In Moral Compass, Metzger conveys Twain’s time-honored and meaningful text in a new light, blending jazz and classical styles. Throughout every movement of the piece, the saxophone and voice are woven together to create beautiful lyrical lines that soar over the backdrop of the colorful rhythms and rich harmonies in the percussion ensemble.
Moral Compass was created at the request of two of my long-time colleagues, Polly Butler Cornelius (soprano) and Jinny Novine-Whittaker (alto saxophone) in January, 2010. Their interest in combining voice and saxophone with percussion sonorities coincided with my re-visiting Mark Twain’s razor-sharp wit and right-on-target observations about our fellow human beings, including their tendencies, wanderings, and frequent indiscretions. Twain’s humor continued to give special meaning to what swirled around our lives all these many years later. Full of surprises, it also was a perfect fit for marrying the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic treatment I heard for the stunning talent at hand. The four-movement piece received its premiere in April, 2010 at Elon University (NC) with members of its Percussion Ensemble together with Cornelius and Whittaker and the composer conducting.
Of the composition, Whittaker wrote: “In Moral Compass, Metzger conveys Twain’s time-honored and meaningful text in a new light, blending jazz and classical styles. Throughout every movement of the piece, the saxophone and voice are woven together to create beautiful lyrical lines that soar over the backdrop of the colorful rhythms and rich harmonies in the percussion ensemble.” And Cornelius added: “Metzger provides text painting that depicts pictures of humor and imagery. Meaningful words are expressed and magnified through beautiful vocal lines. The character is declamatory, and the accompaniment supports the voice through melodic and polyphonic textures, while mixed meter in one movement enhances the syntax.”
Human nature brings us together. Here, from the North, juxtaposed with ostinato figures; and in the East combined with Turkish folk dance influences; to the sunny, shimmering South and the pull and flow of its rivers; and in the pioneering, hopeful lure of the West; the best friendships and collaboration—and music-making and life for that matter—is kept together when fueled by a Moral Compass.
- Jon Metzger
Grade Level: 4
Number of Players: 5
Listen to Recordings
Percussion (high and low cymbal, 2 triangles, low tom, 2 hand drums, tambourine, hi-hat, crotales, wind chimes)