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"At the Seams": A Faculty Saxophone Recital

Dr. Derek Granger, saxophone

Dr. J. Bradley Baker, piano

Dr. Benjamin Charles, percussion

Program Notes

Artist Bios

Lessons of the Sky (1990) for soprano saxophone and piano (9')

by Rodney Rogers (b. 1953) 


The title Lessons of the Sky comes from the essay "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley (found in a collection of essays under the same title). Here, the sky represents that which is open, alive and infinite. "Lessons" suggests the knowledge gained through observation of the world around and above us—the endlessly varied designs that nature provides as building blocks for life.

The interplay between the soprano saxophone and piano is another important aspect of the piece. The two instruments tend to share ideas, tossing motives back and forth in an improvised manner, but in the lyric slow section the soprano saxophone is featured and the piano takes on an accompanying role. Occasionally the piano makes an unexpected percussive sound when the pianist dampens a string with fingers of the left hand whilst playing the keyboard with the right hand. A single low piano note is dampened throughout the entire composition with a rubber wedge (which, when struck softly during the slow middle section, takes on a gong-like character). The piece closes with a return of the fast music, beginning with harmonically stable repeating figures and then moving into the short and quickly juxtaposed motives that began the piece. This loosely designed reverse order results in an arch-like shape for the whole composition. 

(Notes provided by the composer)

Legend II (1998) for oboe or soprano saxophone (9')

by Doïna Rotaru (b. 1951) 


Internationally-acclaimed Romanian composer Doïna Rotaru composed Legend II for saxophonist Claude Delangle in 1998, though at present it is a seldom performed work. Rotaru composed Legend I (for flute and resonator) in 1984; Legend II came some 14 years later. Each following a similar structure, both works demand an extreme flexibility of pitch, timbre, and extended techniques. The high point of Legend II asks the performer to sustain pedal tones with their voice while simultaneously playing multiphonics (similar to chords). Rotaru’s use of contemporary techniques (multiphonics, glissandi, flutter tongue, humming and playing, microtones, etc.) may seem abrasive at first, though in her music, such effects have an expressive end, namely, to evoke nuances of archaic Romanian folk music.

(Notes provided by the performer)


I Am (2021) for solo alto saxophonist-narrator-singer (3')

by Benoît Menut (b. 1977) 


French composer Benoît Menut wrote I Am for saxophonist Nicolas Prost in 2020. This short work asks the player to duet with oneself by alternating playing and singing. The text comes from the poem "I Am!", written in 1845 by the English poet John Clare (1793-1864). At the time he wrote this poem, Clare was isolated from loved ones due to being institutionalized for mental illness. Given the isolation experienced by so many during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 (the same year in which Menut wrote this piece) it is hard to ignore the parallels with Clare’s plight centuries earlier. Menut uses just the first stanza of Clare's poem, which is reproduced below: 


I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;

My friends forsake me like a memory lost: 

I am the self-consumer of my woes— 

They rise and vanish in oblivious host, 

Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes 

And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed 

(Notes provided by the performer)

Picnic on the Marne (1984) for alto saxophone and piano (14')

by Ned Rorem (1923–2022) 


Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Ned Rorem is best known for his over 500 art songs, though he composed in nearly all genres. He mostly resisted the modernist aesthetic trends embraced his contemporaries by writing music which was generally tonal. Rorem was deeply influenced by French music, especially the composers who comprised Les Six. He wrote Picnic on the Marne in 1984 on a commission from Concert Artists Guild for the British saxophonist John Harle, who with pianist John Lenehan premiered the work on February 14, 1984 in Carnegie Hall.


Picnic on the Marne, a suite of seven contrasting waltzes, is a musical recollection of an afternoon in the composer's younger years. In its program note, Rorem writes, "On June 30th, 1956, I visited the southeastern suburbs of Paris with another person. These pieces recollect that afternoon, 109 seasons later." In addition to composing, Rorem was also an avid writer and diarist, acerbically chronicling his experience as a gay man in the 1950s and beyond–decades in which to be out at all was almost universally illegal. From this we know that other "person" was one Claude Bénédick. Years hence, Rorem rancorously addresses Bénédick in The New York Diary (1967): "Sweet memories will always be soiled by your action.... Loving afternoons on the banks of the Marne before we met are preferable now." The programmatic titles of the waltzes depict Rorem and Bénédick's ultimately ill-fated afternoon along the banks of the Marne. Its first three waltzes portray a frenetic kind of optimism. The fourth, "Vermouth" (marked "dangerously slow, muffled, and blue"), precipitates the suite's climax in "A Tense Discussion," a confrontation between the hot-headed saxophone and cooly detached piano, which is followed by a rushed "Making Up," and closes reflectively with "The Ride Back to Town."

(Notes provided by the performer)

Reflections on the Nature of Impermanence (2017) for tenor saxophone and snare drum (8')

by Jay Batzner (b. 1974) 


In early 2017 I was experiencing some of the worst burnout I’ve ever had. Stress from all sides of my life was my only companion. I could only focus on what I needed to do an hour at a time, a minute at a time, a moment at a time. I was struggling with just getting from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. The thought that kept me going was “It hasn’t always been like this. It won’t always be like this.”

