Salvatore Sciarrino : La Bocca, i piedi, il suono

for 4 sax soliosts & 100 moving saxes

Xasax has played «La Bocca, i piedi, il suono» by Salvatore Sciarrino in :

25/03/2001 Amiens Museum

17/03/2002 Genève, Maison communale de Plainpalais, Festival Archipel

8/2/2003 Brest, Hôtel de Ville

17/11/2003 Musée d’Orsay, Festival d’Automne

24/8/2004 Royal Museum of Scotland (Festival Edimburgh)

25/11/2004 Grenoble MC2 (38èmes Rugissants)

2005 Köln (WDR3 Series)

11/2005 Clermont-Ferrand Festival Musiques Démesurées



Salvatore Sciarrino was born in Palermo in 1947, in his childhood, he was interested in the fine arts. Endowed with an early talent, he however choose music which he studied by himself, before following, since the age of twelve years, the teaching of Antonio Titone, then Turi Belfiore. In 1962, during the Third International Week of contemporary music of Palermo, his music was played for the first time. After his classic studies, he lived in Roma, then in Milano. Laureate of numerous prizes (IGNM and Taormina in 1971, Guido Monaco in 1972, Cassado, IGNM and Dallapiccola in 1974, Anno Discografico in 1979, Psacaropoulos in 1983, Premio Italia in 1984), he is director of the Teatro Communale of Bologna (1978-1980) and teaches in the academies of Milano, Perugia and Firenze. He lives in Città di Castello (Umbria).

"I set my music against the commonness of my life and of my person, he writes. And besides, so many artists stayed aside by dedicating themselves exclusively to their work ! Since I wanted exactly to appear among these, at a certain point of my existence, I made of isolation a choice of method, I abandoned the metropolis and preferred the shadow. To be self-taught, not to have been to the Academy, constitutes for me a beautiful merit. I also persued a career in spite of me, and I could supply a list of famous prizes, prestigious executions and interpreters, commissions to come."

Salvatore Sciarrino composed numerous works of scenic music (Morte a Venezia in 1991), vocal (Kindertotenlied in 1978, Aspern Suite in 1979, Canto degli specchi in 1981, Cantare con silencio in 1999), orchestral (Berceuse in 1967-68, Sonata da camera in 1971, Allegoria della notte in 1985), of chamber music (Arabesque in 1971, Dances in 1975, Codex purpureus in 1983), of soloist music(De la nuit in 1971, Tre notturni Brillanti in 1975, Ai limiti della notte in 1979, Let Me Die Before I Wake in 1982, Variatione su uno spazio ricurvo in 1990), operas (Luci miei traditrici, premiered in 1998, Macbeth in 2002) to which can be added operas libretti and numerous writings, among which the book Le Figure della musica, da Beethoven a oggi (1998). His works are published by Ricordi, Milano.

About «La  Bocca, i piedi, il  suono» ( 1997 )

Text by Salvatore Sciarrino

Imagine a kind of music able of reconciling opposite categories, such as space and height, light and darkness, walls and horizon, illusion and reality. The music begins and now the inside, where we're listening to it, changes to be the outside. Here we are, plunged in a dawn of sounds, calls and answers crossing, different though not really freed from night-dreams yet. What is sleep? What is wakeness ? Forms and stanzas asking riddles on the fate of human being. A square of soloists (four alto saxophones) are arranged around the public, but the voice of instruments is unrecognizable. A magic produced by unusual techniques, acoustic magic which appears in the limits of the silence and is transformed into space. Virtuosity thus ; in the noble acception. Not bravery, rather metamorphosis of one and the others, but all are not capable of reaching there, at least not immediately. Such is the objective which I propose to the interpreters.
Meanwhile, the sound events get in movement, they roll and swirl, we are at the center; they will eventually wind simultaneously in two opposite directions. We suddenly hear sound from away, in an outside dimension, sounds at first isolated which finally bath in a flow. It is a crowd of saxophones, a hundred and more, of any sizes (sopranos, altos, tenors and baritones). The wave threatens, then overflows slowly in space : the instrumentalists enter, go out and enter again, forming for the listener a continuous flow of feet, faces, mouths.

