03/02/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 61)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 61

Date: 03/02/2013
Instrument; Tenor saxophone
Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)


When I was in New York several years ago there was a small painting in the Museum of Modern Art. The artist’s name escapes my mind right now. His painting was composed mostly of whitish dead air space, with a washed-out orange and cream colored line down the center. The line went top to bottom as though it ran right off the canvas with no beginning and no end. I remember that on the placard description the creator had called this piece “a major breakthrough” in his work. It went on to say that this single line represented the first visual point of focus in the entire body of this painters work. At this early stage in my musical development, I remember being struck by this definition of “breakthrough,” that for this artist the most basic of shapes with the most basic usage could be so shattering for him as the creator. My improvisation today was inspired by this idea.

A point of interest for me lately is creating a musical statement that is direct as possible. The 12-tone melody is an established musical form and extremely common. A 12-tone melody is composed of all 12 chromatic pitches, each performed in turn with no repetition of a pitch until all 12 have been stated. With this simple concept lays a world of possibility for the great composers of this style, and many separate but related scales can be derived from the single parent or “prime” scale. My improvisation today uses only the prime scale–12 pitches performed with a pause afterward it is complete.

The 12 tone scale I improvised uses the following pitch order (in the tenor key): D, A, E, F#, C#, F, B, G#, C, Bb, D#, G. However, on some repetitions I also implement the use of overtones to create these pitches as well–they are also played in the same octave that the original statement places them in. To create the 12 notes, I used 5 fingerings with overtones built off the low octave pitches Bb, B, C, # and D. When I play this 12 tone row with overtones, each pitch then has a tone in the lowest octave that accompanies it. These lower tones do not follow a 12 tone shape.