Zach Herchen, my longtime friend and collaborator, asked me for a piece that would make him want to die. This is what I gave him.
T.S. Eliot was twenty-one years old when he wrote Prufrock. Jerk. The world was his oyster, and he’s worried that as his career slips past, he won’t ever be understood. After a virtuosic opening movement, the saxophone soloist has the same problem, using his instrument and his voice to try to tell his story.
Zach had never acted before I wrote him this piece, and he still doesn’t much, but when he performs this piece he’s incredible. The intensity he brings to his saxophone playing takes over, and his skill as a performer guides him through all the difficult parts of acting a monologue: when to look at the audience, how to shape the rhythm in a piece of poetry, and what on earth to do with your hands.
Here’s a recording of Zachary Herchen’s performance of the work at the Stone: