09/25/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 268)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 268

Date: 09/25/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)


In my practice sessions the past week I’ve done a lot of singing into the horn, exploring textures that span the gamut from quiet subtlety to near noise.  The improvisation today is part of my current cycle of exploration in the subtler side of this area, which included singing into the horn the pitches that naturally occur in a split tone fingering.  While normally playing a split-tone there is a major adjustment in embouchure and air flow that needs to take place to accurately balance both pitches.  During this improvisation I created that same shape, but would sing the split tone pitches an octave below.  This allows the top tones to continue to speak a bit, but in more of a muted fashion.  The physical feeling in my throat while doing this is incredibly unique.  It’s very challenging, and it literally felt as though I was singing every microcosm of sound that came out.  The air flow fights back from the horn tremendously, and the sound almost rolls around my throat and chest.  I suspect this is because the split-tone has two pitches played simultaneously, and in my singing I’m only sounding one pitch at a time.  This results in a fight between the single tones and chord tones.

While playing this piece I used the motion of my voice to move up and down between pitches, as in a very slow trill.  Because of the above described physical back-pressure, it’s very challenging to sing these purely in tune.  I decided to make my singing a bit more flexible in pitch, sometimes trying to sit dead-on and other times bending the note up and down to explore textures in the overall chordal sound.  In the last third or so of the improvisation I began a much faster trill with my voice, which was done with a new mouth shape where I moved my tongue up and down in my throat, which when sung out loud makes a phonetic sound like the letters"o-e-o" but at a very rapid speed.  The fingerings and pitches (in the tenor key of Bb) were as follows:

E-C# (each a quarter step flat)

(Right Hand) 1-2-3, Palm Eb // (Right Hand) 1-2, Low C. 

C# (quarter step flat)-D#

(Right Hand) 1-2-3, Palm Eb, Low Bb // (Right Hand) 1-2, Low C. 

D-E-F# tri-chord (each a quarter step flat)

(Right Hand) Fork F, 2-3, Low Bb // (Right Hand) 1, Low C.


The image “Untitled” accompanying today’s post by Seymour Rosofsky (1960-61).