Not Cool for tenor sax duet and fixed media (2009)

When I was asked to write a short piece (between 1 and 100 seconds) for two saxophones and pre-recorded audio, I had no choice but to turn to the 1980s for help. I played around with various iconic tenor sax licks found in my favorite pop bands of the period that used saxes (Huey Lewis and the News, INXS, etc.) and started distorting them and burying them until I obsessed on the lick you are about to hear. I don’t want to tell you what song it comes from, I would rather you simply listen and, if you are of a certain generation, pick it out for yourself. This work is fourth in a series of similar works of mine that abstract 1980s pop licks: Songs My Radio Taught Me, for solo marimba, came first. Next came Ludwig Van Halen for digital audio. Passacaglia Variations (are made of this) for two cellos was next, now this one. I shudder to think what the fifth piece could be.

Special thanks to Freesound user dobrodie for the “valve radio” sample pack used in the audio track. Keep the open source sonic love alive at

Recorded by the Ant’s Elbow Duo (Michael Straus and Griffin Campbell)

Download the score: Not Cool