Inspired by the image of a wild-looking cockatoo rising, phoenix-like, from the bell of a saxophone, this 3-movement work for alto sax and marimba perfectly captures the diverse personalities of such a creature.
Birdsong was commissioned by my good friend Josh Thomas, an alto saxophonist in the United States Coast Guard Band. Josh has this crazy poster his mother drew sometime in the early 1970's: it's very colorful, and in it, a wild-looking cockatoo is rising, phoenix-like, from the bell of a saxophone played by a jazzy musician. Josh told me that he's always wanted a piece written "about" that poster, and after I saw it I immediately heard in my mind the screeching sound that would issue forth from the bird's mouth. The faux-cleverness of each movement's title was born out of that screeching sound from Mvt. 3: the bird soars on high, crying out in search of food wriggling far below. (I understand that birds don't "soar" in search of worms, they would, say, rabbits, but never mind.) Working backwards then, is Mvt. 2: the notion of "kill" here is implied in the slow, funeral march in an updated New Orleans style, complete with 12-bar blues as the form. Mvt. 1, "Birds of a Feather," takes its turn from the "togetherness" of the sax and marimba "flocking" in a modified 2-voice fugue.
Grade Level: 3
Number of Players: 2
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