This work can be considered as an initiation to contemporary naturalism. Every performer indeed brings his own tiny sound, which has however a determining responsibility in the resulting effect of the whole group. Think of the wind variations caused by carrying the rustle of each of the tree leaves of the valley.
Extreme fascination of sounds-masses : clouds and flights of birds, rainy deluge stemming from uncountable keys of saxophone, pulsations, forest of calls, iridescent silence.

Anecdotally, "The mouth, the feet, the sound" was composed in 1997 and the back page had to be finished on a hospital bed because of an almost mortal accident. The work nevertheless made the reopening of the Theater of Chiaravalle, on the appointed day, whereas I returned to life.

One hundred (and more) "saxophonists in movement”
An attempt to bring closer listeners taken at the heart of the sound phenomenon and moving interpreters.

Pierre-Stéphane Meugé, Xasax

Four (alto) saxophone soloists are placed "around" the public freely distributed in the nave of the Museum. After about ten minutes of music played by the quartet, 150 saxophonists (distributed approximately in 30 sopranos, 75 altos, 30 tenors and 15 baritones) surround little by little the public place, getting involved between the listeners, walking very slowly, playing very softly*. They cross all the room in this way, then leave, but to return there still repeatedly, creating a ceaseless flow of saxophonists at the heart of the public throughout the last twenty minutes of the work.

Contrarily to the score of the soloists' quartet, which is noted with an extreme precision, the parts to be played by 150 saxophonists are really very simple and actually, can also be performed by very young musicians ; it is perfectly playable after one year or two of instrument practice. It does not even require to be able to read music. The point only consists in producing four very simple sound effects, to be always played pianissimo, according to a preestablished order, and thus to be known by memory (there is no score).

It is a unique experience, rich in emotions, in which the mass sound phenomenon acquires an unexpected strength considering the extremely tenuous dynamics of each player. The delicate and sophisticated music of Salvatore Sciarrino (which knows the saxophone very well) confers to the work an almost - hypnotic dimension, proposing to the public and the musicians to participate in this magnificent musical adventure. * The saxophonists in movement begin after approximately 15 minutes of music played by the soloists' quartet. They are at first out of sight from the public and they play so during about fifteen minutes. In the last third of the work, they cross repeatedly the public place while playing.

Sciarrino : La Bocca - Preparation

A work of this scale requires a long preparation from the participants, these being rarely used to play the extremely soft type of sounds the composer is asking for.
Furthermore, the participants have to play in twice : the first time out of sight of the public (this requires a wide place convenient to this kind of effect), then in a quiet and continuous wandering, bringing individually small fragments of sound message to the individual ears of every person of the public. That also requires a preparation to avoid a looping rise in the sound level.

Choice of the concert Hall :
No fixed seats
Specific inside (public/soloists) and outside (100 sax) spaces
Entrance and exit should be set in opposite places (with a possibility of getting from one to the other from outside)

Progress of the preparation:

1st intervention by XASAX (2 months before) :

a meeting with the professors, then work with test-groups of a few students (45 '). Groups of even level (Cycle 1, Cycle 3, professors). Initiation to the realization of the various sounds and effects, of extreme dynamics.

It would be best if the professors also attend a later working session.

2nd intervention : 1 month or 15 days before.
A) Work with small groups from 5 to 10 pupils (1 hour). Groups of even Level if possible. With professors?
B) Work with bigger groups (20 - 30) to study the drones and revise special sounds.

3rd intervention : «italian» rehearsal or «pre-generale» with movements, if possible in the concert Hall. (By ex. the day before or a few days before). Tutti.

4th intervention : dressed rehearsal with soloists on the day of the concert


  4 individual stages for the soloists, 5 solid music stands (among which 1 for the coordinator), 5 individual lamps (or projectors)
  Lighting of the procession crossing the room (continuous flow of 100 sax)

Supervision of the participants (especially children):

    On the day of the concert : 3 to 6 persons to supervise the children before, during the rehearsal, between rehearsal and concert, during and after the concert.
    1 snack between dress rehearsal and concert

Salvatore Sciarrino's piece : La bocca, i piedi, il suono for 4 soloist saxophones (AAAA) and 100 saxophones in movement, was one of key projects of XASAX, who played it near 10 times throughout the world, in ceaselessly different places, training thousands of saxophonists to special techniques and particular attitudes required by the piece. An "adventure" which arouses varied reactions, but never indifference. Here in Royal Museum of Edinburgh, during the Festival 2004.

Press Critics

La Bocca ...