The Force for Good for tenor saxophone, percussion, electric guitar and piano (2020)

Duration c. 18-19 minutes Comissioned by The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University, Hypercube Premiered by Hypercube, February 22, 2022, Short North Stage, Columbus, Ohio.
Program Notes

“I know that there are bad forces, forces that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force which is truly for good.”

John Coltrane

 The Force for Good is a set of variations for quartet of saxophone, percussion, electric guitar and piano, based on the well-known chord progression from John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. The work begins with the ensemble playing a series of expanding rhythmic patterns as a sort of “drum circle,” out of which a modified version of Coltrane’s progression gradually takes root. The succeeding variations that form the core of the work are organized into sets of variations, each beginning with a given member of the ensemble featured as soloist, followed by subsequent variations featuring the ensemble in duo, trio or tutti configurations.

The Force for Good was composed during a volatile time, begun in summer of 2019 and completed one year later in the midst of authoritarian impulse, a global pandemic, and a surge of protests associated with police brutality and systemic racism. Though not initially conceived as a political work, the events of spring and summer 2020 began to seep into the latter half of the work in ways both general and specific, most explicitly in the “piano solo” variation toward the center of the piece, which features the name of George Floyd, murdered by the Minneapolis police in May of that year, referenced by two sharp, aggressive chords that repeatedly disturb the music’s otherwise stable surface. The title was added after the work’s completion at year’s end as a gesture of hope, signifying The Force for Good both as a celebration of the music of John Coltrane and as an expression of his conviction that the creative act constitutes the most powerful defense against destruction.

The Force for Good was composed for the ensemble Hypercube, with generous support from the Barlow Foundation.