Elevator Music

for Alto Saxophone and Band

  • Genre
    Solo Instrument with Wind Ensemble
  • Commissioned by/written for
    Otis Murphy
  • Year completed
  • Year revised
  • Timing
  • Catalog number
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Elevator Music was begun on December 10, 2012 and completed on January 5, 2013. The inspiration for the piece was provided by the saxophone artistry of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Professor of Saxophone, Dr. Otis Murphy, whom I had come to know through his living in their shared city of Bloomington, Indiana. I had been desirous of writing Dr. Murphy a major work for some years before I found the opportunity to do so, given the other works I had committed myself to. The present work, the second of my works dedicated to this artist, is a virtuoso display piece, intended to form a marked contrast between some of the other saxophone works in my catalog that are modeled after older composers. In this work, I pulled out all the stops in an attempt to make a bold, driving and exciting work for its dedicatee. The title quite obviously is a pun on the given name of the dedicatee, who shares the name of the world's best-known elevator company. The work is consequently full of motoristic writing, both in its driving rhythms, and also in the copious use of percussion instruments--especially the metalic ones--throughout the work. Another joke is that this work is intended to be as far removed as possible from the insipid music typically encountered in elevators, although mercifully music in those devices seems to be vanishing. I also worked into the mix a three-bar quote from the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibiton, my favorite piece of music. The three measures come from the opening of the "Catacombs" movement. The work is cast in several contrasting sections, or "floors" that the elevator in question traverses. Given that one of them is a cadenza, the work can almost be thought of as a single-movement concerto. In the middle of the work, the listener will hear the actual recorded sounds of a freight elevator, over which the soloist is called to extemporize. Beyond elevators, my intention was to depict the mechanized and motorized age in which Dr. Murphy and I live, and the busy lives that both of us are involved in.

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