A Sudden, Potent Dissipation of Agitation and Stress
Op. 20 (2018) for sax quartet (satb)
A Sudden, Potent Dissipation of Agitation and Stress is more of a description of this piece rather than the genesis of it. I had two distinct ideas of what this piece would include, and the rest of the work came together around them. First was a contrapuntal, quartal texture, and the second was a diatonic soprano sax improvisation. In trying to reconcile these disparate ideas, I found a solution in the characters of each. Counterpoint (and especially non-tonal counterpoint) can often sound anxious, constantly spinning forwards with slight moments of repose. The major scale improvisation, by contrast, felt relaxed and unperturbed. Therefore, the entire piece pivots around a sudden and welcome dissipating of stress through the movement from one idea to the other.
Each section functions relatively independently and has its own climax. Despite the agitation in the first section, a singing and highly energetic melody emerges, hoping to strive past its own worries. That melody is ultimately unsuccessful, tumbling out of control into an intense bari cadenza representing loneliness and frustration. After a nervous climb out of that pit, we are back where we started, finally forcing a drastic change of pace and launching into the dissipation. The soprano takes over for the rest of the second half, continuing to sing freely even when the accompaniment becomes more passionate, and the piece ends with a restful close.
Huge thanks to my colleagues Ben Long, Matthew Joseph Garbin, and Marwin Noel Esguerra for putting a ton of effort into this challenging piece! Cuarteto de Delfines premiered A Sudden, Potent Dissipation at ISU's Music Factory on 11/29/18.
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