Luce Cantabile: Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Shadow was commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation. It was composed in Cambridge, Massachusetts and completed in July of 2017.
The title translates roughly to “singable light,” or “lyrical light,” while the full title of the piece, Luce Cantabile: a concerto for saxophone and shadow refers to a second solo tenor saxophonist who sits in the orchestra, “shadowing” the alto saxophone soloist. Each of the three movements refers to the Light and Shadow theme in some way:
1. Peering Through is named so for the many “windows” in which both the alto soloist and the “shadow” tenor peer through the orchestral texture, establishing the relationship between the alto soloist and its shadow, as well as between the orchestra and the two soloists. Many of the thematic materials of the third movement appear in their nascent form in this movement.
2. In From the Darkest Place, the “shadow” is tacet, as this movement is already dark by its very nature. I based this movement on a song that I wrote the previous year, when I was going through an emotional crisis. Converting the song into an orchestral movement was an interesting experience for me, as there is usually a differentiation in my life between my “composer” work and my “singer-songwriter” work. In the conversion process, I recomposed the song, stretching and expanding the basic original song form. The solo saxophone represents my own wailing and mourning, and the orchestra is providing the backdrop situation and commentary on the tragedy that befell me.
3. Beacon provides the apotheosis to the piece. It is an overall bright and optimistic movement, based on my fascination with the metaphor of kinetic motion in music. Beacon is created to emulate a moving, dynamic, musical interpretation of a mesh warp in graphic design. A mesh warp is a technique of using a lattice of lines, curved to give the illusion of depth and topography. In this movement I use perpetual scales in the orchestra as the analogy to lines; providing a kind of grid that allows the listener to experience the expansion and contraction of musical materials, such as harmonic rhythm, surface rhythm, registral space and timbre. The alto soloist floats atop these lines in virtuosic madness, while the shadow tenor saxophone provides an extension to the alto, creating an illusion of a continuous, almost non-breathing saxophone line.