Stratigraphic Premiere

The Prism Saxophone Quartet and pianist Marilyn Nonken have been preparing the premiere of my Stratigraphy for a concert at U Penn this coming Saturday, March 19 at 7:30 pm in Rose Recital Hall. Rose is on the 4th floor of Fisher-Bennett Hall at 34th and Walnut in Philadelphia. Go here to snag one of the last tickets available.

Here is a program note on Stratigraphy:

  1. Chronostratigraphic
  2. Hommage to Lutoslawski
  3. Game of Pairs
  4. Geochronologic
  5. Poem (after Christina Rosetti)
  6. Scalable

The New Oxford American Dictionary states that stratigraphy is “the branch of geology concerned with the order and relative position of strata and their relationship to the geological time scale.” I first came upon this word in pianist Marilyn Nonken’s book The Spectral Piano. There she uses the term to refer to the layering effects created by musical shapes and their resonances in the works of spectralist composers such as Murail and Dufourt. While my piece for saxophone quartet and piano is not spectralist, I chose the title partly to honor Marilyn as the work’s first pianist, and partly to reflect my interest in exploring layered and juxtaposed strands of musical material.

In addition to the title of the entire set, I have used scientific terms for the first and fourth of the pieces. There is no special significance to these titles, other than that they are fun to say! Hommage to Lutoslawski makes use of a single chord from a piece by that composer. Game of Pairs refers to the movement of the same title in Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra where pairs of instruments focus on particular intervals. Poem was suggested by Christina Rossetti’s Sleeping at Last. Wikipedia tells us “scalability is the capability of a system, network or process to handle a growing amount of work”, and in Scalable I have given my players scales and more that test the “scalability” of the ensemble.


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