P/R/I symmetry derived from Arman Fernandez Arman Saxophones (ca. 1988)

Bob's Bop (2002)
saxophone quartet

Robert Morris

Program Notes

Bob's Bop is written for saxophone quartet consisting for soprano sax in Bb, Alto sax in Eb, Tenor Sax in Bb, and Baritone Sax in Eb with extended range down to written G (sounding Bb2).

Bob's Bop was written for the Lithium Saxophone Quartet in late 2001. It is a lively composition whose lines and gestures allude to bee-bop jazz and its later development into free jazz. The structure of the piece is intricate, involving seven contrapuntal strands that are variously assigned to the four players as the piece flows on. As in much of my chamber music, each player is involved in a musical dialogue with the others asserting various degrees and kinds of independence and cooperation. For instance, at the beginning of the work the alto sax calmly and deliberately states an eight-note tune, which is then rudely, almost violently, restated in summary by the tenor saxophone. As if in rebuke, the alto, bolstered by the soprano sax, delivers a fragment of the opening tune, followed with similar gestures in the baritone and soprano alone. The tenor continues on nevertheless, with the baritone sax riding on its coattails.

The opening pitch figure in the alto sax (Bb, G, G#, A, F# in concert pitch) is a referential motive that returns in various guises throughout the work, alternating with other material that quickly exhausts all fifty of the types of six-note harmonies possible in the chromatic equal-tempered system. Not all of these harmonies are given equal weight however, so that the complexion of the work depends only on a handful of harmonic colors within any local time span.