12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 89
Instrument: Tenor saxophone
Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)
My mind is wrapped around process in art today. I spent the morning painting, which is the first time I’ve done such a thing since I was a kid. What struck me immediately was not where to begin, but the daunting task of how to begin. I immediately considered how I approach my instrument. As a life-long student I must be constantly concerned with details and process in my music. For me creativity springs forth from these two areas.
I cut myself a small, rectangular piece of cedar and pulled out all the house paint, brushes, and scrapers I could find. I spent about three hours getting to know my tools and trying every technique that came to mind. After many hours I came upon a bit of success through mimicry. As in all the arts, mimicry is the greatest learning tool. I ended up with a painting that is clearly in the style of Mark Rothko, though of course at the very foundational level of ability.
I improvised this piece many hours after painting, and all the while my brain was coursing with the information I learned. I decided to record an improvisation that put my music nakedly but unabashedly in front of Rothko’s work. In his paintings I find clarity and complexity fused in extraordinary fashion. I’m deeply inspired by his work with the square as a subject. The shear space devoted to the shape itself takes me into the painting, forcing me to accept or deny it. To me, his work is unsettlingly frank and concretely steady. In my own improvisation I attempted to create these two distinct, but connected sections. I kept the melodic material simple, using primarily the b3, 2nd and 1. Of the two sections, the first centers around cyclic action, with split tones inside the melody that give it a wavering quality. I feel the second melody is the response to the first, as it’s far more declarative, its placement often anticipating a return to the first.
The image “Untitled No. 17” by Mark Rothko