I say “yes” to these sentiments from my colleague Christian Carey over at Sequenza21. He's responding to a strange article in the New York Times about John Adams' new saxophone concerto. But the piece actually turned out to be a chance for Adams to moan about an unnamed but obvious successful young composer and for Will Robin to, strangely, marvel at this exotic instrument, the saxophone.

I wonder what has Adams so piqued? Why begrudge someone else's success? What he says is not criticism, it's just complaint, and considering how lazy his recent pieces Absolute Jest and The Gospel According to the Other Mary are, it's unjustified. As for Robin, he seems to be suffering from an academic environment that just doesn't see the history it hasn't enshrined – the saxophone has been around classical music since it was invented, and it's prevalent in contemporary music, and if the criteria is concerto form, then “Facades,” anyone?

And, as a saxophonist, I want to point out that the horn is, in Steve Lacy's words, an “interval machine,” so writing music that calls for rapid leaps across the instrument's range is absolutely idiomatic. Any good orchestration book will tell you this, but so will taking to a player, or listening to some records. Perhaps the music library is thin on Lacy, or the music of Meyer Kupferman.



Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.