Wednesday, February 02, 2005
It's your choice

Shouldn't we play music that people want to hear?

A colleague I respect very highly asked me that question recently. And I'm pretty sure why he asked. He knows that I collaborate frequently with emerging composers and that the resulting work sometimes exists outside of certain listeners' comfort zones--his included. Like Ms. Gould from a previous post, he simply has a more conservative sonic pallate. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that and I happen to find his Mozart mezmerizing and his Bach exquisite. But I think deep down what he really meant was, "Why would you let anyone write you a piece of music that sounds like that?"

Implicit in that question is the idea that the performer can exercise a certain amount of control over the collaborating composer. Can I do that? Maybe. Should I do it? No.

The truth is, I never tell a composer what to write. Why would I? Iíve chosen to work with that particular composer because I believe in his or her voice, not because I have an agenda on my instrument. However, if the composer were to ask me if I was looking to explore anything specific or if I had any ideas, I'd be happy to share them. It's just not my place to impose those issues from the beginning. To be sure, there have been a few times I was sorry I didn't lay down some parameters with regard to range, extended techniques, or the eight levels of pianissimo. But even in those instances I'm up for a challenge, even if I'm certain of the outcome.

The bottom line: You can choose who you work with. You can't tell them what to do.
Praised by The New York Times as "an inventive musician . . . fresh and surprising," saxophonist Brian Sacawa has firmly established himself as an important contemporary voice for his instrument. He is active as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician throughout the United States and is the co-founder of the new music duo Non-Zero with percussionist Timothy Feeney.

He has given premieres of over thirty works by both established and emerging composers, including Michael Gordon, Bright Sheng, Andrew Mead, Oliver Schneller, Ken Ueno, Beata Moon, Hillary Zipper, and Scott McAllister, among many others. Named the Baltimore CITYPAPER’s Critic’s Choice for Classical Music in 2002, he is the recipient of awards for solo performance from both national and international competitions.

Sacawa's versatile career has led to appearances with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony, Harvard Group for New Music, New Music Brandeis, Bargemusic, and at meetings of the ISU Contemporary Music Festival, World Saxophone Congress, North American Saxophone Alliance, and New England Saxophone Symposium.

Brian holds degrees from the University of Michigan, the Peabody Conservatory, and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, where he studied with Donald Sinta, Gary Louie, and Lynn Klock. He has recorded for the Equililbrium, Naxos, and BiBimBop recording labels.

See Brian's other blog
Sounds Like Now