zichron (2009)—for saxophone quartet


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I just spent the last hour writing a slightly lengthy blog post about my new piece for saxophone quartet called zichron, which means “in memory of” or “in remembrance of” in Hebrew and, I believe, Yiddish as well. For reasons I don’t understand, since WordPress saves incremental drafts every few minutes onto a Web server, once I hit Publish, the post disappeared. It’s almost 12:40 AM on the East Coast and I’m pretty tired, so I’m not going to attempt to recreate the entire post. So here is a quick synopsis:

  • The piece was requested by the saxophonist Brian Kauth
  • Disclaimer: I find it difficult to write for wind or brass instruments, since I feel constrained by having to worry about leaving space for performers to breathe, or else hope that they are capable of circular breathing (NB: I have yet to encounter anyone in person who can do circular breathing, although many musicians can do it). That’s why I write a lot of music for keyboards, strings, or else keep it indeterminate (as with my pieces written for open instrumentation). But since Brian was really nice enough to ask me for the piece, and is committed to getting it performed, how could I say no?
  • The work was essentially without a title for most of its composition until I heard about the tragic death of Bisan, Maye, Aya and Nur Abu al-Aish, the three daughters and niece of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who died as a result of IDF fire in Gaza shortly before a ceasefire agreement. Dr. Abu al-Aish is an Israeli-trained Palestinian gynecologist who has worked to foster understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. The tragedy  had an unexpectedly personal impact on me, both as a parent and as a fellow gynecologist.  I wanted to do something to reach out and react to Dr. al-Aish’s loss, and soon realized that this work was an appropriate response.
  • I really tried to keep it playable, although there are a few spots where it requires really good breath control on the part of the performers, due to some long sustained tones. I think it’s doable, though. Then again, I also thought my earlier works for brass sextet and alto flute were doable too, so all bets are off.
  • The first three-and-a-half minutes consist of a single tone. But it’s a nice tone.

The mp3 is here. The untransposed score (in C) is here. The transposed score is here.

I’m going to bed…