Heading: for saxophone quartet
16 August 1995
Apollo Saxophone Quartet
Recording: July can be found on the release, six
...an engaging and original piece... —The New York Times
Michael Torke's July is one of the most popular recent pieces for saxophone quartet. —Saxophone Journal
July is an attractive piece...with its undulating repeated figures and gradually changing lyrical melodies. —American Record Guide
When I am drawn to a particular rhythmic groove from an overheard pop song, I scratch my head and think: "I like that, how could I use it?" To me, it's not worth trying to write another of the ten million songs out there. But I've found that if I take a small part of the drum track and assign it to the non-percussion instruments I'm writing for, then interesting things happen. You lose the original context (in this case the baritone sax does not sound like a kick drum), but you gain immediacy and a freshness in the instrumental writing. There will also be a cohesion of compositional intent if you have a strategy for those pitch assignments. When writing this piece, keeping in mind the incredible agility of the saxophone, I wrote a series of rapid notes which form a foundation, of a kind of "directory" from which I pull out pitches to assign to those original rhythms (as the notes fly by in real time). What fascinates me is that this act of translation seems to completely remove the original reference from my music; sometimes I can't even remember what the original song was that inspired me and, if I do, it's hard even to hear the connection. But what remains is the energy.
Like December for string orchestra- the piece that preceded July- I'm trying to incorporate contrasting themes and moods together in a single movement work. To me this evokes a wider range of impressions. Instead of single-mindedly exploring one color, as in earlier pieces of mine, the music now corresponds to an experience of time- the energy and heat we find int he month of July, as well as cooling breezes of repose that come, perhaps, in the evening.