Mark Engebretson taught a guest seminar here last Friday. The occasion was a prelude to the premiere of his Deliriade, a concerto for flute and saxophone quartet, on Saturday night. The piece was the first of our new LINKS commissions, sponsored by the Kenan Institute for the Arts.

Yes, you read right: a concerto for flute accompanied by saxophone quartet. It’s the kind of commission one has to scratch one’s head at: just how many performances can this piece expect to get? And further, just how substantial can a piece be with that premise (instrumentation, concerto)? But that was the nature of the commission – a piece to match up supervirtuoso flutist Tadeu Coelho with the PRISM Quartet.

More about the piece later, but the seminar was really intriguing. Mark started out his life as a virtuoso saxophonist himself, so he was certainly the right man for the job. He showed us sketches and talked through his creative process, illustrating points with passages from his scores, and playing midi versions of the passages that make some sort of sense with midi (which doesn’t, of course, include the extended passage in which the saxophonists remove their mouthpieces and blow through the instruments).

Here was the most interesting thing: Mark described a meeting he had with Tadeu early in the process. They spent an hour talking about the piece, then jammed together a bit. Mark recorded the conversation and the jam session, and referred back to the recording throughout the process of composition. His goal was to get as much of Tadeu into the piece as possible, without sacrificing his own artistic vision.

And I thought that was a pretty interesting way to go about it.

Leave a Reply