How You Gaze Beyond the Vast Time

Instrumentation: Solo Soprano Saxophone

Duration: 6.5 minutes

Date of Composition: 2009


The title How You Gaze Beyond the Vast Time is taken from the American artist Cy Twombly’s massive Untitled Painting (“Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor...”). I first used the line “How you gaze beyond the vast time” in a piece I wrote from 2006 entitled Ellipsis for nine players. This line is actually a splicing of two separate statements “how you gaze” and “beyond the vast time.” The first three words are inscribed at the top right of the canvas and the last four appear at the bottom. I have always liked the way in which these combined statements intersperse the visual and temporal, especially via the word “gaze.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “a steady, fixed look.” This came to mind when Bill Conn asked me to write a piece commemorating the life of his grandmother. I imagined the enduring gaze of our departed loved ones, ever-present and seemingly existing “beyond the vast time.” The other image that came to mind was that of the horizon. In Twombly’s painting, crudely rendered boats move toward a large swath of nearly empty canvas, as though disappearing into the open sea. The instructions at the top of the score read, “steady, faint yet glowing – like a distant horizon.” I sought to create a slowly moving sound world in which the saxophone’s gently shifting pitches imply both the horizon we see and the infinite expanses beyond.