Book of the Dead

From Wind Repertory Project
Roy Magnuson

Roy Magnuson

Subtitle: Concerto for Soprano Saxophone, Winds, and Percussion

General Info

Year: 2012
Duration: c. 26:45
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Roy D. Magnuson
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


1. All the evil upon me has been removed
2. Guarding against the loss of heart
3. Protecting against being devoured by servants of Osiris
4. The weighing of the heart


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Solo Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Djembe
  • Glockenspiel
  • Hand Bells
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tom-Tom
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The Book of the Dead depicts the path of a soul traveling the Egyptian afterlife. Each movement represents one of the "spells" contained within the ancient Book of the Dead:

- “All the evil upon me has been removed” represents the cleansing power of death.
- “Guarding against the loss of heart” captures the struggle to maintain self-identity amongst the confusion and terror of the afterlife.
- “Protecting against being devoured by servants of Osiris” represents the physical manifestation of terror and struggle.
- “The Weighing of the Heart” is the final judgment. Was the life lived worthy of eternal rest and comfort?

The narrative structure of the piece follows this closely and can be heard as somewhat programmatic: the saxophonist is the lost soul, struggling to overcome the forces that seek to devour, dement and consume.

As a young composer, the idea of being overwhelmed by the constant inundation of sound, and by the pressures of being a profession, is quite terrifying. What does it mean to me? This piece, in a big way, is about that. "Guarding against the loss of heart" is a collection of quotations (there are dozens of quotations in movement two alone – from both the classical and "pop" traditions – see if you can identify them all!) and is representative of this very thing. I imagine myself as the lost soul stepping into the new, terrifying world, being pulled at in each direction by forces (in this case, musical quotations), trying to sway me from my path. The aggregate is chaotic, confusing, quirky, disturbing. It is hard to keep focus and direction.

Moonlight Sonata continually returns across all four movement at moments of repose. It serves to unify the entire composition, while also giving the soloist a place of solace and rest. One of my earliest musical memories is of this piece. To me it is music and emotion at a very fundamental level and still is a place of comfort and stability in my life.

- Program Note by composer



State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer