Zagreb is an amazing place, so friendly. The Saxophone World Congress coincided with the Croatia v England match in the world cup. There were huge TV screens on the sides of tall buildings and seated areas everywhere for people to watch. Great atmosphere.
The Congress was as inspiring as ever: virtuoso playing, and we saw more performer-composer performances than at the last congress. My last blog mentioned the "Cyber Bird" Concerto, here it is:
Quirk performed Smudge, written by our tenor saxophone player Chris Jolly, and Pieces for Five Players, by Richard Ingham. Every performance is video recorded at the Congress, so our performance should be available to watch eventually; it takes a few months before the technicians get all the performances online.
Quirk met a jazz saxophone quartet from the USA called Four: Mark Watkins (soprano), Ray Smith (alto), Sandon Mayhew (tenor) and Jon Gudmundson (baritone). During their performance Ray Smith played a couple of jazz impro solos; the best jazz I've heard for years... wow. Here's Four in action:
The soprano saxophone player in Four (Dr Mark Watkins) has recently published a saxophone treatise: From the Inside Out. It's a fascinating explanation of the physiological aspects of saxophone playing, giving a definitive guide to everything from traditional techniques (how to play low notes), to flutter tonguing. Dr Watkins used internal video cameras backed up with scientific research to give definitive answers to questions we all ask releated to our performance practice. Here's the details: Watkins, M. (2018). From the Inside Out. U.S.A.: Outskirts Press. It's on Amazon!
I decided that my (this) website needed something, a change of colour perhaps?
So I took inspiration from Gravitation (also known as Gravity) by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher completed in June 1952. It was first printed as a black-and-white lithograph and then coloured by hand in watercolour.
It depicts a nonconvex regular polyhedron known as the small stellated dodecahedron. Each facet of the figure has a trapezoidal doorway. Out of these doorways protrude the heads and legs of twelve turtles without shells, who are using the object as a common shell. The turtles are in six coloured pairs (red, orange, yellow, magenta, green and indigo) with each turtle directly opposite its counterpart.
I used the six colours in the print on my website, they seem quite relaxing. The hand written styled font for the headings is Rock Salt, imbeded from Google Fonts.
The Quirk quartet performed twice at the Saxophone Day, hosted by the University of Huddersfield and directed by Sarah Markham. The first concert was at 10:15 am in St. Paul's Hall, the second at 6:00 pm. In the later performance we were joined by Richard Ingham playing soprano saxophone, so in effect we became a quintet. We performed one of Richard's compositions; Pieces for five players.
I think it's pretty rare that the same quartet, plays the same composition, in the same performance space, exactly a year apart. The only difference being the guest saxophonists that joined the quartet.
This year; Richard Ingham, last year; Claude Delangle. From the quartet's point of view this was fascinating, Richard and Claude rehearsed and performed in completely different ways.
Claude took more of a solo role, taking time to experiment with the musical line and musical detail. In some ways Claude was working blind; there is little explanation as to the premise of the composition. Claude's interpretation was beautiful, French classical saxophone at its best. As expected, absolutely stunning.
We were surprised at how different Richard's interpretation was. Of course we should have expected it, he is the composer and 'inside' the music. He created the gestalt to be carried forward. His performance (apart from the cadenza solo passages) was less that of a soloist. His sound became part of the ensemble and revealed intricate textures and harmonic spacings, at times the Scottish influence came to the fore.
I recently read an interesting paper by Patricia Holmes discussing timbre as a conveyor of emotion. This year's performance seemed to resonate with that discussion. If you're interested here's the details of the article:
Holmes, P. A. (2012). An Exploration of Musical Communication Through Expressive Use of Timbre: The Performer's Perspective. Psychology of Music, 40(3), 301-323.
The Quirk saxophone quartet will be performing at the World Saxophone Congress in Zagreb, Croatia's capital city. We're rehearsing the works in our programme, which include works byRichard Ingham and he's joining us to perform them. We're also performing two works written by members of the quartet; Smudge by Chris Jolly and I didn't get where I was today by myself. Chris's piece is vibrant, rhythmic and exciting. As a quartet we love it. My composition is at the sketching stage. We played through a few sections at our rehearsal on Friday.
Challenging. I blame the rain.
The structure of my quartet is based on rainfall, with the implicit rhythms and complexity. A Messiaen mode (no harmonic resolution), a ten note phrase structure and a layer of accents based on significant events in a rainfall transcription doesn't easily lend itself to 4/4. So a large part of my work is in 7/16. Quite a challenge, as each saxophone part enters at a different time, with differing accents. Those saxophonists in Sibelius seem unfazed by anything. Whereas I found it pretty tricky to play the alto part in my own composition!
It's not all about textures. I have in mind a lyrical melody to rise through and float above the rain, for our amazing soprano player. I realise how fortunate I am to have a professional saxophone quartet to try out my stuff, such lovely people, offering endless support.
Best comment after a few play throughs: "It sounds like Gotkovsky". If only...
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