Mikel Kuehn - Works

Color Fields (2006), for tenor saxophone, vibraphone, guitar, and piano (Flexible Music, live):

Color Fields (2006/08) for tenor saxophone, piano, guitar, and vibraphone. Performed by Flexible Music.

Program Note

Color Fields, for tenor saxophone, guitar, vibraphone, and piano, was written in the summer of 2006 and revised in 2008 for the New York group Flexible Music. I found this instrumental combination particularly intriguing due to its implicit reference to a classic jazz combo – without the bass and drums – and because of the non-sustaining nature of all the instruments except the saxophone. The challenging compositional aspect of the latter led me to devise ways of sustaining harmonic areas, or pitch “fields,” through continuously interwoven instrumental lines of shifting “color.” For me, this process immediately suggested visual associations with certain block-like paintings of Paul Klee and the Color Field painters of the 1950s, Mark Rothko and Hans Hoffman in particular. At the opening of the work, all instruments share identical material, which is interpreted through each instrument’s personality. Very quickly, small cliques and slight discrepancies form within the ensemble, giving rise to kaleidoscopic textures. As time progresses, the material is broken into multiple harmonic layers (solos, duets, trios) until the ensemble eventually evolves into a four-sided discussion that is not resolved until the work’s close. There are six short tutti sections scattered across the piece (the opening and close are two of these) and, in the middle section, each instrument has a solo (guitar, saxophone, piano, vibraphone).

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