At the time I began composing Of Breath and Touch, I happened to be listening to works by the French composers Ravel, Debussy and Satie as well as to traditional music from Egypt and Turkey. There are unexpected parallels in the types of minor scales used by each country's musicians, as well as between the disparate cultures' use of reed instruments. The bassoon is remarkably well suited for some of the long, floating melodies that are often heard in Middle Eastern music, usually played by wind instruments like the ney or the mizmar. Two years later, I chose to adapt this piece for oboe for similar reasons.
While I couldn't easily explore microtonality in a duet that strongly features the all-too-well tempered piano, I did reference the driving rhythms of some Middle Eastern music in a hypnotic and ostinatic piano part that's fun to play, and the double reed writing showcases the extraordinary range and tone of the instrument in the hands of a fine player. The result is a uniquely American piece that is informed by other cultures. The title refers to the nature of each instrument, as well as to a more sensual pair of pleasures.
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