Leroy Medina 3/3/2019
David T. Little
Red Scare Sketchbook (2005)
For Baritone Saxophone and Percussion
Having no prior knowledge of who David Little is or what his music is like, I was immediately taken back by the gun-like bang from the bass drum as a first note. The bass drum continues to be the only voice present at the beginning, setting a tempo for the piece. The next voice that enters caught me by surprise because the baritone sax aggressively enters with multiphoinics. These overtone-filled multiphoincs act as the melody of the piece. Throughout the music, percussion is used to create different colors by mixing the timbres of metal instruments such as the triangle and symbols with the baritone sax overtones. Additionally, Little includes the bass drum in the background as a way to keep time, allowing the listener to follow the music more clearly.
The second movement is filled with extended techniques for both the baritone sax and percussion. First, the percussion begins the piece with, what sounds like, a typewriter. The typewriter begins at a brisk tempo with dotted sixteenth and sixteenth note rhythms. Then, the baritone sax enters with an extended technique called slap tonguing. This technique is used to create a popping sound with a hint of the pitch of the note the player may be fingering while executing this technique. The picture this moment first creates for me is of someone rushing around at work. More specifically, a journalist office full of fast typing employees. Little’s orchestration is much larger in this movement compared to the first. He uses a marimba, bass drum, a harmonica, and other metallic instrument that create different colors. However, Little continues to use the bass drum, serving its main purpose of keeping the time.
This work is what some listeners might call contemporary because of its lack of tonality. However, there are more connections to the past than one might think. Little incorporates different percussion instruments that are used in common western practices. For example, in the last movement of this work a marimba is used played with traditional techniques instead of a typewriter. Although slap tonguing is not a conventional technique of classical Western practices, there is a melody and a sense of tonality with the sounds that instrument was creating. As for the form, there is an ABA form in the second movement that is apparent. After the start of the slap tongue section or the A’ section, a new section is introduced with multiphonics making this the B’ section. Finally, the melody with the slap tonguing returns making this the A’ section.
All in all, even though David Little composes music that takes time to understand, there are hints of the past to keep you rooted to Western classical compositions.