Turbo Scramjet for saxophone quartet and wind ensemble (2016) - 6.5'
Commissioned by Donald Fabian and the Texas Saxophone Quartet
Premiere: February 2016
Texas A&M University-Commerce
Texas Saxophone Quartet, Soloists
Allan Goodwin, Conductor
Turbo Scramjet is named for an experimental engine developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A ramjet, sometimes referred to as a stovepipe jet, or an athodyd, is a form of jet engine using the engine's forward motion to compress incoming air. Ramjets therefore require forward motion through the air to produce thrust. A scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) is a variation of a ramjet distinguished by supersonic combustion. Projections for the top speed of a scramjet engine (without additional oxidizer input) vary between Mach 12 and Mach 24 (orbital velocity). Usable dynamic pressures lie in the range 20 to 200 kPa, where
where q is the dynamic pressure of the gas, p (rho) is the density of the gas, and v is the velocity of the gas.
It's not really like I know what any of that means, but I just thought Turbo Scramjet would be a great name for a piece. Scramjets are both fast and extremely unpredictable, and I wanted to incorporate these characteristics into the music. The entire piece is based on the five-note Lydian scale that is played throughout the canonic opening. The driving nature of the rhythm is relentless and, in many spots, unstable. The use of shifting meters as well as random syncopated rhythms makes it difficult to tap one's foot through the whole piece. As soon as there is any feeling of stability, the strain disintegrates with either a unison rest, or a quarter rest spaced differently through each voice.
After this opening, the middle section is more subdued and focuses on the calm experienced during a smooth flight. The call and response relationships throughout the ensemble are still free flowing, but are focused on counterpoint rather than rhythmic drive. Eventually, all parts remerge and the rhythmic drive returns. After the gradual build to the climax, the momentum relents until the final punch.
Turbo Scramjet began as a Saxophone Quartet commissioned by the Atlanta Saxophone Quartet. The Wind Ensemble version of Turbo Scramjet was commissioned by Scott A. Stewart and the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony. This particular version for featured quartet and wind ensemble was commissioned by Donald Fabian and the Texas Saxophone Quartet.