Saxonomy (1990)

Duration – 23′
Recording – Michael Brockman, saxophones

Saxonomy, for baritone, tenor, and alto saxophones (one player), and computer-realized sound, was composed in 1990-1991 for saxophonist Michael Brockman under a Composition Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It is one of a series of works I have composed for virtuoso solo performers and computer-realized sound. Of these works, Saxonomy is the only one that I would consider to be a “concerto” in the classical sense of the term. It is a rather large-scale work, complex in form and content, highly dramatic, and diverse in its display of virtuosity on the part of the live performer. It is different from my other works in that the computer-realized part, although pervasive, plays a more subsidiary role, serving sometimes to punctuate and sometimes to outline formal/dramatic trajectories. The first three movements of the work are delineated by the use of the different saxophones in the order baritone, alto, tenor. The fourth uses the three in the reverse order. The first movement is a series of episodes which provide the rest of the movements with all of their materials; the second recasts the music of the first in a climactic form; the third, a cadenza for tenor alone (no computer), in a collage-like form; the fourth, which contains the most extended part for computer-realized sounds alone, recasts the same materials in a condensed form.

The sounds for the tape part of Saxonomy were realized on a NeXT computer using several music and general programming languages, including Csound, the NeXT MusicKit, Lisp and C, to perform a wide variety of digital signal processing techniques. The saxophone part, too, was composed with the aid of programs written by the composer in Lisp. The mixing and post-processing for this recording was done using the facilities of the School of Music Computer Center at the University of Washington.