Sonata (2020)

Alto Saxophone and Piano

Total duration ca. 29' 

Four movement work

I. Chaconne

II. Soliloquy

III. Rumination

IV. Finale

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Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20.00

All artwork is a product of its time, whether explicitly within the work’s content or more subliminally in the effects of the time on the creativity of the composer. It is this second way of understanding the composer-contemporary events relationship that can explain the piece’s unfolding, both in creation and in performance. I began discussing the idea of a large-scale Sonata for alto sax with brilliant musician Kyle Blake Jones in the summer of 2019. Roughly, the movements were written in the order of II. (Fall 2019), IV. (Fall 2019-Winter 2020), I. (Spring 2020-Summer 2020), III. (Summer 2020). Falling roughly half on the pre-COVID-19 global pandemic side and half on the mid-COVID-19 global pandemic side, the piece feel to me like it comes from two different worlds, with the alternating movements reflecting my own emotions and understandings at the time. The second movement, for solo saxophone with piano resonance, has an intimate vulnerability to it; the fourth movement is characterized by a frenzied optimism. In contrast, the first movement is a chaconne (a series of variations over a set harmonic progression) that escalates in speed and panic until its violent and abrupt ending; the third movement is wandering and melancholy, inward-looking and largely static. Just as II & IV seem to reflect something of a mentality more fitting for the end of 2019, the melancholy of social-distanced isolation and the anger and panic at the endless escalation of the American Federal Government’s catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic and chaos of the fight for racial justice against America’s systemic racism and militarized, white supremacist police forces that have dominated 2020 seem to find voice in the turgid meanderings of III and the spiraling variations of I. While I do not think such a program is necessary to appreciate the piece, with half of the work in the past and half of the work in the present, I hope the result, when performed in order, is a work that expresses in sound an emotional journey that reflects our passage into a brighter future: starting with escalating chaos, finding a moment of breathing room for vulnerability and grief, wandering and searching for answers and ways forward, and, finally, advancing with resolve against opposition and, after protracted struggle, triumphing. This work is dedicated to Kyle Blake Jones, whose name generated the melodic and intervallic material of the work’s electric finale, and whose opportunity to perform this live in a post-COVID future will be, itself, a triumph.