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Lessons of the sky

for soprano saxophone

The title Lessons of the sky comes from the essay The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (found in a collection of essays under the same title). Here, the sky represents that which is open, alive and infinite. ‘Lessons’ suggests the knowledge gained through observation of the world around and above us—the endlessly varied designs that nature provides as building blocks for life.

The music is based on short motives and chord progressions that are continually varied and juxtaposed. There are three sections in the composition, forming a fast/slow/fast structure. While sections one and three emphasize patterns that are fast and rhythmic—with no variation in speed—the rate at which chord changes occur varies widely. Early in the piece the harmonies move quickly underneath the many motives; but as the first section progresses, a single motive/pattern is periodically isolated and repeated over very slow chord changes. The surface rhythm of the pattern remains fast and constant during these harmonically stable sections, yet there is a general perception that the music is calmer.

The interplay between the soprano saxophone and piano is another important aspect of the piece. The two instruments tend to share ideas, tossing motives back and forth in an improvised manner, but in the lyric slow section the soprano saxophone is featured and the piano takes on an accompanying role. Occasionally the piano makes an unexpected percussive sound when the pianist dampens a string with fingers of the left hand whilst playing the keyboard with the right hand. A single low piano note is dampened throughout the entire composition with a rubber wedge (which, when struck softly during the slow middle section, takes on a gong-like character). The piece closes with a return of the fast music, beginning with harmonically stable repeating figures and then moving into the short and quickly juxtaposed motives that began the piece. This loosely designed reverse order results in an arch-like shape for the whole composition.

from notes by Rodney Rogers © 2008


SIGCD158Download only


Track-specific metadata for SIGCD158 track 1

Recording date
1 October 2006
Recording venue
Ty Cerdd, Wales
Recording producer
Tim Redpath
Recording engineer
Tim Redpath
Hyperion usage
  1. Façades (SIGCD158)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: March 2009
    Download only
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