Instrumentation or Chorus: Soprano saxophone and orchestra (2222-2231-tp-3-pn-str)
Difficulty: University
Duration: 3’37”

Intended at first to be the third movement of a larger concerto, Deus Ex Machina (2008) quickly became one of my favorite feature pieces after a warm reception in its premiere. The work is modeled after the concept of a “God out of the machine,” taking the title perhaps too literally. In this work, the saxophone becomes overlord of the machine that is the orchestra, which plays at a frenetic, relentless pace throughout the work.

This work’s charisma comes partly from its use of harmonic and melodic practices throughout history. The unceasing use of low-pitched parallel fifths could be equal parts medieval organum and modern power-chords. Symmetrical and synthetic scales abound, and the saxophonist even has some room for the occasional multiphonic technique.