At the same time, I kept forgetting what I was writing. Every time I sat down to work on this piece for the Rogue Two duo, I’d have almost no recollection of what I was doing. I channelled my energies into a meditation on impermanence, one of the Buddha’s most important teachings, and produced the following piece.

(Notes provided by the composer)

At the Seams (2021) for tenor saxophone and piano (8')

by Baljinder Sekhon II (b. 1980)


Like many of my works, this piece explores the relationship between pitch and time domains by drawing on correlations between intervallic distance in pitch space and the distance between attack points in time. Pitch and time are conceived of as separate but related fabrics that are sewn together and unthreaded throughout the work. The underlying material and surface of this composition resides “at the seams” of pitch and time domains as structures from these realms interact, homogenize, and fall apart. The work is presented in four segments: an opening section where the threading together of the material is most lucid, a developmental section that explores the juxtaposition of pitches and rhythms from different structural realms assigned discretely to the piano and saxophone, a third segment that experiences the expansion and contraction of rhythmic and pitch materials as the piano and saxophone parts become unglued, and a final segment that searches for the structural strength experienced at the opening but never finds it. Embedded throughout the work is an expansion and contraction of intervallic and rhythmic material, which occurs at varying speeds, and mimics human breathing.

(Notes provided by the composer)

Artist Bios

Saxophonist and educator Dr. Derek Granger is committed to the advancement of the saxophone through innovative performance and pedagogy. Dr. Granger has appeared as a soloist with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Hartt Wind Ensemble, among others. He has garnered awards at MTNA regional and national competitions, The American Prize, Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Collegiate Competition, Hartt Chamber Music Competition, and Cyprus International Music Competition. In chamber music settings, Dr. Granger has performed recitals across North America as a member of Presidio and Catalina Quartets, toured China with Artifact Dance Company, and can be heard on Arizona University Recordings “Tribute to Adolphe Sax, Volume XIV.” As an educator, he has held teaching positions at, among others, Tarleton State University (Visiting Assistant Professor of Saxophone), Indiana University (Associate Instructor of Saxophone), Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (Summer Saxophone Faculty), and Flowing Wells High School (Director of Choirs). Dr. Granger’s current research focus is on identifying best practices for adapting pedagogical practices of voice to saxophone performance. Dr. Granger holds degrees from The Hartt School (DMA), Indiana University (MM), and the University of Arizona (BM). His primary teachers include Carrie Koffman, Otis Murphy, Kelland Thomas, and Timothy McAllister.

A 2020 National Finalist for the American Prize in Solo Piano, J. BRADLEY BAKER’s performances have been heard in concert halls throughout the United States, France, and Canada. He has been recorded by the Navona Records and Centaur Records labels and broadcast on public radio stations throughout the United States and United Kingdom.

Baker has served as opera pianist and coach for The Glimmerglass Festival, Chicago Summer Opera, Opera Naples, Wichita Grand Opera, Natchez Festival of Music, NATS Intern Program, and Opera Birmingham. Baker serves as the Executive and Music Director of Music On Site, an opera company in Central Kansas. He has performed at numerous national and international conferences and festivals, including those of the National Opera Association, International Double Reed Society, and Music Teachers National Association, The North American Viola Institute and Hot Springs Music Festival.

Dr. Baker is Assistant Professor of Collaborative Piano at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. He studied at North Dakota State University, Cleveland Institute of Music, and The University of Alabama. Primary teachers were Sandra Siler, Robert Groves, Daniel Shapiro, and Noel Engebretson, with additional study with Paul Schenly and Robert Roux.

More information, including media samples and full biography, can be found at

Dr. Benjamin A. Charles serves as the Assistant Professor of Percussion at Tarleton State University, where his duties include teaching percussion lessons and percussion methods, as well as directing the TSU Percussion Ensemble and The Sound & The Fury Drumline. Dr. Charles also maintains an online presence as a co-host on the @ Percussion podcast, a weekly hour-long program featuring distinguished musical guests.

A versatile performer, Dr. Charles’s experience spans solo percussion works, chamber music, and orchestral repertoire. He was featured as a showcase performer at the 2009 and 2011 Percussive Arts Society International Conventions (PASIC). Additionally, he has been featured as a concerto soloist at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts as well as at the College Band Directors National Association Conference in Jacksonville. Most recently, he was featured as a soloist with the Tarleton State University Wind Ensemble performing Michael Daugherty’s timpani concerto, Raise the Roof.

As an advocate for contemporary music, Dr. Charles has championed new works for percussion. He has been actively involved in procuring new works by commissioning such prominent composers as Mark Applebaum, Thomas Sleeper, and Alejandro Viñao.

Dr. Charles is a member of the Percussive Arts Society (PAS). He is a proud artist/endorser of Yamaha instruments, Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads, and Innovative Percussion sticks and mallets.

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