“Lessons of the Sky” Saxophone Recital
PC. Kurt Chan
DECEMBER 26 Wednesday
Hong Kong City Hall - Theatre
5 Edinburgh Place
Central, Hong Kong Island
Lessons of the Sky
The title Lessons of the Sky comes from the essay The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (found in a collection of essays under the same title). Here, the sky represents that which is open, alive and infinite. ‘Lessons’ suggests the knowledge gained through observation of the world around and above us - the endlessly varied designs that nature provides as building blocks for life. The music is based on short motives and chord progressions that are continually varied and juxtaposed. There are three sections in the composition, forming a fast/slow/fast structure. While sections one and three emphasize patterns that are fast and rhythmic – with no variation in speed - the rate at which chord changes occur varies widely. Early in the piece the harmonies move quickly underneath the many motives; but as the first section progresses, a single motive/pattern is periodically isolated and repeated over very slow chord changes. The surface rhythm of the pattern remains fast and constant during these harmonically stable sections, yet there is a general perception that the music is calmer. The interplay between the soprano saxophone and piano is another important aspect of the piece. The two instruments tend to share ideas, tossing motives back and forth in an improvised manner, but in the lyric slow section the soprano saxophone is featured and the piano takes on an accompanying role. Occasionally the piano makes an unexpected percussive sound when the pianist dampens a string with fingers of the left hand whilst playing the keyboard with the right hand. A single low piano note is dampened throughout the entire composition with a rubber wedge (which, when struck softly during the slow middle section, takes on a gong-like character). The piece closes with a return of the fast music, beginning with harmonically stable repeating figures and then moving into the short and quickly juxtaposed motives that began the piece. This loosely designed reverse order results in an arch-like shape for the whole composition.
“The Sonata was commissioned by the North American Saxophone alliance for its 1989 convention. It is in three large movements. The first is lyrical and reflective, with sudden energetic bursts. The song-like and soulful second movement is a broad soliloquy with its roots in the expressive madrigal style of the sixteenth century. The third is a large rondo that is at times fierce, mournful, playful, and turbulent, and at the end, ethereal.”
Commissioned by Timothy McAllister and Kathryn Goodson, Streetlegal was composed in 2003. Reviewed by the American Record Guide, “Etezady’s speedy, heady Streetlegal… is a pleasingly violent, bravura flourish…” (January/February 2007) This is a highly demanding piece for soprano saxophone players. It asks for absolute control in the altissimo range of the instrument, while reacting to constantly changing meters. It is easily one of the most difficult piece of music I have worked on.
Images - II. Still
“I wrote Images following a dream I had one night. After waking from this dream, I was left with a rather indistinct image of what had actually taken place, yet the impression that it left on me was so unmistakably vivid, I felt compelled to write this piece based on the elusive memory. The first image communicates the uncontrollable and dizzying sense of motion that occurs in the moments between sleep and lucidity; the second reflects upon a beautiful stillness that is distorted and then transformed back to tranquility; and the third is reminiscent of a wild, late night jam session.”
These three movements all explore their own sound worlds. The first movement, “Spring” begins with three simple melodic movements, is through- composed, and is meant to depict a verdant springtime landscape in which people/animals are playing. “The Golden Hour” is a meditation on the image of the sun setting (or rising). In photography, the term “the golden hour” refers to the time just before and after sunrise/sunset, during which daylight is reddish and soft. Lastly, “Bed Monsters” is an unbridled rondo that is evocative of someone or something being chased by a predator. The title comes from my wife, Amelia, who thought it sounded like a monster lurking under the bed (from her childhood...).