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The profile of Gala Flagello in a checkered dress with closed eyes turning away from the camera.

Sweet Nothings

Year Composed





Alto saxophone and piano

Program Notes

Sweet Nothings (2022) was commissioned by Connor O’Toole and a consortium of 17 saxophonists and explores the idiom “sweet nothings” through both lyricism and virtuosity. The first recorded use of this phrase occurred in 1876 by poet Edwin Coller in his “Black Sir Ralph: An Essex Legend,” published in Volume 28 of the London magazine Belgravia founded by novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Today, “sweet nothings” are defined as “words of affection exchanged by lovers,” but the more I contemplated the phrase itself, the more I noticed its inherent oxymoronic nature: How can something be both kind and cursory, meaningful but fleeting? Are sweet nothings just passing niceties, or can they stick with us (as this phrase has done for over 146 years)? Sweet Nothings begins in a world of nothings—repeated Cs, 0 in set theory—and creates somethings from there, examining this idiomatic phenomenon through texture and tempi shifts. Many thanks to Connor and the consortium for commissioning this work and for their support of new music for saxophone.

Additional Information

Commissioned by a consortium of saxophonists: Connor O'Toole (consortium director, University of Texas at Austin), Zach Arthur, Megan Elks, Joel Ferst (University of Texas at Austin), Denise Hedlund, Hannah Hickman (University of Hartford, The Hartt School), Matthew Koester (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Dr. Jeffrey Leung (Queen's University), Chad Lilley (University of Missouri-Kansas City), Timothy McAllister (University of Michigan), Stephen Page (University of Texas at Austin), James Pecsok, Bryan Polacek, Zach Stern, Chance Stine (United States Army Ceremonial Band), Joshua Thomas, Caleb Vang Dodson (University of Oklahoma), Matthew Younglove



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