Don Freund – Passages (1991)

Don Freund is a senior member of the composition faculty at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has composed pieces in all genres, including chamber music, orchestral music, and works for the stage. But besides this he has also had a profound impact on the profession through his teaching and advocacy. Indeed, two of his students have already been featured in this space.

“Passages” is scored for horn, alto saxophone, and Casio CZ synthesizer. It was commissioned by Island Moving Company, a Rhode-Island based dance ensemble that premiered it in Newport in the summer of 1991. Nevertheless it makes quite an effective concert piece without choreography. The title refers to passages in the development of an individual or society as a whole, but the individual movements maintain a degree of abstractness. The music exhibits the continuous inventiveness that distinguishes Freund’s style.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to performing the piece is obtaining and programming a CZ synthesizer. Casio produced the CZ series in the mid-1980s, and it was extremely popular due to its price point and features. While obtaining a working original CZ may not be that difficult, finding software to program it is also a challenge. To this point, nearly all of the several performances of the piece have featured the composer programming and playing his own CZ synthesizer. However, at least one performance substituted a computer-driven MIDI track playing the synthesizer. Other options might be an audio track with a click track or something like the relatively new VirtualCZ plugin that emulates a CZ on a contemporary computer. However, as of this writing the author is aware of no performance that has used either of these options.

The horn part is robust and satisfying. It covers the range from written B2 to B5 and presents challenges both technical and rhythmic. But the rhythmic patterns flow naturally, often in irregular patterns of twos and threes. The interplay with the saxophone varies throughout between unison and counterpoint, always playing to the strengths of each instrument.

The linked video is from the premiere performance with dancers. The original choreography adds a movement that is not part of the piece and involves only sounds made with the body. Sheet music is available from the composers website.

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