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Double Empty Empty (2005) for multiple saxophones (one player)

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Double Empty for multiple saxophones is an arrangement of my piece of the same title for multiple flutes. Double Empty, composed in 2005 for solo flute, is a reflection on my experiences with Zen Buddhism. The first movement, Morning-Dove Lovers, is heavily influence by shakuhachi, a meditation tool used in some sects of Zen. I used the word “tool”, as they don’t see shakuhachi as a musical instrument, but rather an aid for mind-quieting meditation. A common element in traditional shakuhachi literature is a swell from air to tone, to dirty tone, back to pure tone, and then to air again. All of the universe is said to exist in this single swell; birth, life, and death. And if one can be fully aware of it, one can become enlightened. Other shakuhachi influences in this movement are inspiration from nature, slightly programmatic themes, and scale patterns.

In second movement, KongKong, the flute serves more or less as accompaniment for a Zen inspired poem I wrote about the perfect silence of winter. The pseudo-ancient music that frames the movement was inspired by the Japanese scale pattern that emphasizes the descending perfect forth with chromatic upper neighbor tones on either pitch.

The last movement, Three, Two, One…No Hands Clapping, came from the famous Zen koan “What is the sound of one hand clapping.” The impossibility and lack of logical coherence inherent in the question intends to lift the meditator above logic to transcendence. This title, however, refers to the process through which a chaotic mind finds enlightenment. At three-hands-clapping, we are the initiators chaos and drama in our lives that is unnecessary, taking small problems and turning them into insurmountable obstacles. In this stage, we ultimately exhaust ourselves. At two-hands-clapping, we see things for how they are, but we are unsatisfied with the meaninglessness of it all. At one-hand-clapping, a true seed of silence and peace is planted within us and, if tended to, will inevitable grow to its potential. At no-hand-clapping, the silence of the mind is achieved. We cling to nothing. Life moves through our chests like a river, and no matter what troubles confront us, we meet them all with an uninterrupted smile of acquiescence.

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