The River Beneath Us

Program note
"The river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere—only the present exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future." Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Below the surface of the earth, invisible to human, slow underground rivers flow in some places. Usually those rivers have overground twins running parallel — with greater speed, more displacement and more noise.

In contemporary music there are not many composers who write for solo instruments — with the exception of the piano. Often the soloist is accompanied by a secondant in those works, in the form of percussion or electronics. That is understandable, because in a solo piece for only a melody instrument, you are more or less naked as a composer. You can’t hide behind instrumentation or harmony, because you have access to a limited palette in this a monologue by one player.

It is tempting to make a piece of virtuoso fireworks out of a solo. There are many examples of such music — work thriving on speed and mastery control of an instrument. In my own music I avoid this kind of virtuosity.

I’d rather look at the mystery that is audible beneath the surface of the notes: instead of extreme drama my bandwidth is much smaller. Often, my work is more like an object than a piece of music.

With The River Beneath Us I wanted to make music like
a slow flowing river — as if if you put your ear to the ground and you suddenly can hear the slow, hidden stream under the earth.
Stacks Image 8939
Score Sample
Stacks Image 8891
Stacks Image 8912
(Tenor) Saxophone
More info
Written for and dedicated to Tom Sanderman.
First performance
May 18, 2015 by Tom Sanderman at the Concertzaal, Tilburg.
Sheet music
Available for purchase after May 2016 from Deuss Music.