Spectrum of a Peopled Street (WP 2018) Delta Saxophone Quartet
It's watching the world go by music,
Gin and pink lemonade with a view,
Watching the spectrum of a peopled street.
It's spring on fire and autumn on ice,
Footsteps in winter when summers the price.
It's everyone but truly bittersweet.
And eventually they move on by.
(Andrew Buglass, 2017)
Andrew Buglass is a Senior Lecturer of Education at the University of Sunderland and in his spare time, is a writer of prose and poetry. His work tends to focus on people, their everyday habits, thoughts and feelings. When asking Andrew to write some words for me, I gave him a playlist of works by artists that inspire me either due to their mood, tonality, motifs, instrumentation or technique.
On receiving a number of works by Andrew this particular poem (above) entitled "A kind of red" stood out as I could picture the cinematic imagery that would give way to a spectrum of moods, rhythms and tones. The poem reminded me instantly of the Qatsi trilogy films: Koyaanisqatsi (1982) Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002). With music by Glass and directed by Godfrey Reggio, the trilogy depicts different aspects of the relationship between humans, nature and technology. In these films the contrast between nature and manmade industry is played out with dramatic changes in imagery and Glass' powerful and dramatic score. In this instance, each line of the poem plays out a difference cinematic scene and thus requiring a different musical 'mood', motif, tonality and pace.
The piece follows the poem's structure as though each line is a different section of the piece, mirroring the 'scene' or 'mood' in a programmatic way. It has a busy feel, as one can imagine the people moving past as the observer sits back with their gin and lets the hustle and bustle wash over them- just as I have done so many a time watching people pass a coffee shop window. The piece is very 'motif' driven with multiple motif's weaving in and out of each other at different points and sometimes recurring across the whole range of the quartet.
The saxophone is a very versatile instrument and each one brings its own character and timbre to a quartet. The 'moods' and 'scenes' are also depicted through musical style; the saxophone as an instrument transcends genre, as Ingham (1998) rightly says, "although jazz is at times as diametrically opposed to rock as it is to classical music, in terms of the saxophone they share many techniques" (pg. 88). Therefore, the piece picks up elements of jazz, funk and more delicate choral writing at times in order to take the listener down a narrative path. The piece really plays around with this, with moments of crystalline fragility on the soprano contrasting with beefy funk on the baritone- the whole 'Spectrum' is therefore mirroring the breath and colour of society on the street, out of that coffee shop window.
- Contemporary Classical