About “of Light and Shadows”

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Doug O’Connor and Liz Ames

of Light and Shadows is my second sonata for alto saxophone and piano. Composed fifteen years after my first, deus sax machina, the piece is in two contrasting movements that reflect on the interactions between light and light’s shadow-creating obstructors.

The first movement, Luminant Shadows, is a slow and sustained nocturne in arch form. The saxophone alternates melodic strings of multiphonic lines with blues-influenced gestures, as bright bell-like timbres in the extreme ranges of the piano shroud some of the more traditional musical materials also contained in the movement.

The second movement, Flickering Beams, Perpetual Wind, is a fast perpetuum mobile in a simple rondo form. Imagine, if you like, a straightened-out cyclone: streams of objects pass a flickering light at rapid and potentially destructive speed as if propelled forward by a constant wind. The melodic and harmonic materials that appear in both instruments are influenced by a combination of Bulgarian horo and American jazz.

Despite their obvious differences, the movements are related through the use of similar melodic and harmonic ideas in addition to their overall tonalities, which seem to settle on B major. The compositional process behind both movements involved improvisation as a catalyst for melodic development, combined with loosely applied serial techniques. As suggested by the titles of the movements (and of the work as a whole), primary attention was given to the consistently changing shapes of colors and textures in each movement, as those aspects of musical discourse are the most extra-musically provocative (or evocative, as the case may be in this work).

of Light and Shadows was commissioned by a consortium of 20 saxophonists initiated by pianist Liz Ames. It was completed in Potsdam, NY on July 29, 2015, and is approximately 18 minutes in duration.

(Please note that the video below is the only recording of the premiere performance. While the quality of the performance is excellent, the audio and video quality is not.)

of Light and Shadows received its first premiere on January 16, 2016 at the 2016 Navy Nand International Saxophone Symposium in Goodson Chapel and Recital Hall, Shenandoah University, Winchester, VA by Doug O’ Connor and Liz Ames.

Future performances include:

March 6, 2016: Jonathan Bergeron, saxophone and Liz Ames, piano at Ashurst Hall, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ. 7:30pm

March 11, 2016: Stephen Page, saxophone and Liz Ames, piano at the North American Saxophone Alliance 2016 Biennial Conference. Friday, March 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm in Hemmle Recital Hall. Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.

April 24, 2016: Stephen Page, saxophone and Liz Ames, piano White Recital Hall, James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, University of Missouri – Kansas City. 7:30 pm

Stay tuned for more performances!

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