Like many CU Boulder students, saxophonist Josh Sweeney shopped regularly at the Table Mesa King Soopers, site of the March 22 mass shooting. A sophomore majoring in music and mechanical engineering, Sweeney was fortunate that the shooting didn’t directly involve anyone in his immediate circle. Nonetheless, he lives in the neighborhood and felt a strong emotional impact. “It was difficult for the first few days," Sweeney recalled. "I remember not knowing what to feel, but it was mostly a mixture of sadness, fear and confusion.”
Healing through music
He needed to find a way to move forward, so Sweeney decided to use music to process his emotions. As it happens, in 2020 he'd written an arrangement for seven saxophones of Samuel Barber’s famously moving “Adagio for Strings.” But the CU Boulder saxophone studio didn’t have an opportunity to record it at the time. Sweeney decided the right moment had now arrived, but he needed to be extra creative to make the project happen. Adapting parts and borrowing instruments, he moved forward, recording on his own.
“‘Adagio for Strings’ is one of my all-time favorite pieces,” explained Sweeney. “I took the score I previously arranged and adapted the instrumentation so I could play it myself.
"I transposed the piece from its original key to be lower so I could take advantage of the hard-to-find low extension on the bass clarinet. To record the piece, I played along with a recording which I transposed to the correct key, and it went pretty smoothly from there. I did some splicing and editing where there were things I didn’t like. This was all done in one of the new Imig practice rooms, because the soundproofing there was very helpful.”
For the visual component of this video, Sweeney knew he needed to visit the site to gather video footage and still photography. “I filmed the video on Sunday when I visited the King Soopers for the first time," he said. "Visiting the site was very somber.
"I was, however, completely blown away by the number of flowers and other things people have brought over the past week. Seeing the crowd of people there really gave me a sense of community with my fellow Boulderites.”
In spite of the heavy emotional impact of this recording, Sweeney is glad to have completed it and looks forward to the future. “Now that I know projects like this are possible for me, I hope I can make more in the future—hopefully with a less somber tone.”