Project Description

Alto Saxophone, Violoncello, and Piano. (2013) 9’30”

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(Maslanka Press)


Alto Saxophone

Out of This World was commissioned by Jason Kush and the Three Rivers New Music Consortium.
Consortium Members

The composition of Out of this World arose from my reading of the brief poem of the same name by the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. He describes his experience of communion in a Catholic Mass. He has the experience of the mystery, and of time stopping. For all the rationalism, cynicism, and violence of modern times, he says “I cannot disavow words like ‘thanksgiving’ or ‘host’ or ‘communion bread.’ They have an undying tremor and draw, like well water far down.” My music is a relatively brief but passionate statement from the heart. It has a storytelling quality similar in intent and feel to a Chopin Ballade.

Program Note

Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Out of this World,” is dedicated to
the memory of the Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz, who in his long life, experienced the devastation of Eastern Europe through two World Wars and Communist rule. In this poem, Heaney contemplates the enduring nature of sacred symbols:

  • Like everybody else I bowed my head
  • during the consecration of the bread and wine,
  • lifted my eyes to the raised host and chalice,
  • believed (whatever it means) that a change occurred.
  • I went to the altar rails and received the mystery
  • on my tongue, returned to my place, shut my eyes fast, made
  • an act of thanksgiving, opened my eyes, and felt
  • time start up again.
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . I cannot
  • disavow words like “thanksgiving” or “host”
  • or “communion bread.” They have an undying
  • tremor and draw, like well water far down.

This is not about being Catholic, but about sacred mystery embodied in symbols, powerful symbols such as the cross, im- ages of birth and death, mother, father – music. The experience is innocent in the sense of being without cynicism or irony, of being fully open and immediately present to the full power of the deep unknown.

Program note by David Maslanka