for tenor saxophone and prepared piano
This is one of many musical responses I have made through the years to my mother’s suicide in April of 1983, when I was just finishing my first year in graduate school. Although not really a surprise, it was nonetheless a horrible shock, and it affected me and my music in innumerable ways. My music already had a fairly serious bent, and this event inclined me even more in that direction. Many pieces in the more than twenty years since her death are essentially laments of one kind or another.
In this piece, as I do in most of the elegy pieces, I try to explore a wide range of the emotions surrounding grief, from anger through acceptance and peace, although in this case the emphasis is more on the angry side of the balance. Indeed, I would say this composition is primarily about the rage I felt, and still feel, about my mother’s often unhappy life and the manner of her death.aprilmourningmusic was written for the extraordinary tenor saxophonist John Moore, and it features in particular the altissimo, or highest range of the instrument, of which is a particular master, as well as a number of multiphonics, an effect in which the normally monophonic saxophone plays several notes at once, usually in a very dissonant cluster.
The piano is prepared with a chain on the lowest strings and paper clips on the strings in the highest register. The piano writing features many inside-the-piano playing techniques, with the fingers and also with various other implements. Between the two instruments, then, a very large variety of sonorities is explored. This is a virtuoso piece for both performers, requiring technical skill and interpretive sensitivity to a wide variety of emotions.
The opening and closing slow sections of the work frame a central fast part, which builds to a very dissonant, very loud climax. The final slow section both reprises and develops the opening material. After a final outburst, the pieces dies away quietly, but not peacefully.