Currents, for two alto saxophones, piano, and mallet percussion

For the past three weeks I’ve been working on finishing an old piece that had to be put aside for a while, called Currents, which basically takes its inspiration from concepts of fluid and particle dynamics. The first two movements were written in 2004 and are called “The Bernoulli Effect” and “AC/DC,” being (respectively) musical takes on attempting (and succeeding in) flight and the two kinds of electricity we deal with on a daily basis. I’m adding two more movements to the two that already exist: “Beaufort Gyre,” and “Space Tornado.”

“Beaufort Gyre” is a deeply-felt lament for the arctic ice which sustains an entire ecosystem. It takes its name from the ocean current of the same name, which is a slow-moving (one might even say “glacial”) flow of ice which encompasses much of the arctic and takes 2 years to make a full revolution. You can read more about it here. When I originally planned this piece in 2004 I was unaware of the significance this particular current held in the global warming debate, and I was unaware that it was essentially changing irrevocably.

Like much of my work (and much of my way of looking at the world, really), “Space Tornado” is at once tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious. On the one hand, the title is hilarious to me, and evokes bad pilot nicknames from various sci-fi movies (“you don’t have to worry about those aliens, captain, because The Space Tornado is here!”). On the other hand, this is the colloquial name for an astronomical phenomenon that is related to the Aurora (read the basic explanation here), and, in relation to the movement that comes before it (“Beaufort Gyre”), I am conceiving of this movement as the ethereal ascent of the the spirit of the arctic after its death. So, the movement is (hopefully) both sublime¬†and ridiculous.

The piece will be premiered by the trio Primary Colors (Jeff Heisler, saxophone; I-Chen Yeh, piano; Isabelle Huang, percussion), with Ian Jeffress (also on saxophone) at the 2010 North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Convention in Athens, Georgia on March 5th.

Featured Recordings

Live Performance by eighth blackbird

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for two alto saxophones, mallet percussion, and piano

live performance by Zach Herchen, Philipp Stäudlin, Ryan Packard, and Aaron Likness, June 26th, 2011

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