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Sinistra for Brass Quintet

By Marko Bajzer

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Brass Quintet - Advanced
Composed by Marko Bajzer. 21st Century. Score, Set of Parts. 24 pages. Aquiline Publishing #9b. Published by Aquiline Publishing (S0.19015).

Item Number: S0.19015

When I was discussing with Benjamin Loyer, the commissioner of this piece, what kind of piece he wanted, he mentioned that he wanted something sinister to contrast the other pieces on his upcoming recital. The word sinister made me think of my high school Latin teacher, and how "left" in Latin was "sinistra," and that left-handedness was considered evil and undesirable (which is where the word "sinister" in English even comes from). After some research, I discovered that left and right often have a negative and positive connotation, respectively, in Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Basque, German, Dutch, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Finnish, Swedish, Hungarian, Polish, Estonian, Chinese, Korean, Hebrew, and Sanskrit, among others. Of course in English, “right” also means “correct,” and “left” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “lyft,” meaning “weak.” To have two left feet implies clumsiness, and a left-handed compliment is unflattering. Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Who is at the left hand of God? Judgement, that’s who! And in many parts of the world, the right hand is used for eating while the left hand is used for personal hygiene after defecation (regardless of handedness). Discovering this elicited sympathy for left handedness, and going back to my high school Latin class, I thought of how it must have felt to be outcasted, left out, as it were, from ancient Roman society due to being a lefty. This caused me to notice the double meaning of the word "left:" the opposite of right, and also to be stranded. It seemed ironic how LEFT handed people were LEFT out of society because of their LEFTness.This all being said, nowadays there are a disproportionate number of successful left-handed people. Five of the last seven US Presidents have been left handed, and the last time there hasn’t been a left handed Presidential candidate from a major political party was 1972. There is a disproportionate number of left handed people in symphony orchestras, and among college graduates, left handed people earn 10-15% more than their right handed counterparts. Perhaps the linguistic and cultural oppression of left- handed people by us righties has a tinge of jealousy.This piece captures the loneliness, the alleged sinisterness and clumsiness, as well as the ultimate triumph of left-handedness. Coincidentally, Ben is left handed.

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