Duration: ca. 10'
Instrumentation: double saxophone quartet
“Untitled (Seven Mountains),” by Ursula von Rydingsvard is a work seemingly defined by dichotomies: the individuality that is brought out through repetition, the portrayal of stone with wood, shapes that appear simultaneously carved from nature and crafted by human hands. It’s a piece that rewards being considered closely as well as being viewed from a distance. Like most of von Rydingsvard’s work, the sculpture is made of beams of cedar, which are glued together and chiseled into intricate shapes. The wood is also rubbed with powdered graphite, giving the surface an intricate and inviting texture. The resulting work, while clearly showing the mark of tools, evokes a sense of organic formation, conjuring an impression of scale and distance even in such a limited space. While von Rydingsvard has talked about her relationship to the material she uses (her father was a woodcarver and she spent her early years living in refugee camps constructed from wooden planks), it’s worth noting that the piece seems to have a deeper familial connection; much like the seven structures of the sculpture, von Rydingsvard is one of seven children.
In composing the piece, “Seven Mountains,” it was this connection to family, the similarities and differences found in seemingly identical structures, and the concept of distance that inspired me the most. The choice of saxophone (an instrument that I have a long history with) brought to me a sense of comfort and familiarity, as well as the obvious similarities and differences that come from using several different members of an instrumental family. I was also interested in playing with the concept of distance through both physical distance and the use of material; the musical phrases are repeated across a distance, but develop and change through the transfer from one place to another. It also reminded me of my family, from whom I have lived most of my life separated by distance, and the ways in which we develop independently but always carry with us the distinct elements that bring us together.
Concert Premiere: March 2nd, 2015, by Gilbert Garza, Kelsey Blanscet, Keri Wing, Nathan Mertens, Eugene Ryoo, Javier Dubon, Jacob Kennedy, and David Brown, Bass Concert Hall, Austin, TX.