Breathing Lessons for saxophone quartet is a seven movement, twenty minute composition written during the spring of 2002. It was created for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet through funds provided by Chamber Music America’s Commissioning Program, supported by The National Endowment for the Arts, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, and The Chamber Music America Commissioning Endowment Fund.
The inspiration for Breathing Lessons came from a book of the same name by Anne Tyler. Written in 1988 and published by Alfred A. Knopf, it had been a favorite of mine for many years. When asked to write a work for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, the idea of creating musical scenes and interludes based on a book I so admired seemed perfectly natural. Breathing Lessons begins with a scene followed by an interlude and then alternates the two. The scenes are extroverted depictions of events in the book while the interludes are introverted ruminations of poignant quotes. This seemed to me to depict the power of the book with its effervescent energy on the surface and a sad darkness underneath. The musical result is a seven movement journey through varied saxophone colors and techniques written to showcase the extraordinary technical and more importantly expressive elements of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet.