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Of Breath and Touch

(Bassoon and Piano).
Total duration ca. 10 minutes (1999)
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).
Commissioned in 1999 by bassoonist Carolyn Beck.
One movement work. 16 pages, 8.5" x 11".

Premiered in March 2000 in Los Angeles, CA.
by Carolyn Beck, bassoon
and Delores Stevens, piano.

Recorded in June 2001 in Los Angeles, CA.
by Carolyn Beck, bassoon and Delores Stevens, piano.

Audio clips of "Of Breath and Touch" performed by Carolyn Beck, bassoon and Delores Stevens, piano.


Also available as:

Of Air and Touch

(for Oboe and Piano).
Total duration ca. 10 minutes (2001)
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).
One movement work. 16 pages, 8.5" x 11".

 

Of Song and Touch

(for Euphonium and Piano).
Total duration ca. 10 minutes (2011)
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).
One movement work. 16 pages, 8.5" x 11".

 

Of Wind and Touch

(for Baritone Saxophone and Piano).
Total duration ca. 10 minutes (2006)
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).
One movement work. 16 pages, 8.5" x 11".

Audio clip of "Of Wind and Touch" performed by Brandon Masterman, baritone saxophone, and Henry Orazi, piano.

 

Beck and Call CD
This piece is featured on Carolyn Beck's 2005 CD,
Beck and Call, on Crystal Records CD 846. Click CD for more info.

"Carolyn Beck has been principal bassoonist with several orchestras and studio pickup bands, and is widely known as a champion of new music. From the selection listed above, she commissioned and/or premiered the works by Alex Shapiro, Moshe Zorman, and Don Chamberlain... [Beck's] attention to expressive detail pays dividends throughout: in the jazz-influenced lines of Previn’s 1999 Sonata (the notes mention Monk and Bird but I find Bill Evans a stronger influence, certainly in the piano-writing) and in Alex Shapiro’s short fantasy Of Breath and Touch. This last piece imaginatively couples a Middle-Eastern-style moto perpetuo from the keyboard with a melody of long-held notes from the bassoon. Following an introspective central section, it revisits the busy opening as a brief coda."

------
Fanfare Magazine, May/June 2006

"The disc opener [of Alex Shapiro's] "Of Breath and Touch" is delicate and nervous, like a fine race horse...".

------International Record Review, March 2006

"First we hear Alex Shapiro's "Of Breath and Touch." She uses essentially middle-eastern influences in melody, through the bassoon, and rhythm, through the piano. The effect of the ostinato role of the piano, if not the whole piece, is hypnotic. Beck states a somber melody in the beginning then again later in the piece, followed by long sustained passages in different registers that build and recede with intensity. All this is occurring while the piano asserts various harmonies below–sometimes insistently, sometimes agitated, and sometimes as if in a state of delirium."

------American Record Guide, May/June 2006

Gramophone

""Of Breath and Touch" has Middle-Eastern influences, with bassoon chants, plaintive phrases and anxious activity above consoling piano ostinatos...Carolyn Beck explores the full extent of the instrument's character... on this extremely inviting disc."

-----The Gramophone, May 2006

 

"One new voice to emerge on this recording is West Coast composer Alex Shapiro, in "Of Breath and Touch." In the opening measures of the work you can hear the "town crier" high up in the minaret reporting on the events of the day. The work is somber in mood, at once angular and lyrical, with splashes of contrapuntal dialogue between the bassoon and piano. Although one would expect a work containing such vivid colors and multiple layers to be dense and overwhelming, Shapiro's writing is clear and idiomatic. Beck's playing is strong and sure throughout and the listener can hear a clear connection between composer and performer."

--------The Journal of the The National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, Summer 2007

     

View page one of the score to
Of Breath and Touch
for bassoon and piano

view score

Listen to audio clips of
Of Breath and Touch

for bassoon and piano

1. hear

 
2. hear
Watch!

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Listen to an audio clip of
Of Air and Touch
for oboe and piano
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Listen to an audio clip of
Of Wind and Touch
for baritone saxophone and piano

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Purchase any of these scores

Score and part available from
Activist Music for $25.00.

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At the time I began composing Of Breath and Touch, I happened to be listening to works by the French composers Ravel, Debussy and Satie as well as to traditional music from Egypt and Turkey. There are unexpected parallels in the types of minor scales used by each country's musicians, as well as between the disparate cultures' use of reed instruments. The bassoon is remarkably well suited for some of the long, floating melodies that are often heard in Middle Eastern music, usually played by wind instruments like the ney or the mizmar. Two years later, I chose to adapt this piece for oboe for similar reasons.

While I couldn't easily explore microtonality in a duet that strongly features the all-too-well tempered piano, I did reference the driving rhythms of some Middle Eastern music in a hypnotic and ostinatic piano part that's fun to play, and the double reed writing showcases the extraordinary range and tone of the instrument in the hands of a fine player. The result is a uniquely American piece that is informed by other cultures. The title refers to the nature of each instrument, as well as to a more sensual pair of pleasures.


 
 
 

Enjoy this video of bassoonist Ryan M. Hare and pianist Gerald Berthiaume performing OF BREATH AND TOUCH in February 2013, on a concert of Alex Shapiro's music during her vist as the resident composer for the Festival of Contemporary Art Music (FOCAM), at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington:

 

Of Breath and Touch, page 1 D  
Of Breath and Touch page one
Of Breath and Touch, page 8 D  
top S

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