperienced meditator; resistant, distracted, and trying, but still working to come to terms with the idea of stillness. The second movement depicts a spastic outburst of the body and mind, as pent-up aggression and negativity boil over and explode outwards before finally dying down into the third movement, a series of solemn, inquisitive recitatives and chorales, perhaps sermons or eulogies. The final movement is a freeform folk dance, having come to terms with (or at least accepted the lack of an answer to) the questions posed by the previous movements. I heartily encourage any more or less specific or alternative imagery that your ears might impose while you listen.