Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
First it was Pictures At An Exhibition (both for 4 and for 6 players). I did a quick quartet version of Champagne Galop in between major projects. Now I'm on another large project -- Holst's "The Planets". This requires a lot more than 6 people. I'm using eight saxophones (one each of everything from Eb Sopranino to Bb Bass, including the two C pitched instruments) and two percussion parts. Also, the bass part has to double on soprillo, though those lacking this instrument could simply play the part on piccolo. I only called for the instrument for its extreme upper range, and most woodwind instruments sound similar up there. The formant is so high that the overtone series tends to get lost in the noise.

The percussion parts have no more than two people's worth of stuff going on at any given time, but the switching of instruments, retuning of tympani, etc. is not reasonable for actual acoustic tympani and mallet percussion. I have anticipated that it would be played on drum pads and MIDI mallet percussion. However, it could be done on the actual instruments if a third person were to be added (and a total of six tympani). The snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and tambourine are all reasonable things to play acoustically even with the two-person limitations.

I have completed the rendering of three movements thus far, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. Here's the website with downloadable files, and here's the Bandcamp link. Printed scores will come only after I have completed all movements.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I'm now working on the printed scores and parts. I have posted all of the scores first, and I'll go back and do the parts. They are accessible from the same page as the downloadable MP3 files.

The doubling in the bass sax part is limited to Venus and Jupiter, and brief in both cases. The doubling is written for piccolo since that is the instrument most likely to be available and convenient, but if a soprillo is available that would be preferable. I just know there aren't that many of them floating around out there, and even fewer owned by people who also play bass sax.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Since I'm no longer running my own local web server, I've posted the files to free web space here.

This is now complete, with all parts included and all scores amended where the occasional error has been caught. There are three places where the reference recording is now in error, but that will not be getting fixed. (Good luck finding them.)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
672 Posts
This is fantastic, thank you! Any chance of uploading the digital score? I could see replacing the C parts (C Soprano, C Melody) with "easier to find" parts (Bb Soprano, Eb Alto), and with the digital score it would be trivial to do so.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,680 Posts
I could see replacing the C parts (C Soprano, C Melody) with "easier to find" parts (Bb Soprano, Eb Alto), and with the digital score it would be trivial to do so.
If reassigning many parts seems necessary immediately upon publication of the music -- bear in mind that we're not talking about something composed by Ravel when he didn't know that the sopranino would fall out of use -- then the question that must be asked is, why arrange the piece that way in the first place?

Sax ensemble music seems to attract very little attention in SOTW. (This thread is a good example: an interesting project, yet only five posts (incl. mine) in a year, three of them by the OP.) I would very much like to support work of this kind. I play in a sax quintet, and we also have played an original composition for sax sextet. I've played "Mars" and "Jupiter" in concert band, and it would be fun to tackle an all-saxophone treatment of the full The Planets. We could round up another three saxophonists if we had to in order to play an exciting piece. (We'd probably just ignore the percussion parts, however. Sad but true.) But bass sax? Sopranino? C soprano? C melody? Soprillo?! Was the goal here to prevent this arrangement from being played by anyone, at least as written?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The intent was to have as wide a spectrum of sound as possible. Range considerations also factor into it. I would have liked to have had a contrabass, and there is one spot in "Uranus, The Magician" where the bass sax is sadly unable to drop an octave down, having to merely repeat the same note -- but it's a concert F#, so the only bass that would be able to play it is the one that has had a low G bell hacked onto it (which I understand isn't very good). Other than that one (frustratingly important) note, I was able to make do with only the low Ab (concert) available from a bass saxophone.

I do acknowledge that there are very few soprillos in the wild, so I have written the part for piccolo. Although not by any stretch of the imagination a saxophone, it is widely available. A high Ab clarinet would also be quite appropriate for the part, and at the upper end of the range, the timbre differences between saxophones and clarinets get pretty small.

As for the C variants, they're currently in production and available for purchase (though I think a restored vintage C-mel sounds better than an Aquilasax -- Aquilasax does have the ergonomics though), so why shouldn't I write for them? It's not just a matter of transposing parts either, because I wrote more-than-a-tone trills into the parts to simulate string section tremolos (minor thirds, major thirds, I think one is a fourth). I had to very carefully assign these so that they didn't cross the break or require any contrary finger motion on the part of the players, and transposing those parts will render some of them impossible to play at speed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,680 Posts
The intent was to have as wide a spectrum of sound as possible. Range considerations also factor into it. I would have liked to have had a contrabass
Oh boy.

