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Bebop Riddle V for soprano saxophone and alto saxophone (2024)

For soprano saxophone and alto saxophone [or seven other duo versions for: S. SAX. & Cl.; Fl. & Cl.*; Ob. & Cl.; Cl. & Cl.; Fl. & A. SAX.; Ob. & A. SAX.; Cl. & A. SAX.]

*Flute and Bb Clarinet version is transposed up a tritone.

Note: The flute and clarinet version is transposed up a tritone; thus, the ranges listed below do not apply to that one version.

SOPRANO SAXOPHONE in Bb (or flute, oboe, or clarinet in Bb)
B3 to G6
ALTO SAXOPHONE in Eb (or clarinet in Bb)
Db3 to D6
(There is only one Db3, which is the first note of the composition. It will have to be played up one octave if this part is played on a Bb clarinet, since the lowest note on a Bb clarinet is D3.)

First performance, of the 3’15” version for Soprano Saxophone and Alto Saxophone, performed by Chien-Kwan Lin and Anne Kunkle in Kilbourn Hall Eastman School of Music as part of the event titled, Celebrating Dean Jamal Rossi, in Rochester, NY, on May 3, 2024.

First performance, of the 3’15” version for Clarinet and Alto Saxophone, by Katie Jimoh, clarinet and Julian Velasco, alto saxophone as part of the opening ceremony of the exhibition, titled Jessica Stockholder: For Events, which took place at the University of Chicago, on an outdoor stage in the Quad, Chicago, IL, on April 1, 2024.

First performance, of the 3’15” version for Oboe and Clarinet, by Hsuan-Fong Chen, oboe and Yasmina Spiegelberg, clarinet and as part of the Chelsea Music Festival's "Connecting the Dots— 15th Season Opening Night," which took place at Genesis House, in the LED-wrapped stage of the Cellar in New York, NY, on June 21, 2024. Dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Melinda Lee Masur, Ken-David Masur, and The Chelsea Music Festival.

First performances of the 8-minute versions: TBD
Duration: 8 minutes (or 3’15”)

Reference audio recording is available for private listening. If you would like to review the recording please Contact Augusta Read Thomas.


World premiere of the 3’15” version performed by Chien-Kwan Lin and Anne Kunkle in Kilbourn Hall Eastman School of Music as part of the event titled, Celebrating Dean Jamal Rossi, in Rochester, NY, on May 3, 2024.

Program Note

Thomas has been composing a series of “Bebop Riddles” all of which are completely independent, unique works. Bebop Riddle I is for solo marimba. Bebop Riddle II is for cello (playing only pizzicato) and piano. Bebop Riddle IIb, for bassoon and piano, is a transformation of the cello version. Bebop Riddle IV is for reed quintet (for which Thomas has made several transcriptions for various wind quintet combinations.)

Thomas’ works always spark and catch fire from spontaneous improvisations. It is music always in the act of becoming. She has a vivid sense that the process of the creative journey (rather than a predictable fixed point of arrival) is the essence.

Thomas sings and dances when she composes and likes her music to be and to feel organic, self-propelled — as if we listeners are overhearing (capturing) a spontaneously embodied improvisation. She said, “For me, music and dance must be alive; they have to jump off the page and out of the instrument and body as if something big is at stake.”

Bebop Riddle V is by turns sprightly, spry, energetic, and spirited. Thomas crafted animated, traveling, flexible, versatile, changing, fluid, and buoyant sonic adventures, a bit like two hummingbirds darting around a field of wild flowers.

Iridescent, bold, and scintillating, the carefully sculpted and fashioned musical materials of Bebop Riddle V are agile and vivacious, and their flexibility allows pathways to braid harmonic, rhythmic, and contrapuntal elements that are constantly transformed — at times whimsical, jazzy and be-bop-like, layered, and reverberating, with lyrical resonance, pirouettes, fulcrum points, and vitality.

The two equally virtuosic parts which require highly characterized dynamics and articulations, and fast fingering changes, sparkle forth for 8 minutes, unfolding fourteen continuously developing phrases, each lasting between 15 seconds and 50 seconds. The music is organic and, at every level, concerned with transformations and connections. Poetically (not scientifically) speaking, this composition has a kind of fractal quality to it in that each part has similar flair, twirl, whirl, pivot, and character as the whole.


The two brown lines (in the center and slightly to the right) with the black squiggles coming out of them represent the 2 instruments. The black squiggles represent the bebop notes/riddles.


To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.