here is no water but only rock
for saxophone quartet
Commissioned by the Athens Saxophone Quartet
T. S. Eliot's masterwork, The Waste Land, is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential poems of the 20th century. In his notes on the poem, Eliot says that the first part of the fifth section of the poem (What The Thunder Said) employs three themes: "the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston's book), and the present decay of eastern Europe." Regardless of these deeper references, this section of the poem features some of Eliot's most striking and effective imagery. Beginning in the second stanza, at line 331, with the words "Here is no water but only rock," Eliot's imagery turns dry, suffocating, and desperate. His use of repetition over the next 27 lines drives home the feeling of a person lost in a desert of rock, searching endlessly for water, but finding none. In the quartet here is no water but only rock, the music is similarly arid – especially in the opening section – and searches futilely for stability and comfort. It achieves a sort of stability and trajectory in the end, through appropriating the rhythms and energy of rock music, but mixed with a grating, dissonant, aggressive sense of harmony, which offers no succor or release. The closest the music comes to water is in the tenor saxophone solo at rehearsal letter J – which references the "God-Music" section of Crumb's Black Angels – but the search ends once more in rock.
Score and Recording
Click the PDF icon below for a viewable score in PDF format. For a printable score and other performance materials, including the necessary software, please contact me.