As for the C variants, they're currently in production and available for purchase (though I think a restored vintage C-mel sounds better than an Aquilasax -- Aquilasax does have the ergonomics though), so why shouldn't I write for them?
As the arranger, you are free to write for any instruments you choose. You could plug in a Conn-O-Sax part if desired. But there's a difference between creating a piece as an academic, "because it is there" exercise, and writing something with the hope and expectation that it will be played by real musicians out in the world. No saxophonist I know would consider shopping for a museum piece horn merely to play an unusual arrangement that happened to call for one. I'm not telling you what to write. I'm just telling you what my colleagues and I (and probably the vast majority of saxophonists, even though I don't know them personally) will play. Heck, even the most enthusiastic guy in this thread asked you for digital files so he could transpose the parts.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
As you can see, I didn't call for one. I don't think calling for C-sop and C-mel (I own a C-mel and happen to think it's the best sounding horn I've ever had) is unreasonable when the intent was to have no two instruments alike, but conjuring up a contrabass would have been asking too much. I could have asked the bari player to stick a plastic pipe in the bell of the bass for the extra two semitones. ;)

I just posted the digital score files, but I'm not sure how useful you'll find them since I use Encore, not Finale or Sibelius like almost everyone else. I've tried to use Sibelius, but my use of Encore has over 20 years of inertia (and scores) behind it.

I think my intentions and yours might actually be aligned, but in a destructive way. I wrote for the absolute minimum that I thought could pull it off. I started working on it as a sextet, but there's too much going on for that to work. Then things came up that are just boomy and grandiose, so I brought in the two percussion. Omit them if you like, but they're vital. They're not just filling the role of an orchestral percussion section, they also play the roles of harp and celeste (and the choir in "Neptune"). The saxophones cover all woodwind, string, and brass parts. If you're trying to be even more minimalist than this, it's going to fall apart.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,680 Posts
You should check out the Eastman Saxophone Project's version of Rite of Spring (
). I've never heard so many different instrumental colors in a large-scale piece for saxophones. I don't have the sheet music for their arrangement, but from eyeballing the musicians on stage, it appears that it's written for:
3 Bb sopranos
4 Eb altos
3 Bb tenors
2 Eb baritones
1 Bb bass
Percussion
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
If you really want to know, my choice of instrumentation was more influenced by Nuclear Whales than by a typical concert hall group. They use anything and everything from sopranino to contrabass, and probably would have used soprillo had it existed when they still did.

In any case, I'm currently working on a version with the two C instruments omitted, and everything rearranged to cover for the gaps. I dare say it's not as good, but it does cut the required number of players down to eight (nine for Neptune). For the first two movements (Mars and Venus), it's sopranino, soprano, two altos, tenor, and bass. For the remaining five, the second alto moves to bari where you'd expect him to be. There are no switches during movements, and no more piccolo part -- but this means the percussion is that much more critical, as I've thrown the parts that are like the rent (too damn high) into the celeste or glockenspiel.

Unfortunately, there are places where I just had to drop lines to make this work. Even with eight horns, I was cutting things down a whole lot. There are many places in the original orchestral score where there are three groups of instruments playing in full 4-part block harmony, in a sort of round off of each other. They're playing the same things, but a beat or half-beat apart. I started by stripping this down to three or even two part harmonization, but that was with eight horns. With six, I have to drop some of the countermelody figures entirely.

I also had to re-assign the awkward wide trills, but I found places to put them where they are at least playable. With the larger group and C instruments to pick from, they were quite easily obtained. Some now have to be "faked", like high B-to-D# on tenor. This will necessitate fingering B, and flipping the high E key, and hoping that on that particular horn this comes out as a passable D#.

As before, I'll produce scores first, and parts will come later. This time though, they'll be transposed parts and not concert pitch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
240 Posts
Altissimo G on sopranino. F-U-N. I've actually been able to hit that note before. Once. Looks very cool though.

Is there a recording of your arrangement yet?

Also, I don't see why not to include optional Bb or Eb parts as replacements for the C parts. I don't think it's too hard to scrounge up the odd-balls in a university or college setting, but you never know (and those odd-balls available can tend to be wonky).
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It was mostly the trills that don't work on the instruments other than those they were written for. Semitone and whole-tone trills are generally transferable, but thirds and fourths, not so much -- and I use those wide trills to emulate the sound of a string section playing tremolo.

Look a bit deeper, the sopranino part actually peaks at G#/Ab (more than once). Unfortunately, it was that or rewrite major sections to hide missing high notes, which I didn't care to do. The part may well be easier to play on Eb clarinet.

Yes there's a recording, (or the Bandcamp version) as noted above -- and it has three errors that I am aware of. Let's see if you can spot them. :)

The (provisional, subject to revision) score to the 6-sax version is now online here. So are the Encore files, but right now all that's there are the scores and the percussion parts. I have to do a bunch of copypasta and tweaking to make them into usable parts and I'm a bit burned out at the moment. This version also drives the extremes of range more -- the 'nino is expected to play from low Bb to that high G#, the soprano is expected to work all the way from low Bb to high F#, the alto has a fair number of calls for high F# and a few for G, and F# even appears in the tenor and bari parts, and low Bb to high E in the bass -- that's what happens when the bari switches to flute for the second movement (Venus).

Flute is obviously not a sax, but neither is the percussion, and I need a high-register instrument that's ubiquitous so people don't complain. It too is expected to play across its entire (standard) range during the single movement where it is called for -- low Db to triple C. The actual range of the instrument extends as far as the F# above that, but I neither require this, nor expect a doubler to be proficient in that range.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
I have completed the 6-sax version in its entirety, and you can get all scores and parts here. The Encore files are here. The reference recording is here (or here). The recordings may change if I spot something I don't like (balance, phrasing, that sort of thing) but the scores and Encore files are debugged.

