4 Vocalises is a set of four textless pieces for female voice and alto saxophone. The voice is essentially treated as an instrument and is certainly an equal partner to the saxophone (and vice-versa) throughout the work. Both serve equally often as the predominant melody, a counterpoint, and an accompaniment. The non-text is not notated in a phonetic alphabetical system because I did not want to give the impression that the cleanliness of vowel sounds and precise diction was more important than color matching with the saxophone.
The four movements are as follows:
1. Berceuse is an essentially homophonic and continually modulating lullaby. The voice and saxophone regularly trade roles as main melody and accompaniment.
2. Fsss p•! features predominantly non-vocal sounds from the voice and wild melodic turns, tremolos and other extended sounds from the saxophone. The movement closes with an extended saxophone solo leading into the peaceful
3. Nocturne which opens with voice alone on a closed mouth hum. The saxophone joins in slow imitation as this predominantly slow and quiet movement unfolds with alternating conjunct and disjunct melodic figures.
4. Heterophönk closes the set as a heterophonic dance featuring asymmetrical and changing meters. The voice begins by articulating structural pitches of the saxophone’s detailed line then almost completely doubles the saxophone line in full detail.
4 Vocalises was composed for Jill Pearon and Timothy McAllister.
“I have known Greg since 1997. We were part of a wonderfully talented class of faculty hired at the Crane School in upstate New York that fall. There were about 10 of us! Different economy then. Our offices were near each other and we immediately struck up a friendship. At the time, Greg and I were regularly mistaken for one another in the faculty lounge, due to our similar appearance. He introduced me to a terrific chamber work he composed while a graduate student at Florida State that included saxophone, and I felt he would write a great stand-alone solo work. After much discussion, the result was his deus sax machina. He took a lot of time to learn about how I played and what techniques I embraced on the instrument, so the sonata covers a lot of material and vast sonic palette: from slap-tonguing, to circular breathing, to multiphonics. I premiered the work at the 2000 World Saxophone Congress in Montreal, and the piece was quickly embraced by the saxophone community. This led to many more collaborations with Greg, including the Duo Sonata on Glint, as well as a work for voice and alto saxophone, Four Vocalises, a small concertante for alto saxophone and chamber orchestra, still life is life still…, and a few other pieces. Since then he has written a couple of outstanding saxophone quartets and works for guitar and saxophone. The Duo Sonata was initially written for me and fellow Crane colleague Alan Woy. We played it many times, and, later, I began exploring the work with other clarinet colleagues throughout the country. When I landed the job at Arizona State University, it became the first work Robert Spring and I explored together before commissioning Etezady’s Glint. Now that Greg’s Duo Sonata has had close to probably 100 performances by many duos over the last eight years, it might be said that the piece is the cornerstone work for such a combination. In my opinion, Greg will be remembered as a very important contributor to our repertoire someday, and I’m proud to be his friend and one of his champions.”
Timothy McAllister, Sax on the Run, Fanfare Magazine
34:2 Nov/Dec 2010