Smart Alex

for Tenor Saxophone, Piano, and Page Turner/Assistant

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  • Commissioned by/written for
    Alex Van Dyke
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Smart Alex was written in ten composition sessions between September 18th and October 17th of 2015. It was composed at the request of the dedicatee, a saxophone-playing friend from my church. Having written about 30 works for saxophone before this one, I felt that a divagation from my usual freely tonal style was warranted in this work, in which I sought to bring in advanced techniques and special effects, all within a pronounced atonal context. Nevertheless, hints of tonality appear from time to time, often in a humorous context. The spirit of the piece derives from its title, which was selected before a single note was written. It is quite obviously a play on the given name of the dedicatee. Notable in the piece is a prominent part for the page turner, who is called upon to perform many of the special effects in the work. A spirit of jocularity and humor pervades Smart Alex in my attempt to make a piece that is fun for both performers and audience. The theatrical elements employed add to the brash "smart alecky" spirit of the work. The page turner/assistant utilizes such things in his activites as a metal straight-edge or ruler, a duck call, a wood block or claves, and even a mouth siren. Beyond the usual style of playing, the pianist also utilizes a glockenspiel mallet to strike the strings inside the piano, and the saxophonist employs the us of an extra mouthpiece with reed. Laughing by the audience during the performance of this piece is expected and encouraged.

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