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Life By The River (2019)


alto saxophone

(The score may be reinterpreted as an ensemble piece of free instrumentation)

Duration: 6'

After Liu Kang’s painting of the same title, this work is written as part of a collection of works by Singaporean composers for a programme titled SG Pictures at an Exhibition in homage to Mussorgsky. Curated by Robert Casteels in collaboration with Philharmonic Winds and the National Gallery of Singapore, the performances include an actual promenade through the gallery where the performers present these new works for the audiences around the original works of art by a range of Singaporean artists.

Andreas Marinello delivered the first performances on alto saxophone on 26th and 27th October 2019 at the National Gallery, where Liu Kang’s painting is housed. A reprise of the project was performed in March 2020.

Subsequently, the Singaporean saxophonist Samuel Phua, along with his colleagues at the Sibelius Academy, performed the work in three versions: solo saxophone, mixed ensemble and saxophone ensemble.


Life By The River was inspired Liu Kang's painting of the same title. The music adopts the perspective of the viewer: as the eye moves to look at different parts of the painting, the music score reflects spatially the kampong activities that the characters appear to be busy with. The performer is given a rather free way of navigating the music (without a prescribed order) to bring out the lively interaction of nature, structures, human and animals. As the appreciation of the art work varies with each viewer, the actual path of musical events in this piece varies with each performer or performance.




In this work, the performer may play each of the musical cells (that represent various parts of the painting) in any order, similar to how one’s eyes may glance upon the different parts of the painting – not necessarily in a particular order or direction. The performer is also free to perform in a manner that creates an imagination of how the characters may interact with one another, thus repeating any cells or fragments of cells. In a performance of the work, all the musical cells should ideally be performed. Each cell should be played in its entirety before fragmented to interact with other ideas.


In a case where more than one performer performs this work, such interaction is highly encouraged in an unmeasured way, without the need to coordinate the vertical aspects of harmony, and different voices may be given to different instruments in a practical way. Octave transpositions are possible, and extended techniques may be adapted to suit the instrumentation available. Many simultaneous perspectives of the work may exist as with how different people may interpret and make sense of the painting in their own ways.

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