12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 86
Instrument: Tenor saxophone
Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)
This morning I worked on an exercise using subdivisions with note groupings of 6, 5, and 4. A pair of sixteenth note triplets can be subdivided within the space of two eighth notes–as can 4 sixteenth notes subdivide within the space of 2 eighth notes. However, a 5 note grouping cannot equally subdivide within the space of two eighth notes. When I work on exercises that use a 5 note grouping over the space of 1 beat, I practice playing this phrase in time by simply using my ears. However, today I sat down and tried to find some broader pattern within a 5 note grouping (and other prime numbers) that would allow me to practice it more efficiently, or at best, to understand this mathematical relationship more concretely in a musical context. I had limited results, but it did inspire me to record a piece today that uses the mystical groupings of prime numbers.
I decided to explore groupings with a number of notes using the following prime numbers: 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19. I created a scale with a total of nine pitches, which in ascending order were: (Db, D, E, F, Gb, G, A, Bb, B). For pitches above the number nine nine, I simply kept going up the scale using the same order of pitches and assigning each new number accordingly. For the prime number 3, I played the third, second, and first note of the scale in repetition. For the number 5, I played the fifth, fourth, third, second, then first degrees. This pattern was followed up to the 19th scale degree, which again was played down to the first.
Since I omitted the prime number 2, I decided to find ways to incorporate this integer. Mid way through the piece I began placing 2 groupings together, with the following pattern: 3/7 // 5/11 // 7/13 // 11/17 // 13/19. At all other points in the piece I played the note grouping in sequence: 3, 5, 7, 11, etc. To break up the improvisation, I used a harmonic gesture that used 2 multiphonic chords in alternation. I would play these two chords for an indeterminate length, then pause and repeat for a total of 4 times. I then returned at the end of the piece to play this gesture for the 2nd time.
The painting “Brooklyn Bridge” accompanying today’s post by Joseph Stella (1917-18)