Wittgenstein & Twombly (version for concert band)
(2017/8) 20' / concerto for saxophone and concert band
The premiere performance of the version with concert band took place on July 15th, 2018 in Toledo, at the Festival Internacional de Música La Mancha with the Festival Concert Band, Sebastián Heras, conductor, and the soloist Pedro Pablo Cámara.
I must’ve been about 15 years old when I checked out two LPs from the library and heard them back to back: one The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959) with the saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and the other with Pierre Boulez conducting his own Le Marteau sans Maître (1955). At the time, with my limited musical horizon, both recordings sounded to me pretty much the same. It might be difficult to find someone who considers Coleman a composer of the same stature as Boulez, but I think it is fair to say that their two very different approaches to music could be seen as equally valuable. In addition, Coleman and his Free Jazz could be viewed as the irrational (Twombly)in the pair, while Boulez the rational (Wittgenstein). This dichotomy, the rational complimentary to the foolish, is one that I appreciate daily in my own music-making, whether it be performing or composing. This pairing of irrational and rational is also what makes teaching so interesting and challenging at the same time: the student needs to respect the text but at the same be expressive in a personal and hardly explicable way.
The initiative for this concerto came from Stephan Schmidt, director of the Musikakademie Basel, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the institution. The work was written for Marcus Weiss, an exceptional musician who is equally agile in classical, jazz, and contemporary music. He is also a polyglot orator and thinker, manifesting in his playing. Although the titles Sartre & Pollock or Descartes & Kandinsky sound nice, I chose Wittgenstein & Twombly; firstly because Ludwig Wittgenstein is Marcus Weiss' favorite philosopher, and secondly because I have had a continuous fascination with the works of the painter Cy Twombly for many years now. But also because, the juxtaposition of Wittgenstein’s relatively clear-cut logic to Twombly’s irrational, mythologically based graffiti-like paintings presented me with a wealth of inspiration for this composition.
What would the name patrons say to this piece? Perhaps Twombly would find the palimpsest in part one sympathetic, a new layer of information on top of the „erased“ cyclic and harmonic form of the second part. Wittgenstein might comment that the piece actually should be called Twombly & Wittgenstein since the second part, with its repetitions of a miniature piece de concours persiflage, reverberates the structure of logical thought.
**) The gravel in the tubs (cardboard boxes large enough to walk in place in) should be of a finer grain, something the size of peas or beans, so the sound is fairly consistent and light from step to step.