Instrumentation: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
When I was nineteen, I told my father I wanted to play the saxophone. I was a serious flutist at the time, and also working toward the status of aspiring composer (a state a composer never outgrows). The saxophone had something musical that I wanted, expressive range and stylistic flexibility, and I’d come to know someone who played it. Someone I thought was wonderful and cool. My father responded to me by suggesting that the saxophone was a vulgar instrument. My father was not prissy, nor was he lacking in musical range. But he did not feel comfortable with the idea of his young daughter playing the saxophone, an instrument for boys or, maybe, vampy girls. How fun, then, for me to have a chance to write a piece for PRISM, and to employ the word ‘vamp’ as its title, a word with two meanings, musical and moral. My piece does employ repeating musical figures, though while it includes brushes with the brash, getting loud and a little rude, it is more often soft and lyrical, capitalizing on the delicacy and clarity of the saxophone, perhaps suggesting that I have not yet have come to terms with that old conversation with my father.
Performance history: Vamp was composed for PRISM Quartet (saxophones), who premiered it on March 20, 2016 at Tenri Cultural Institute in New York, and have subsequently played it many times and recorded it (XAS Records).