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Donald Womack3DDamage, Distance, Disarrayalto saxophone & piano16:002000
Recorded on Blue: New Music from Hawaii (Equilibrium Records)

The saxophone is an instrument of remarkable and widely varying capabilities. Its character ranges from athletic to expressive, from joyful to somber, from screaming to soulful. From the softest whisper to the loudest shriek it can sing and it can cry — and it can surely wail. In writing a piece for saxophone and piano — which certainly has its own remarkable range of character — I wanted to make use of the instruments’ multiple dimensions. Each of the three movements, unified by several recurring motives and played without pause, explores the instruments’ various personalities.

The first movement, Damage, plays with the idea of building tension. Throughout the movement tension grows — ebbing and flowing — until a moment of great distress is reached, at which point the second movement interrupts.

Distance examines various aspects of space — the extreme ranges of the instruments, the distortion of time, and the disparate moods of the music all are important ideas. This movement begins plaintively, eventually building to the same point of distress where the first movement ended, then continuing to a dissolution of tension — in effect, completing the first movement, which had been abruptly cut off. After another climax and a brief tender passage the movement ends with a remote echo of previous material.

The final movement, Disarray is the most acrobatic and rhythmic of the three. Relentlessly driving syncopation and cross-rhythms feed its energetic frenzy. References to jazz, blues, and funk — which are present in all movements — are most clearly revealed here. The movement begins frantically and builds from there to a final climax, followed by an ending that simply dissolves.