I had the idea to compose an antiphonal sonata after visiting an old friend whom I hadnʼt seen in years; he is deeply religious, and we met at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon to sing Lauds together with the monks.
Antiphony as we know it (two parts taking turns, as in psalm singing) is only one of its aspects: the Greeks used “antiphona” to mean the interval of (interchangeably) a unison or octave, which may have come from the idea of men and women (naturally an octave apart) singing together.
I devised a system by which the range of the saxophone could be mapped onto the range of the harp (using low D-flat through high G-sharp as its range) in a symmetrical fashion such that the saxophone range is spread out into the wider range of the harp. Sometimes notes map onto one another at the unison (the E-F of the opening trill), sometimes in octaves (the harp notes at the beginning of II), and sometimes in double octaves (the penultimate figure in IV, where both instruments span their lowest to highest notes). Most of the mapping, though, entails one pitch getting assigned to a different pair pitch in the other instrument—this accounts for the variation in harmony that is heard throughout the piece.
I do also explore the idea of conventional antiphony, where the instruments take turns and answer one another, and also “antipathy,” where there is counterpoint of texture or musical type. Antipathy is used here because the harp is one of the worldʼs oldest and the saxophone one of its
(now standard) newest instruments. Something of the old and new exists in spirit in this piece, as well, stemming from that new encounter in the monastery with my old friend.