Its predominantly rhythmical character and its fast excerpts are closely related to the vivacity of the jackdaw, an European bird that gives its name to this piece

WAYNE SIEGEL (Los Angeles, USA, 1953) is a composer based in Denmark since 1974, where teaches electroacoustic music at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus. His large production includes all genres of music, from sound installations to orchestral works.

Read more about the composer on his website

Meaning and structure of JACKDAW

The score is published in Online Sheet Music but you should contact the composer to purchase the audio track.

Although you can find some information about this work in this page from the composer’s website, here is my comment as performer if it could help you.

JACKDAW is not a ‘experimental’ work of contemporary music but is written in the style of minimalist music from the 70’s of the 20th Century. Its main technical demands are a precise and light articulations in the treble and low registers, a good quality of sound and flexibility of the air column in the slow section and to play clearly the fast excerpts always with a solid beat (I will speak about it, later). Furthermore, pay attention because this piece is not easy to play with the electronic part.

The electronic part of JACKDAW contains a varied amount of sounds (electronic ones, from this clever bird and a kind of baritone saxophone ones) which are blended with the instrumental part and it often gives the feeling that you are playing with delays, loops and other effects.

JACKDAW can be divided into three sections according on its character (fast – slow – fast) played without interruption:

  • SECTION 1 (bars 1 to 199): The baritone saxophone part has several short different motifs, the ones in eights are articulated and the faster ones (in sixteenths in the treble register) are slur. These motifs are repeated or enlarged adding new notes in every repetition. Bars, rhythms and tones changes are frequent in this section.
  • SECTION 2 (bars 200 to 242): The baritone saxophone part has long notes at the very beginning, usually with crescendo and diminuendo which should integrate with the unison and chords of the electronic part. Do the same with the following quarters.
  • SECTION 3 (bars 243 to 377): The character of this part is quite similar to the first one, but with other motifs.

The continuous changes of character of the different motifs and their frequent repetitions make JACKDAW a very enjoyable work for the audience.

Watch the video:

Technical work

As I said above, JACKDAW is not a contemporary experimental work, but a minimalist one, with a very clear structure and different melodic and rhythmic motifs.

For me, the main difficulty of JACKDAW is the coordination with the audio, since the written rhythms of the saxophone part do not always coincide with the ones you can listen to in the audio (especially in the amalgam bars) and there are few references in the central section to play at the same time as the audio.

In order to solve the fast excerpts that do not match the audio metric, it was very useful for me to change the metrics and work them taking into account the accents that I heard. You can do it at the same time you work slowly these excerpts to be able to play them as clear as possible.

Another related technical question is the strength of the air column in order to play with flexibility the wide intervals (often, more than 2 octaves) in the fast sections and the slur changes of register in the slow part, without problems.

Pay special attention to the tonguing: it must be very light and with a very precise response (realize that the work is originally composed to be played by a bass clarinet).

After finishing the technical work of JACKDAW, I propose you to listen to the audio several times in order to coordinate the rhythm and the balance between the baritone saxophone and the electronics. Furthermore, listening to the audio will also help you to find the character and attitude you should play JACKDAW in concert.

Performance work

The Wayne Siegel’s comment after sending him the version of JACKDAW that was going to come out on my album BELIEVER made me so happy: “Bravo! I love the recording of Jackdaw: a virtuoso performance, brilliant, with lots of energy and a lot of swing. Well done, Joan! ”

To play JACKDAW in concert you first should well balance the volume of the electronics and your instrument (it should be well integrated with the audio: 50/50). If you do not play with amplification on your baritone saxophone, you should check the volume of the audio before playing and adapt your dynamics making sure that the overall sound result is really well balanced.

This work is basically rhythmic, which means that you should reinforce the metric very well through the natural accents in the first and third sections. In the central section keep the air column very well to give a good continuity to the phrases and even make regulators to reinforce the melodic and expressive character of this part.

To finish, once the technical skills of the work have been resolved and your interpretive idea is clear, you will see that this work works very well in concert.

Enjoy!