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for saxophone quartet




Year: 2023

Length: 9.5 minutes

Instrumentation: saxophone quartet (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone)

commissioned by masso quartet

Program Note:


Mass, for saxophone quartet, is about the overwhelming burden of life, as read through Albert Camus's understanding of Sisyphus and his absurd task of lifting a large rock up to the top of a mountain only to let it tumble down, then to be lifted once again, and repeating the cycle for eternity. The piece attempts to take Camus's understanding of human existence one step further, first acknowledging that letting the rock roll down must be awfully fun and that carrying a rock can be endlessly gratifying, but then, to also acknowledge the reality that, in life, one often doesn’t know when the rock is being lifted up or tumbling down, or how many rocks there are or will be. Mass is therefore a piece primarily about the confusing simultaneity of life—the rise and fall of many things at all times. More broadly, the music in Mass reflects an inability to distinguish, as well as expresses a sort of balance, between upward and downward motion. The piece’s title also holds a secondary reference to a Catholic church service, and to organized religion as a whole, as a means to contemplate the meaning of human existence. And lastly, Mass is inspired by the commissioning ensemble, masso quartet (Sam Alvarez, Isaac Boone, Ila Gupta, and India Wade), both in the work’s title and conceptual underpinning. -SC


About the Image: Drawn by the composer, it is a simple combination of the four Mandarin intonations: flat, rise, fall-rise, and fall. Musical transcriptions of these intonations appear throughout Mass in various combinations.

Shi-An is a BMI Composer. All Rights Reserved. 


Performance History:

World Premiere: 2/16/2023 at Galvin Hall, Northwestern University, Chicago (masso)


2.25.2023 at McClintock Hall, Northwestern University (masso)

2.27.2023 at UW-Milwaukee (masso)

4.4.2023 Michigan State University (masso)

4.8.2023 UW-Eau Claire (masso)

4.29.2023 Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago (masso)

5.13.2023 Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago (masso)

5.15.2023 Alice Millar Chapel (masso)

8.5.2023 Thirsty Ears Festival Mainstage (masso)

9.14.2023 Epiphany Center for the Arts (masso)

00:00 / 01:04
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