still life is life still

Duration: 11 Minutes

still life is life still is an expansion of the second movement of my Sonata deus sax machina for alto saxophone and piano. In the opening section, the solo saxophone presents quiet lyric melodic lines through the use of multiphonics and short motives – over a changing ground in the orchestra. The effect is one of stasis and suspension as the saxophone’s music weaves in and out of the orchestra’s slow moving ground: sometimes a part of the ensemble, sometimes to the fore. The middle sections present longer melodic lines over ostinati in the percussion and the strings separated by short interjections of the opening.

After a sudden and violent climax, material from the opening suddenly returns even more quietly than at the beginning – returning to the stillness in which the piece began. The effect is one of looking at a still-life and finding the “life” within – that thing which changes your perspective on the painting and somehow brings you peace.

still life is life still was commissioned by Timothy McAllister.

This work remains unpremiered and is no longer available.


“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

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