Convergencias (Convergences) is a two-movement rhapsody for tenor saxophone and mixed ensemble completed in the spring of 2017. The project initiated almost 3 years ago, when saxophone professor Joseph Lulloff attended a performance of my Texeando for alto saxophone and piano during my first semester at MSU. After the concert he approached me for a copy of the piece, which he had liked and wanted to perform. We got to talk a few days later and the concept for a new work for him slowly developed.
My first decision about this work came after reflecting on professor Lulloff’s extraordinary abilities as a performer. What interested me the most was his comfort in performing both concert and jazz music, which strongly resonated with my artistic goals as a composer. I have always been interested in writing concert music that reflects my own cultural heritage, and I aim to find ways to make different traditions, whether it is folk, classical, or Jazz, coexist and integrate with one another as one coherent and organic musical proposition.
In this light, I soon knew that Convergencias was going to be a concert work that would integrate jazz elements and other non-Classical music that I know and love. This decision led me to choose two tunes I had previously composed as the primary source of material. Each tune would give birth to a movement.
In En presencia de lo bello (In the Presence of Beauty), a lyrical first movement, the music builds slowly around a melody inspired by the Cuban genres son and canción (song). As the polychords develop from the colorful, percussive timbre and the airy strings, the solo saxophone rises and falls through unpredictable intervals of seconds and thirds, almost sounding improvisational, yet precise in execution and development. Like many folk rhapsodies, the 2-movement structure starts with something calm and soulful, as if clearing a stage in the morning in anticipation for a new night of musical venture.
The rhythmic second movement, Convergencias (Convergences), builds loosely from a much more jazzy tune I wrote in Havana back in 2004. I submitted the tune to a jazz composition competition and was rejected because the jury considered that what I had composed was not jazz! However, I always liked it and hoped I could do more with it at some point in my career. Two prominent harmonic progressions create the first part of the movement, which ends with the entrance of a cadenza. The soprano line of the first progression gave birth to two variants of a tetrachod, which is arranged in scalar fashion unfolding a pattern of semitone-wholetone-semitone, and wholetone-semitone- wholetone (B-C-D-Eb, C-D-Eb-F). Although this tetrachod is pervasive throughout the movement, it comes to the surface of the music in the coda. For the second part of the movement, I decided to quote the beginning of the tune as it was originally written, followed by a jazz improvisation by the soloist. This is an intentional moment for the convergence of the “worlds” of concert and jazz music. It is almost as if in the midst of one musical context we would open a window to look outside, into another space, and there we would hear this “other” music that takes us to a different place and does not quite belong, although it is the foundation of all the music we have heard up to that point in the movement. A fast, energetic, and virtuosic final section sends us back to the realm of the right now – a celebration of the mixture of cultures on the concert stage.
Convergencias is an attempt to bring many of my musical interests together into one piece of music. In addition to the allusions to jazz, Cuban son and Latin American canción (especially Pablo Milanés and Ana Belén), elements of flamenco music, sounds reminiscent of early Debussy and late Bartok are also distinguishable. It is my hope that with all of those influences and cultural heritage embedded, the present work can be a unique and new musical convergence.
–Ivette Herryman Rodríguez
Dr. Casey Grev, tenor saxophone; Ivette Herryman Rodriguez, piano