Saxophonist Anthony Brown commissioned me to write him a piece of music scored for solo saxophone, very kindly funded by Teresa Scholtz. Released in May 2023 on the debut album from Anthony, called ‘Anthology’, I am delighted to be in the company of wonderful musicians, in what is a deeply personal project and milestone for Anthony.
To buy the sheet music of ‘Anthology’ please go to the Astute Music website here.
To buy the album ‘Anthology’ please click here.
Below are a few words from my (the composer) perspective of the piece ‘Anthology’, along with a hand-written pdf that contains some suggestions of saxophone fingerings for some of the quarter tones. Please note that they are only suggestions - view the pdf here. I’ve played ‘Anthology’ on my Selmer mk6 tenor saxophone, so no C5 (F#) and tenor as opposed to alto saxophone that it was conceived for, and some experimentation with your instrument will I’m sure result in a set of fingerings that work on your saxophone for you in this piece of music.
As with a lot of my compositions, Anthology started with a few separate ideas & concepts. One was to explore the use of quarter tones, another was to create language that was bebop-influenced (although not swing, everything is straight) and the other was to create a shape and sense of journey that followed the pattern of a new section of music increasing in tempo, leading to the fastest tempo of over 300bpm. The final section of Anthology is time for a gradual unwind, something to me that has meditative qualities, and which offers the performer an opportunity to react to the moment by improvising with timing of placement of notes within the fully notated music.
For me every note in my music has to be there for a very good reason, and via practice at my saxophone I stumbled across experimenting with quarter tones. I loved the colours, the tension and release, and for me an added dimension of sound. As a musician who has for forty-plus years played the saxophone in a wide variety of musical genres and styles, in this case I found myself drawn to the idea of a rhythmic language that was bebop-influenced, within which were carefully chosen quarter tones. I liked the idea of leaving phrases unresolved with a quarter tone pitch, then continuing and starting the next phrase with the pitch resolution.
As the six sections of Anthology unfold, each one at a faster tempo, I had to be extremely careful about the frequency of use of quarter tones. Therefore there are more quarter tones earlier in the piece, and ones appearing later are used more sparingly (and have more than not been used previously). The thematic focus with the quarter tones is between middle E & G, which is reflected in the final meditative section of Anthology. In this case the performer repeats the E to G and back to E pattern, whilst choosing when to interject the given pitches/phrases. It gives the piece an almost improvised feel but more importantly it allows the performer to gradually relax, following the growing tension of the previous material.
I think of each phrase of having its own personality and character. The journey doesn’t want to sound easy, yes of course practise so that technically all the written demands are under control, but not at the expense of the danger and drama in performance!
Without the vision of Anthony and the generosity of Theresa, ‘Anthology’ wouldn’t have happened. Please buy the album and support Anthony with his debut album, and listen to all the great new works and playing on the recording!
I am so grateful to everyone that plays my music, a huge thank you, and I really hope that you enjoy Anthology.
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