For saxophone quartet and Partch instruments (Adapted Viola, Diamond Marimba, Cloud Chamber Bowls, Bass Marimba, Kithara).

‘Skiagrafies’ (Greek for shadow etchings) is a cycle of works that looks at color through the perspective of shadows. Skiagrafies I, which was premiered at the Kimmel Center in June of 2016, was commissioned by the PRISM quartet and the Partch Ensemble. Skiagrafies II, scored for flute and piano resonance, was written for flutist Orlando Cela.  Skiagrafies III, scored for wind ensemble and percussion, was composed for New England Conservatory’s Wind Ensemble and is dedicated to Charles Peltz and Boyang Yu.

While each work of the cycle is conceived as an autonomous organism, they all stem from the same pursuit: exploring the musical dimensions of shadows. This is done in two primary ways: first, in the exploration of minute gradations of sound parameters such as pitch, timbre, and dynamics; second, in the reflections and refractions of the same sound object across the different timbres of the ensemble. A third, perhaps more metaphorical concept of shadows in ‘Skiagrafies’ is related to the way in which memory is engaged: the piece grows by continuously recalling and recasting distorted copies of previous material, effectively creating a veil of shadows upon shadows of the initial archetypal gesture. Time does not flow linearly, but in concentric circles, dynamic development giving way to introspective, dream-like contemplation of minute sonic spaces. 

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“The shadow world of “Skiagrafies” proved to be an alluring haze, grown out of that opening whisper-blend of a soft baritone saxophone note; it splintered into multiphonics that seemed to be enveloped, as in a translucent bubble, in the sustained warmth of a cloud-chamber bowl that was bowed across the rim with a double bass bow. This chord set the color scheme for the ensuing music with its soft, mournful saxophone ululations.”

By Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in New York Times, June 14, 2016

Skiagrafies (Greek for “shadow etchings”) commences with a singular mix of whisper-soft baritone saxophone with Partch’s adapted viola and bowed cloud chamber bowls, an instantly striking gesture that conjures an eerie gloaming. The music proceeds, wraithlike, through subtle, striking shifts; the effect is something like watching shadows cast by clouds while the sun arcs slowly across the sky, the resulting permutations continually waxing and waning in intensity. As the end approaches, the saxophones muster their force, as if attempting to fly free of gravity’s pull before quietly succumbing to the inevitable.”

By Steve Smith, The Log Journal