Pathways III: Interior Shadows

Complete Work Title: 

Pathways III: Interior Shadows

Performance Medium: 

solo soprano saxophone and chamber orchestra: flute (dbl. alto flute), flute (dbl. piccolo), oboe, English horn, Bb clarinet, Bb bass clarinet, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 Bb trumpets, trombone, 2 percussion, strings (33221).

  1. Dissolution
    1. mercurial tides
    2. lattice
  2. Elusion
    1. paroxysm & obsession
    2. epicedium (a loss unknown)
  3. Conflux
    1. spiral jetty
    2. rencontre
    3. tin maelstrom




to Heidi, Gabriel, and Maxwell

Date Composed: 

December 1994 - March 1995 (revised May 1995)

Additional Information: 
  • Composed for saxophonist Eric Nestler
  • Supported by grants from the American Composers Forum/Jerome Foundation (Composer Commissioning Program), American Music Center (Margaret Fairbank Jory Copy Assistance Grant) and a Faculty Research Grant from the University of North Texas.
  • Included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 18 March 2014; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)

    Kyle Stec, saxophone; UNT student ensemble; Joseph Klein, conductor

  • 10 April 1995; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
  • 31 March 1995; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) — North American Saxophone Alliance Conference [premiere]

    Eric M. Nestler, saxophone; NOVA Ensemble; Joseph Klein, conductor

Program Notes: 

Pathways is a series of works featuring a variety of solo instruments with a single, fixed orchestral accompaniment. Versions for trombone (Opposing Forces), percussion (Revolution), and soprano saxophone (Interior Shadows) have been completed to date, exploring the distinct relationship between each soloist and the ensemble. The conceptual metaphor for Pathways is that of a traveler: though a single road may be taken by different individuals, the various experiences and responses to a particular environment may vary substantially with each. Here, the orchestra serves as a monolithic sonic landscape through which the various soloists traverse. Structural models used in Pathways are inspired by natural phenomena, manifested in mathematical sequences, fractals, and chaotic/entropic processes.

The third in the series, Pathways III: Interior Shadows was composed for saxophonist Eric Nestler, who first performed the work on 31 March 1995 at the University of North Texas, with the composer conducting the Nova Ensemble. In this version of the work, the saxophone soloist acts as a commentator, mirroring and elaborating upon the material presented within the orchestra. The titles of the three primary movements are intended to reflect the various tendencies within the music: a gradual disintegration in Dissolution, a sense of absence in Elusion, and a coming together in Conflux. Dissolution is in two sections: the first, mercurial tides, is characterized by a constant ebbing and flowing in the solo saxophone part, which in turn creates ripples of increasing intensity throughout the orchestra; in lattice, the music disintegrates into isolated points, through which the saxophone weaves its restless melody. A cadenza in the saxophone leads into the second movement, Elusion, which is also in two sections: paroxysm & obsession, a sudden disruption consisting of isorhythmic patterns in brass and percussion, which influence the course of the melody in the solo saxophone; and epicedium (a loss unknown), an elegiac response to a tragic incident that occurred to a colleague during the work's composition. A second saxophone cadenza leads into the third movement, Conflux, which is in three sections: spiral jetty is named for an earth work created at the Great Salt Lake in Utah in 1970 by American artist Robert Smithson (1938-73), and long since worn away by the effects of nature; the incongruity of this temporary artificial monument elegantly thrust upon its desolate natural surroundings, the process of erosion, and the concept of "jetty" itself are all referenced in this section. In rencontre, the woodwinds and brass are in direct conflict, with the saxophone soloist acting as mediator. Another cadenza in the saxophone leads into tin maelstrom (the title borrowed from a line in John Ashbery's collection of poems Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror), in which the soloist attempts to pass unscathed through the overwhelming turbulence in the orchestra, ultimately to have the final comment in the subdued coda, seemingly leaving off where the work began.

The Pathways series is dedicated to my wife, Heidi, and my sons, Gabriel and Maxwell, and was supported by a CCP Grant from the American Composers Forum (funded by the Jerome Foundation) and a faculty research grant from the University of North Texas. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).