Legend II for solo soprano saxophone or oboe by Doïna Rotaru (b. 1951)
Romanian composer Doïna Rotaru composed Legend II (Legend I being for solo flute) for Claude Delangle in 1998, though today it remains a neglected work. Rotaru’s style can seem hard at first listen, though in fact, its many extended techniques (especially glissando and use of humming while playing) are meant to evoke folkloric traditions, nuances, and heterophony. In short, she merges archaic Romanian folk traditions with contemporary techniques and forms. Legend II is a tightly composed study of pitch and timbre, demanding nearly every possible variation, at its peak asking the performer to sustain pedal tones with the voice as subtle multiphonic “chords” oscillate above. After this, a heterophonic texture is created between voice and low saxophone melody.
I Am by Benoît Menut (b. 1977)
French composer Benoît Menut wrote I Am for Nicolas Prost in 2020. This short work asks the player to duet with oneself, splitting time between playing and singing, specifcally, an excerpt of English poet John Clare’s 1845 poem of the same name. Clare wrote this poem while institutionalized for mental illness and therefore isolated from all of his loved ones. Given the isolation experienced by so many during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, it is hard to ignore the parallels of 2020 with Clare’s plight centuries earlier.
non-poem 8 by Jonathan Ragonese (b. 1989)
“non-poem 8 is the eighth piece in a collection of pieces written for ensembles and instrumentalists smaller than large ensembles. The previous statement is intended to be vague, as these limitations we have imposed upon the concept of ‘ensembles’ is false. In the case of non-poem 8 the definition is easy: it is for one individual player; specifically, Derek Granger. It is a great honor to write music for others, and with them in mind. I know Derek only superficially, but I respect him as a musician and saxophonist. Moreover I respect his commitment to that which is not commonplace, and celebrates the saxophone. The categorized title ‘non-poem’ first started as a way out of the trap of writing ‘program’ music. But again, this gets vague too quickly. At times I’ve written music about a rooster, a mouse and a little red hen, and also about jokes by George Carlin. But in each instance, the original content served a different purpose in its influence upon the resultant musical outcome. And in our fractured society, I question whether or not the real question is simply: whether or not the listener has the capacity or desire to hear absolutely, or that which is beyond the definition of ‘program’ or narrative. e.e. cummings wrote six nonlectures, but in the end, they were still as poetic as his poetry, but they also talked about poetry. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, another person I revere, stated, all too clearly that “a poet should not discuss the craft of poetry or the process of creating it.” And he also said “If you have nothing to say, don’t say it”… and I’ve never really quite known whether or not he was intending to directly confront John Cage who said “I have nothing to say and am saying it”. In the end you’ll hear Derek play, and programmatically or not, I hope that his expression of humanity through my computerized scribblings encoded to paper, give you a moment of human contact and repose that we very sorely need to help prepare our minds and spirits to rail against the wild dreams of the unrestrained religion of language learning models, and ‘artificial intelligence’.”
Hommages for solo clarinet by Béla Kovács (1962-2021)
“My pedagogical activities inspired me to compose the Hommages. The pieces were intended to be etudes or studies which students may use as supplementary material to the usual dry and mechanical – although indispensable – exercises. They contain various challenges. If performed with impressive dexterity, proper tone production and sufficient knowledge of styles, coupled with a sense of humor and a certain amount of fantasy, they could, hopefully, find success even on the concert stage. I recommend the Hommages to all my former, present, and future students, and also to those, who, recognizing their value, may wish to devote more concentrated attention to them.”