Facing Death

Composer: Louis Andriessen
Saxophone quartet (SATB) transcription of the original version for string quartet

In 1989 I was teaching in Buffalo and Miles Davis’ Autobiography was published. While reading it, I immediately knew what the subject of my new work for the Kronos Quartet woud be based upon: early be-bop licks, and especially the work of Charlie Parker. I wanted to do the impossible: be-bop is not at all idiomatic for string instruments but it had been an important influence on my musical development when I was young. I decided to do something with this music from my youth.

Basically, the essence of Charlie Parker’s playing was the extremely high tempo. Parker needed speed to express musically what he felt: little time was left for him. This is the principle meaning of the title of the work.

In the beginning of Facing Death, I literally quote fragments of Charlie Parker improvisations. I also quote an original melody: Orinthology. The 7th and 8th bars of Orinthology became an important motif in the piece. The whole composition is an extended development of this motif in Parker’s fast tempo. - L.Andriessen


Quasar performed the North-American premiere of the saxophone version of Facing Death in Montreal in 2012.