Continuum Sax | Length and Breath

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Length and Breath

by Continuum Sax

This eclectic set of music by Australian composers Rosalind Page, Martin Kay, Robert Davidson and Damien Ricketson is performed by Australia's premier saxophone quartet, Continuum Sax.
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Ecchymoses
6:23 $1.50
2. Scotland Jop
1:46 $1.50
3. Olfieg
3:58 $1.50
4. Brightest Threads
8:52 $1.50
5. Length and Breath
10:37 $1.50
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The album Length and Breath is the result of Continuum Sax's ongoing collaborations with composers featuring works written for Continuum Sax during 2009/2010. 'Ecchymoses' by Rosalind Page, 'Brightest Threads' by Robert Davidson, and 'Length and Breath' by Damien Ricketson were commissioned through the assistance of the Australian Government's Australia Council for the Arts. 'Scotland Jop' and 'Olfeig' were composed by Continuum's tenor saxophonist, Martin Kay.

About the Music:

Rosalind Page Ecchymoses

Composer Rosalind Page has created works for theatre, dance, chamber ensembles, orchestra and electronica, with performances in Europe, USA and Japan.  Rosalind’s artistic practice includes her M.A. (Theatre and Film Studies) on sound/image relationships in the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.  In 2004, Fracture: a noh play for cello and orchestra, an interpretation of Shakespeare's King Lear and Kurosawa's RAN, received a Highly Commended Award in the prestigious Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize and in 2006 her setting of Lorca's Sonetos del Amor Oscuro won the Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize.   Rosalind has been an invited composer by ISCM at Visby International Composers Centre, Gotland, Sweden and artist-in-residence at Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre (CAMAC) in France.  Currently Rosalind teaches composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and is a Visiting Fellow in the Creative Practice & Research Unit, School of English, Media & Performing Arts at the University of New South Wales. 


All around me people bleed …
PJ Harvey
a double quartet 
for sx and guns

'Late April 2008, filled with expectation, I was driving along the Princes Highway enroute to Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith for the premiere of my Lute Project work l’amour et la mort.  Just before the climb up Mt Ousley, a small car overtook the limit and disappeared into the opaque haze of torrential rain.   I noticed L plates and the young guy driving, chatting and laughing with his female passenger in the most natural way.  Moments later, just around the first blind curve on Picton Road, wreckage, carnage: a head-on fatal collision involving the same car and a family four-wheel drive.  I stopped immediately, dialled 000 and, until ambulances arrived, rendered assistance to the surviving children trapped in the back of the 4WD. 

In an instant, life changes.  How quickly, unexpectedly everything can be taken away  - by random accident, determined terrorist acts, by explosion, implosion. 

'The trajectory of a personal ontological determinism in which we place faith, consciously or not, is illusion.  In reality, any future is always a becoming and arrives by many possible paths.   

ecchymoses, from Ancient Greek ἐκχύμωσις (ekkhumōsis) from ἐκχέω (ekkheō, “I pour out”) from ἐκ (ek, “out”) + χέω (kheō, “I pour”), is a medical descriptor used to denote bleeding from the rupture of vessels.    In this composition, the conical tubing of the saxophone is envisioned as an inverted closed arterial system, in which rupture occurs through opening keys.  Pre-determined paths are a map to possible futures which at any moment may be disrupted, forcing tectonic change.'
- Rosalind Page  

Martin Kay Olfieg and Scotland Jop for saxophone quartet

Martin Kay is the tenor saxophonist in Continuum Sax. He writes for and performs in several ensembles, including experimental impro outfit Song Fwaa, quirkmeisters the Fantastic Terrific Munkle, and the Sonic Mayhem Orchestra He is in demand in Sydney's classical and jazz scenes, regularly performing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He teaches at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music. 

'Scotland Jop could equally have been Jotland Sop, Spotland cop, or Jotland Lop, playful malapropisms meant to illustrate the cheeky appropriation and twisting of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag, inspired by Air's incorporation of Ragtime into Chicago's 1970's experimental improvisation scene. It is a whirlwind ride of off-kilter rhythm and strange stride. 

