A Theoretical and Performance Analysis of Two Works for Saxophone Quartet: XAS by Iannis Xenakis and Rasch by Franco Donatoni
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The medium of saxophone quartet provides performers and theorists with a repertoire rife with analytic material. Two works of the late 20th century merit serious consideration as vehicles for analysis: XAƧ by Iannis Xenakis (1987) and Franco Donatoni’s Rasch for saxophone quartet (1990). These two pieces share complex compositional logics that inform the aesthetic choices made by each composer. Viewing Rasch and XAƧ through the lens of the composer and performer presents a multi-angled analysis that demonstrates a more complete representation of the music. It is my hope that by building upon existing research of the saxophone quartet and the music of these composers, the richness of academic material available will enhance the fields of both performance and music theory. This document will detail the selection of repertoire and its composers, available scholarly literature, and the contribution of the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet to saxophone chamber music. A theoretical analysis of XAƧ follows, detailing composer Iannis Xenakis’ creation and manipulation of “sieves” as harmonic and melodic material in his music. After that, the piece is presented from the point of view of the performer, with a concentration on overtones, altissimo, and texture. Next is a post-tonal analysis of Rasch, highlighting the method of composition that Franco Donatoni chooses, combining dodecaphonic language with Allen Forte’s set theory. Finally, an analysis of the performance considerations of Rasch emphasizes aspects of the piece related to dynamics, rhythm, and articulation as definitions of its formal divisions.