A collection of pieces reflecting on life, self, potential, love, loss, culture, fear, imagination, melody, and hope.
scattered over cement
glittering specks, dark lines
i don’t know
to reassemble myself
open my jaw
i gurgle, cough, gasp
a silent, violent scream
my throat cannot
its primary function
a spirit in pieces
you see it
strewn everywhere as if on parade
you have power
you can stomp on it
or you can collect the bits
and teach my hands
to reshape my tattered spirit
Reflections on Three Poems by Anne Sexton for alto saxophone and piano (2007/2012)
Michael C. Kregler
I. Reflection on “Rowing”
II. Reflection on “The Earth”
III. Reflection on “Riding the Elevator Into the Sky”
The composer’s concept for Reflections… was to create original, instrumental music inspired by the poetry of Anne Sexton rather than composing a song cycle using the texts. This was largely due to the fact that Sexton’s verse, though the composer’s favorite, never seemed to suggest singing. In fact, when considering the setting of any words to music, one must realize they are - at the very least - altering the way the poem is being experienced. In the case of Reflections…, Kregler felt setting Sexton’s text to music would be awkward, odd, and ultimately ineffective.
The three poems explore themes such as God, imagination, sexuality, fear, depression, suffering, hope, relief, persistence, and acceptance. Two of the movements, Reflection on “The Earth“ and Reflection on “Rowing” are composed for solo saxophone and solo piano, respectively. The third movement, Reflection on “Riding the Elevator Into the Sky” utilizes both instruments and features an aleatoric section at the close. This was the first of the three movements to be composed; the solo movements were later added in order to create a lengthier work, one that went further into reflecting upon Sexton’s poetry.
-Michael C. Kregler
During live performances, it is recommended that each poem is read out loud prior to each movement.
A deep clear breath of life…
My dear friend Peter Kovner commissioned this fantasia for saxophone and piano as a memorial to his beloved sister Kay. In it, I attempted to evoke something of the exuberance and the poignance of her life as I understood it. The music traces a path through the joys, playfulness, hopes, tribulations and torments of childhood, nostalgia, longing, melancholy, exuberant Dionysian abandon, frenzy, illness; and concludes with a sense of the radiant, courageous spirit which survives and which, perhaps, represents her true legacy.
In the opening section, each of the sonorous minor sevenths in the lower registers of the piano initiates a new stage of emergence into the awakening radiance of innocent childhood. The turbulent section which follows portrays the tribulations and torments caused by the cruelty of schoolmates, yielding to the melancholy of solitude.
Kay's sojourn in Rome is evoked by an homage to Nino Rota, the composer of the matchless music for most of Fellini's ﬁlms, including 'La dolce vita.' Peter expressed the wish that I would at some point pay tribute to my love of vintage Motown, which is why the work also includes an homage to Junior Walker; this is also a reference to the 1960s, a period which Kay - like so many of us - experienced with particular intensity. Neither homage involves any conscious quotations, but I enjoyed the challenge of integrating multiple styles and emotional states within a twelve-minute span. The work's title is taken from a moving e-mail I received from Peter.
This was a seminal work for me, as it introduced me to the saxophone, an instrument which was to play a crucial role in my musical evolution. I am deeply grateful to Jennifer Bill for providing such an inspiring introduction to this matchless instrument through her peerless artistry, breathtaking technique, and adventurous spirit. The premiere, on February 15, 2013 at Boston University, in which Dr. Bill was partnered by the exceptional artistry of pianist Yoshiko Kline, was a profoundly rewarding experience.
'A deep clear breath of life' is published by Radnofsky-Couper Editions.
Fantasia on the Theme of Plum Blossom for Alto Saxophone and piano
II. Ten Thousand Blooms
III. Plum Blossoms
The musical material of this piece is loosely derived from a popular Nankuan melody, Plum Blossoms. Nankuan, a traditional style of southern Chinese/Taiwanese music, dates back to Han Dynasty. This melody serves as a basis for all three movements. In the fantasia like first movement, the Nankuan melody is first subtly introduced in a fragmented and motivic way. By the end of movement, a longer continuous melody appears. The second scherzo-like movement takes the faster and active passages from the first movement as a basis for playful and energetic music. The rich and elegant Nankuan melody is most apparent in the lyrical, contrapuntal final movement.
Fantasia on the Theme of Plum Blossom for alto Saxophone and piano was commissioned by the World-Wide Concurrent Premieres & Commissions Fund and is dedicated to Ken Radnofsky.