'Olfieg is an epic waltz following the journey of a polar bear who, suddenly separated from Greenland, floated on a shard of ice to Iceland through mist and stark scenery, feasting on fish, eventually providing the authorities with a conundrum: ship him back or put him in a zoo? Or shoot it. The media christened the bear Olfeig, which translates as ‘that which should not be shot’. 
– Martin Kay

Robert Davidson - Brightest Threads (2010) for three alto saxophones and baritone saxophone

Robert Davidson is the founder, artistic director and bassist of Topology, a leading contemporary classical band. He studied composition with Terry Riley in the US and worked as a bassist in the Australian Opera, Sydney Symphony and Queensland Symphony before commencing an academic career at QUT and now UQ as a music lecturer. His work often focuses on the boundaries between language and music. His music has been commissioned by all of Australia’s professional orchestras, leading festivals and many leading soloists and ensembles including The Brodsky Quartet, The Paul Dresher Ensemble, The Southern Cross Soloists and many more.

'Brightest Threads' is in the form of a canon, the alto saxophones exactly imitating one another (the baritone saxophone plays an independent bass line). “This way of making music, with its balance of surprise and familiarity, has fascinated me since I was a child” comments Davidson, who has composed related works for viola, cello, guitar and clarinet. The structure of a canon is very constrained, creating a situation of great freedom. Stravinsky made a big point of this in his Poetics of Music: “My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self of the chains that shackle the spirit.” 

Damien Ricketson - Length and Breath 
for saxophone quartet [2009]

Damien Ricketson
Described by the Sydney Morning Herald as displaying “a reputation for intelligent and inventive music-making”, Damien Ricketson’s music is characterised by exotic sound-worlds and novel forms. Damien studied with renowned Dutch composer Louis Andriessen and attained a doctorate from the Sydney Conservatorium where he currently lectures in composition and contemporary music.

Damien is the Co Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring, a unique company dedicated to innovative new music, and through whom much of his music has been performed. Recent projects include Fractured Again, a multimedia production featuring musical instruments made of glass.

'"Length and Breath" is one of a number of recent works of mine to explore the open form in music. There is no one definitive version of 'Length and Breath', but rather a multitude of possible versions. Openness pervades a number of aspects of the work ranging from instrumentation to the way in which individual players interrelate to one another. 
'Although 'Length and Breath' is scored for saxophone quartet, the specific saxophones used remain unspecified. As such, any two performances of the work may sound drastically different. The title, 'Length and Breath', refers to the way in which time is measured through much of the work. Rather than having rhythm based on a common underlying beat, each performer measures time in relation to the length of their breath: the natural discrepancies between performers resulting in complex polymetric textures. Autonomy also exists within players each of whom are required to manipulate their finger and embouchure movements independently. 
'Length and Breath was commissioned by Continuum Sax with the assistance of the Australia Council for the Arts.' 
- Damien Ricketson.

In the performance of Length and Breath recorded here, Continuum Sax perform on alto and tenor saxophones. The extended solo in the first half for tenor saxophone is played by Martin Kay and the alto saxophone solo in the second half is performed by James Nightingale. 

Continuum Sax 

Continuum Sax are Australia's premier saxophone quartet, dedicated to exploring the intriguing, exciting and expressive world of the saxophone. Their concerts have been enjoyed by a wide range of audiences, including performances at the 2010 ISCM World New Music Days, the 2008 Restrung Festival (Brisbane), the 2005 Melbourne International Festival of Single Reeds, and the 2002 Australian Clarinet and Saxophone Conference (Brisbane). Continuum Sax has been featured on ABC Classic FM, for whom they have presented Sunday Live and performed for the Australia Day outdoor broadcasts from Hyde Park (2008 and 2009). 

Their repertoire has been developed through engagement with leading Australian and international composers. Rosalind Page, Margery Smith, Erik Griswold, Damien Ricketson, Brian Howard, Robert Davidson, Stuart Greenbaum, Paul Stanhope, Barry Cockcroft, and Matthew Hindson, amongst others, have contributed works that exploit the sonic dexterity and rhythmic fluency of the quartet. Continuum Sax has presented Australian premieres of compositions by Elena Firsova, Franco Donatoni, Salvatore Sciarrino, Gavin Bryars, Perry Goldstein, Rolf Gehlhaar and Jacob TV.

