I am back in Berkeley after having attended the March 6 premiere of my new work, Zusammenfluss, for saxophonist Jefferey Kyle Hutchins and pianist Neil Nanyi Qiang at Studio Z in St. Paul, MN. Having lived in the Bay Area these past two years it is often refreshing to return to the bitter cold of Minnesota, to wear a wool coat, to freeze for a little while, to be reminded that life is harder in those places where the weather is trying to kill you. It was -10° F when I arrived--a good 70° colder than Berkeley--but by the time I left things had improved. It was in the 30's, the snow was melting, there were signs of Spring and the cooped-up children of Minneapolis could be seen dragging their parents to the park to bask in the sun and slush. It was almost enough to make me homesick for the place--almost.
As the saying goes: cold nights, warm company. I had a great time visiting friends and preparing the premiere of Zusammenfluss with Kyle and Neil. The piece appeared on Hutchins' March 6 program entitled Sonder which stands apart in memory as one of the most technically challenging saxophone recitals I have ever witnessed--and that is saying something, considering my background as a classically trained saxophonist. Sonder was a brazen display of virtuosity and endurance spanning nearly two hours of music and spoken text. It was impeccably prepared and conceptually unified, taking as its centerpiece a reading of David Foster Wallace's essay "This is Water." This proved a fitting counterpoint to the complexity of the program which included works by Miriama Young, Eric Wubbels as well as the world premieres of a works by Völker Heyn and myself.
As for my contribution, I felt that the premiere of Zusammenfluss went quite well. It is a work of transcendent difficulty written to probe the expressive limits of two virtuoso performers. The piece is unrelentingly difficult, placing extreme demands on saxophonist and pianist, alike, forcing a certain looseness of interpretation at the bound where classical technique must be momentarily abandoned and the player forced to make certain technical compromises in service of the present figure. To a certain extent, it is a piece that can never be adequately prepared, and thus, must be delivered in the moment, almost extemporaneously, inhabiting a space somewhere between the prescribed and the practicable. In this sense, at least, the piece resonated quite well with the words of David Foster Wallace.
At any rate, it was a good premiere. Like all premieres, it marks the beginning of a process of development. In the coming months we will continue to refine the piece and we plan to produce a representative recording in the summer months. For now, I am editing an excerpt--roughly 1/3 of the piece--to meet the documentation requirements of the New Music USA grant that funded the work and I will provide links to this in further posts.
Until then, I'm happy to be home. All best, ~Jeremy