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The Bluegrass is Greener...


For saxophone quartet

Duration: 3'

I started to develop my personal taste in music in the late 2000s and early 2010s, around the time I was beginning high school. This time period also happened to perfectly coincide with a folk-music revival that happened in the United States and Europe through the work of bands and artists like Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, Bon Iver, and (my personal favorite) the Punch Brothers, just to name a few. Listening to this music spurred me to listen to older staples like Earl Scruggs and Woody Guthrie. Combined, this music became the bread and butter of my adolescence, but stood in stark contrast to the music I actually performed at the time as a saxophonist. I played in the school wind ensemble and jazz band, and was a member of a hornline in a blues-style garage band, but never had an opportunity to play in a group that played the music I listened to most without learning a completely new instrument.


There are compositions that mimic the styles of bluegrass written for string quartets, orchestras, wind bands, and solo piano, and this piece intends to do the same with the saxophone quartet, which would currently make it without peer in the repertoire (to my understanding). The title "The Bluegrass is Greener…" is an homage to my yearning as a teenager to have some outlet that would serve as an overlap between the music I listened to and the music I played, though this is for sentiment only, as the work may prove to challenging for the vast majority of high school performers.


Throughout, this work uses the first measure of Noam “Pickles” Pikelny’s banjo roll from “Watch ‘At Breakdown” from the album “How to Grow a Woman from the Ground” to keep energy high, and to serve as an homage to one of the first albums to make me fall in love with the genre of “Newgrass”. This motive is passed between the tenor and baritone saxophone until the soprano and alto enter with three consecutive perfect fifths, mimicking the “tuning up” of a mandolin or fiddle, and the soprano and tenor launch into a double-stopped-fiddle-tune inspired melody, complete with slippery glissandi and major sixths. This builds to a porch-jam inspired arrival point, which becomes twisted with contemporary-classical composition techniques, until the banjo roll from the beginning has been warped into a tapestry of sound more inspired by minimalism than by folk.

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