Nicolas Lira's blog

"Buena" - Morphine

So far I have featured the saxophone in jazz and classical settings; however, in the U.S.A., many people know of the saxophone as an instrument featured in rock and popular music styles. One prominant example is the band Morphine, from the 1990s. Here is a recording of their song "Buena." Morphine was a rock trio with saxophone (Dana Colley), bass (David Sandman), and drums (Jason Deupree). The trio's music blended aspects of jazz, blues, and rock, with singing by Sandman.

"'Round Midnight" - Chemie Ching

A friend of mine, Chemie Ching, created this week's video. Chemie and I studied together at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts with Taimur Sullivan, where she focused on playing the baritone saxophone. After completing her doctorate at Michigan State University, Chemie returned to Hong Kong. She leads a varied career playing many styles of music, and teaching saxophone.

"Witchi Tai To" - Jim Pepper

I got to know this tune from the drummer in New Morning, Anthony. Since he introduced me to "Witchi Tai To," the jazz trio has performed it several times.

"Megalovania" - arr. Connor Mikula

I have an exceptionally busy week, but I was not about to skip week 5 of this summer listening blog!

This week features a friend, Connor Mikula, and his project Maybe I'll Make My Own Quartet (MIMMOQ). Connor and I attended Michigan State University together, where we studied saxophone with Joe Lulloff. Connor joined "The President's Own" United States Marine Band in 2019, with whom he performs at ceremonies and celebrations throughout the Washington D.C. area, and on concert tours.

"Tread on the Trail" - Terry Riley

The minimalist composer and performer Terry Riley wrote this week's featured work, "Tread on the Trail." When you listen, the first thing you will notice is the use of a pedal tones, the sustained interval heard for the first four minutes. Gradually, this harmony gains life through rhythm, timbre (different saxophones emerging out of the texture), and, eventually, melodic ideas begin to take shape.

"Chinese Ancient Dances" - Chen Yi

The Chinese composer, and Guggenheim Fellow, Chen Yi, composed "Chinese Ancient Dances." Chen Yi came to the United States to study composition in the 1970s at Columbia University with Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. Growing up in Guangzhou, she played the violin and piano until the government split up her family for political reasons, sending some to labor camps, and forcing the others to disperse across the country. Today, Dr. Chen teaches composition at my alma mater, the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

"Jitterbug Waltz" - Anat Cohen & Fred Hersh

This week's video shows clarinetist Anat Cohen and pianist Fred Hersch's performance of the standard "Jitterbug Waltz," in 2016. Both Anat and Fred are living greats on their respective instruments. I have come back to their interpretation of this Fats Waller tune many times because of their undeniable chemistry, their smile-inducing playfulness, and their seamless shifts between the swing style, rubato, the straight waltz feel, and Waller's hallmark stride style.

"To Be Young, Gifted, and Black" - Nina Simone

My students have a listening assignment each week, drawing from the diverse history of music. For example, my piano students have listened to everything from renaissance era clavichord music, to Ben Folds, and Nico Muhly. Given continuing online lessons, I decided to take this activity online.

RSQ American Commissions

I realize I have not posted since starting my doctorate. I hope to start writing more often to expand this website. To begin, I've posted a number of blogs on American pieces written for the Rascher Saxophone Quartet. This research was part of a musicology course this fall.


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