On 10 November the Nexas Quartet premiere Carl Vine’s Sawtooth for saxophone quartet at The Neilson, Pier 2/3, Sydney. Sawtooth was commissioned by Nexas Quartet with the generous support of Carmen Jarrett and Kathie & Reg Grinberg. It is Vine’s first work for the saxophone family.

The title is taken from the ‘sawtooth’ waveform produced by the instrument, which informs various aspects of the piece. The shape is that of a gentle undulation is one direction, and a sharp, acute one in the other – “one that can cut steel”, as Vine puts it. “The sound is at once rough and smooth”, he notes, “and I wanted to dig into both ends of that tactile spectrum, from smooth subtlety through to gruff impactful energy.”

The 10-minute piece opens accordingly with an ebbing, undulating figure, before more dynamic melodic shapes begin to emerge from the homophonic writing, and the texture grows more complex; the four instruments come back together for a jagged, percussive sequence in 7/8. As it continues, the piece takes the rough with the smooth in alternating sections of spiky, dancelike material with cantabile solos for each instrument, starting with baritone saxophone.

On 10 March 2024 Nexas Quartet give a further performance of Sawtooth at the Orange Chamber Music Festival in New South Wales at restaurant TONIC, as part of an imaginative pairing of music and food from chef Tony Worland.

The autumn also saw another chamber premiere from Vine – his Gothic Fantasy for piano, which received its first performance from Janice Carissa on 10 September at the Wellspring Theatre, Kalamazoo, as part of the Gilmore Rising Stars series. Carissa discusses the 6-minute work – the first of several planned fantasias for piano – on WMUK here.