Pictures of the Floating World
for saxophone quartet and percussion quartet
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This new composition for saxophone quartet and percussion quartet is a five movement symphonic work inspired by the genre of Japanese painting and printing known as "ukiyo-e" which literally translates to the title "Pictures of the Floating World." The notion of capturing the fleeting qualities of life, in both the spiritual and natural worlds, seems to preoccupy the genre.
My new work takes on three of the most renowned examples of the style with the first movement depicting Kuniyoshi's "The Skeleton Spectre", the third taking on Hiroshige's "Night Snow" and finally Hokusai's "The Great Wave," perhaps the best known example of Japanese art. In between, the second and fourth movements are short intermezzi for saxophones alone that serve as thematic bridges between ideas. While not directly referenced, the character of Japanese instruments such as the shakuhachi and taiko drums are present throughout.
First, wooden instruments and key slaps are used in a brittle dance to depict the evocation of the supernatural. The first intermezzo then relies on small melodic cells that create a constantly shifting sense of tempo and meter. The lonely night of the middle movement employs friction techniques and microtones for both winds and percussion. Another intermezzo uses a jaunty but wavering ostinato as its backbone. Finally, "The Great Wave" is heard through many powerful crescendi and dimuendi at a breakneck pace.