Saxophonata

ensemble SATB saxophone quartet
duration ~5:53
listen on soundcloud
score PDF, 195KB
alternate arrangements two cornets, french horn, and trombone (1998); string quartet (2000)
performance history 05/02/1994 (undergraduate senior recital) by The University of Delaware Saxophone Quartet (Matthew R. Hetzler, Amanda O'Connor, Daniel Auerbach, and Christopher Bryan)
date completed 1994
era undergraduate

background

When you start creating things that need names or titles, you don’t necessarily have the wisdom to not try and be punny. At age 20, I was still guilty of this. “Saxophonata” is a portmanteau, a combination of the words “saxophone” and “sonata.” Not a great title, but it’s my favorite piece from this era.

The temptation with an ensemble of newer instruments (like a saxophone quartet) is to write very “modern” music, so I decided to stick as closely as possible to Sonata Allegro form. This piece develops entirely out of the theme of the first key area, which is played as an introduction by the baritone saxophone. While the whole piece is written in 4/4, all the phrases emphasize a compound meter feel. This forces the performers to, in a sense, ignore barlines and focus on phrasing. This is the biggest deviation from what you’d expect from a “classical” Sonata Allegro (even though only the performers are aware of it). Everything else is by the book: thematic and rhythmic augmentation, diminution, and truncation (especially in the Development section), augmented sixth chords, a false return before the recapitulation, and a coda.

While that description makes it sound like a music theory exercise, the piece is organic enough in its evolution that it doesn’t come across as pedantic. It’s probably the first “real” and “good” piece I wrote.