Thursday, January 20, 2005
How do you do?

The following is a typical exchange that occurs when a stranger gets curious about what I'm carrying around in the case strapped to my back:

Curious Stranger: Is that a violin (or trumpet, or trombone)?
Brian Sacawa: No, it's a saxophone.
CS: Oh, you must play jazz.
BS: No, I play classical music.
CS: Oh, you mean like Mozart and Beethoven?
BS: Well, not exactly. I play new music.
CS: What's new music?

Hmmm, what is new music anyway? Jason Eckardt and Milton Babbitt write new music. So do John Adams and Michael Daugherty. Edgard Varese and Charles Ives are still programmed on "new music" concerts and they're dead. So how new is new?

And what does it sound like? Well, new music is really dissonant, right? Sometimes it repeats itself over and over and over and over again. It's amplified and uses computers. New music is only for "serious" and learned listeners. Is it?

I think you can see where I'm going. It's really difficult to explain the kind of music I play to someone not familiar with the world of contemporary classical music, or new music. Maybe it might be easier for a composer, who could claim, "Well, I'm a modernist composer," or serialist, or post-minimalist, and so on. Maybe it's not that simple. Certainly as a new music performer you can't label yourself like that. Nobody just plays New Complexity, or spectral music, for example. Perhaps you could earn a reputation for being a specialist at a certain style, but surely that's not all you would play. At any rate, I'm not sure I'll ever have a solid answer for that curious stranger.
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