In addition to their performance schedule, the quartet is active in education, having performed and workshopped student compositions for MLC School's Australian Music Days, and presented composition and performance masterclasses for Newcastle University. In 2008 Continuum Sax recorded a large number of educational works for 

Continuum Sax has previously released two recordings, CONTINUUM (2001) and ICON (2005). 

In Review:

'György Ligeti's Six Bagatelles [were] played with that combination of unanimity and individuality by the players of Continuum Sax that is the hallmark of good chamber music.' – Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 2010. 

‘This is a group that plays as one—a really beautiful, integrated sonority...’ From Review of Continuum CD, 24 Hours Magazine (Oct. 2002). 

'Deft at melding sounds, with a score or without ...'Continuum Sax do improvisation very well ... the ensemble is equally impressive when playing scored works ... making Perry Goldstein's Motherless Child Variations, with its telling references to Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, so memorable.' –'Sydney Morning Herald, 24 October 2006. 

Engineering and Production by Jayson McBride between June and September of 2010.



to write a review

Andrew Smith

Length and Breath
Having stood at the forefront of Australian saxophone for over a decade ‘Length and Breath’ is the 3rd recording to be released by outstanding quartet Continuum Sax. Like their two previous releases this recording demonstrates the ensemble’s commitment to developing repertoire for saxophone quartet by leading Australian composers.
‘Ecchymoses’ by Rosalind Page is billed as a double quartet for saxophones and guns. The work takes its departure point form the personal experience of the composer arriving at an accident scene just after a head on collision. In fact the piece commences with a screeching of brakes and smashing of glass in the pre-recorded material. The notion of implosion, explosion and rupture form key inspirations for the work, with the title being an ancient Greek word that describes bleeding from the rupture of vessels. The early part of the work has the saxophone quartet playing a rather interesting chorale like figure, however I am constantly distracted from this line by what I can only describe as an 80s pop drum line in the pre-recorded material. This first section of the work does however flow quite well before a quick transition into a new section that is for the saxophones alone, with disjointed jazz inspired lines. After which the guns join in with the saxophone parts becoming ever frantic to culminate in an exploding finale.
The next two offerings on the recording are composed by the group’s tenor saxophonist Martin Kay. ‘Scotland Jop’ is a rather quirky play on the famous ragtime composer’s name and musical styling, in particular the composition ‘Maple Leaf Rag’. This wonderfully eccentric little composition is full of syncopation and elements of rhythmic complexity that amount to a cheeky and playful miniature. Whilst rhythm is a key element of the aforementioned work, Kay’s harmonic language is explored at length in ‘Olfieg’. An ever moving an evolving harmonic landscape is interspersed with flowing melodic lines, tone colour alterations and dynamic shifts in the form of what the composer describes as an ‘epic jazz waltz’.
‘Brightest Threads’ by Robert Davidson alters the standard instrumentation of the quartet to present a work for 3 alto saxophones and baritone. The composition is in the form of a canon and for the most part has the alto saxophones imitating one another whilst the baritone plays an independent bass line. The interlocking melodies of the work are rather expressive and are presented in intricate interlocking rhythms. The work contains numerous challenges for the performers in terms of intonation, tonal blending as well as rapid finger work.
In “Length and Breath’ by Damien Ricketson the composer explores a notion of openness that results in any particular rendition of the work being able to produce multiple possibilities. This is demonstrated through the composer allowing the instrumentation to be dictated by the ensemble and the notion of traditional beat based rhythm being replaced by a notion of time through a performers breath, thus creating natural discrepancies between the performers involved. The composition is punctuated by the use of harmonics and quartertones and contains a wonderful contrast between disjointed angular lines and lush spectral harmonies. The work features two prominent and well executed solos, the first performed by Martin Kay on tenor and the second by James Nightingale on alto. The unpredictable nature and varied palette on display in this work results in a startling original work for saxophone quartet.
This sound recording demonstrates Continuum’s ability to tackle a diverse and varied repertoire. It contains moments of wonderful refinement contrasted by earthy grunge filled lines. A soundscape that moves from the most traditional quartet languages through to a modernist soundworld. The recording can be purchased from and can be purchased for the bargain price of $7.50 for MP3 download. So if you want to listen to some new Australian music from a high quality ensemble there is no excuse not to purchase this work.