For the original version with 8 saxophones, the scores and parts are here, and the Encore files are here. The reference recording is here (or here).

The 8-sax version is more complete, but the difference is not enormous. "Venus" as written in the 6-sax version is probably more playable, and there's no soprillo in the 6-sax version anywhere, though that's not to say that it couldn't use one. It might be the best fix for the high note problem, and would also allow the flute to be dispensed with. It would appear that any choice I make regarding the instrumentation necessary (and the technical requirements that lead from this) will be unsatisfactory to someone, so I'll leave those changes to the individuals wishing to use the work (if any).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
240 Posts
Look a bit deeper, the sopranino part actually peaks at G#/Ab (more than once). Unfortunately, it was that or rewrite major sections to hide missing high notes, which I didn't care to do. The part may well be easier to play on Eb clarinet.

Yes there's a recording, (or the Bandcamp version) as noted above -- and it has three errors that I am aware of. Let's see if you can spot them. :)
In my experience it's hard enough to play sopranino above a high D, but playing up to altissimo G#? I'm not going to make any assumptions about the caliber of players you have access to, but I don't know anyone who can play sopranino comfortably in that range (maybe someone on this forum can chime in). Like I said, I've hit altissimo G (or G#) before, once. Pitches get really squirrely and undefinable when you only have 2.5 inches of pipe left.

Have you inquired about having it performed yet? You're not going to truly understand your arrangement until it's been rehearsed.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,023 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
As mentioned before, if that means the part has to be played on Eb clarinet instead, or split between a soprillo and a sopranino, so be it.

I fully understand that the requirements are probably at the bounds of what can be done in a studio, with punch-ins and multiple takes and all the time in the world to get it right. I have already bent the composition as far as I feel is fair to it (and in a couple cases, beyond). If the world insists that it needs more compromising, then either someone else can do it -- or maybe it can't really be done properly. It's Holst's one and only master work -- he deliberately avoided doing anything this epic for the rest of his life -- and it should be held in the highest regard.

I don't have a sopranino. I've played one once in my life. I know the soprillo is keyed to D, and while there aren't very many people who own one, it's said to be manageable up to its high B. I'm calling for the equivalent of its C#, and it's in highly exposed, long-tone use. So... is it incredibly difficult? Undoubtedly. So is playing Pictures At An Exhibition on solo organ. So long as there's one person in the world that can do it, it should be written.

Mozart wrote his clarinet concerto specifically for Anton Stadler. He didn't care if anyone else could play what he wrote at the time. The players and the instruments would catch up. (In some ways, they never did. The low C extension still remains extremely rare.)

When Paganini wrote his Violin Concerto in Eb, there was only one person in the world that could play it. Him. Now it's done for college senior recitals. If the piece merits the attention, then someone will figure out how to play the part. Personally I think the Paganini concerto is the violin equivalent of masturbation (he went so far as to tune himself a half step up while making the rest of the orchestra play in an unfriendly key), but the fact is, it has compelled the raising of the standard for the instrument worldwide.

So to make clear what I've been trying to say -- I'm done tailoring this for the world. I've gone as far in that direction as I think the piece can tolerate. It's time for the world to come to the piece. [mic drop.]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,680 Posts
I don't have a sopranino. I've played one once in my life. I know the soprillo is keyed to D, and while there aren't very many people who own one, it's said to be manageable up to its high B. I'm calling for the equivalent of its C#, and it's in highly exposed, long-tone use. So... is it incredibly difficult? Undoubtedly. So is playing Pictures At An Exhibition on solo organ. So long as there's one person in the world that can do it, it should be written.
"Should"? That's curious. Why not simply "could"? What is the source of this imperative? Personally, I don't subscribe to a "because it is there" mandate for arrangers (extreme example: Harmonicas exist. Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata exists. Therefore, Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata should be played on harmonicas.) I don't think a work becomes compulsory merely because it's conceivable.

Mozart wrote his clarinet concerto specifically for Anton Stadler. He didn't care if anyone else could play what he wrote at the time. The players and the instruments would catch up. (In some ways, they never did. The low C extension still remains extremely rare.)

When Paganini wrote his Violin Concerto in Eb, there was only one person in the world that could play it. Him. Now it's done for college senior recitals. If the piece merits the attention, then someone will figure out how to play the part. Personally I think the Paganini concerto is the violin equivalent of masturbation (he went so far as to tune himself a half step up while making the rest of the orchestra play in an unfriendly key), but the fact is, it has compelled the raising of the standard for the instrument worldwide.
But there's a considerable difference between an original solo work and an arrangement of an ensemble work. Great musicians will do whatever is necessary to accommodate worthwhile new compositions into the original repertory for their instrument. All it takes is one star to extend his technique as necessary, and others will follow -- if the work is good. With an arranged ensemble piece, you first have to motivate a larger group of musicians to learn the piece, and then you have to contend with the reality that the "best" form of the work already exists, in its original version for other instruments. That fact makes it harder to justify "stand on your head" technical demands for the performers of the arrangement.
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Top