12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 240
Instrument: Tenor saxophone
Location: Orchestra room at Chief Sealth High School. Seattle, WA
*I recommend using headphones when listening to this piece in order to clearly hear the sustain in the piano strings.*
I had a limited amount of uninterrupted time before teaching this morning. In these situations I find that my artistic output can be very creative and fluid or at an absolute standstill. Fortunately this morning I found tremendous influence in the use of the Steinway baby grad that sits inside the orchestra room at Chief Sealth High School. Like just about every instrumentalist I know, I’m fascinated by the idea of continuous resonance, overtones and harmony possible by using the sustain pedal on a piano. I decided to tackle a small spectrum of this technique and improvise a piece that used selected sound environments, which when performed acoustically still have an amazing amount of resonance with just the saxophone and myself alone. The finger cycles used in this piece are very familiar to me and are often used when I perform because of the amazing resonance they create out of the instrument, and the natural harmony that results. By playing this into the piano and keeping the sustain pedal on, the sounds take on a new life and seem to overwhelm both instruments with a tremendous torrent of sound.
The core fingering used during this piece was as follows:
(Left Hand) B-A keys, Low Bb // (Right Hand) F-E-D keys, Side Bb, Low C
This fingering produces a very slight pitch differentiation that includes a chord cluster of two pitches only a semi-tone apart, most closely linked to a Concert G and Ab. The Ab is about a quarter step sharp and the G is so sharp is lies slightly below an Ab. Each of these tones are possible independently with this fingering, or in the two note grouping together. By opening and closing the Side C and Middle C keys, I created cycles of sound that explored this possibility by sliding between the notes, or allowing the two to collide together momentarily.
There are other more resonant sounds possible by playing into the piano in this fashion, such as playing the Low Bb in subtone, which dramatically fills the piano’s soundboard. However, in this improvisation I wanted to retain more of the core sound of the saxophone in the piano strings, and allow more subtle overtones to resonate in the strings alongside the pure tone of the horn.
The image “Two over Halley’s Comet” accompanying today’s post by Terence Koh (2003).