Five Characters from David Copperfield (2003) 

Five short movements for unaccompanied saxophone.  This work utilizes a variety of extended techniques including multiphonics and tongue-slaps. This piece was written for Brian Utley and lasts about 12 minutes (or 15 with narrations).

I. Uriah Heep
II. Traddles
III. Emily
IV. Mr. Micawber
V. Steerforth  


This piece is available on both of the following CDs:


Watch some excerpts:


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Narration which can be used in performance between movements.  
This can be done either by the performer, or by a separate narrator.  If you wish to use this in performance, HERE is a large-print pdf.

Charles Dickens is known for creating some of the most memorable characters in all of English literature.  In his great novel “David Copperfield”, the main character learns about himself and all of humanity through his interactions with the good, bad, lonely, merciless, and faithful people that surround him.  This composition by Stephen Lias attempts to capture some of these characters and portray them through music.

The first is URIAH HEEP.  He pretends to be very humble and friendly, but underneath, he has a black heart.  He takes advantage of the trusting people around him, drawing them into his web of greed and infecting them like a slow cancer.  He is a snake, but still, he acts so very humble.

[play the first movement]

TRADDLES is clumsy, shy, and funny.  He is not very smart, but he has a heart of gold.  He is not handsome (his wiry hair always sticks straight up), but he is a true friend who can be trusted in every situation.  He is in love, but cannot afford to marry.  Still, he sees his fiancée once a week and when she is not there, he thinks of her and dances around his empty apartment.

[play the second movement]

EMILY is an orphan who spent her childhood by the sea, always dreaming of seeing the wider world and raising her status in life.  When she became a beautiful young woman, and was engaged to marry an honest fisherman, she was lured away by a handsome rich man from the city who promised to “make her a lady.”  After traveling together for a year, he grew tired of her and abandoned her in a foreign country.  Her spirit and reputation were broken, she was ashamed to return to her home.  Where will she find healing now that all her hopes have been destroyed?

[play the third movement]

MISTER MICAWBER has some money today, so he puts on his finest clothes and struts around town like a peacock, greeting acquaintances and buying little gifts for people.  He’s thinking of becoming a lawyer.   Suddenly a bill collector shows up, and Mister Micawber’s money is gone.  He is in despair!  He writes a suicide note and makes out a will.  He tells his wife to remarry and kisses his children goodbye.  An hour later, Mister Micawber has gotten a small loan, paid his bill, and washed his face.  He waves at passing carriages and buys an expensive dinner.  He’s thinking of becoming mayor.

[play the fourth movement]

STEERFORTH is friendly, wealthy, handsome, and smart.  He is generous and easy to like.  He is daring and adventurous. No one ever suspected that he was anything other than the best of men.  It was not hard for him gain the confidence of a simple fisherman’s family, or to win the affections of young Emily.  Only after they both disappeared did the full depth of his betrayal become clear.   Years later, on the night of a great storm, he tried to return in a small boat.  As the boat began to break apart on the rocks, the lonely fisherman leaped into the sea to save the passenger, no knowing who it was.

They both drowned that night, and when their bodies washed in to shore and the people saw that the honest young man had died trying to rescue the very man who had betrayed them, their grief was almost too much to bear.

[play the last movement]