10/17/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 290)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 290

Date: 10/17/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

Location: The choir room at South Whidbey High School.  Langley, WA (Whidbey Island)


This morning I worked on a single fingering action, pushing and pulling chord clusters into different regions of the horn.  These clusters might resonate in the lower half of the instrument as high tones, or resonate in the upper region as lower tones.  This is a process through which I always learn something new about my instrument.  When a key is pressed down and air is blown into the horn, the air flow naturally produces an amount of back pressure against the key pad.  The air essentially is trying to force its way out of the horn but is blocked by the pad.  In the past year or so I’ve noticed myself gradually paying more an more attention to how my mind reacts to the tiny physical subtleties of these slight vibrations in my fingers.  There are moments when a sound cluster rolls down the tube of the horn and I can feel it in my hands the entire way.  I’m still trying to make my own determinations as to how I react to this in the moment when the physical feel is not necessarily in the forefront of my mind.  At this point, I have begun to notice that sound shapes with a strong physical vibration presence in my hands tend to stick clearer in my mind when I go to execute them again.

The single fingering used in this improvisation was as follows:

(Left Hand) 1-2-3, Octave, Low B, Palm Eb only // (Right Hand) 2-3.  Trill open and closed the Palm Eb key only at various heights.  To pull out lower pitches, I also occasionally took away the octave key.

I opened and closed the Palm Eb key at different heights, allowing the air to interact with the rest of the horn and flow through it in many different ways.  As a chord shape would ascend in pitch, often there was a counter-sound with a downward movement.  In equal measure to the actual sound coming out of the horn, I focused my energy on the feeling of the keys against my fingers as the air tried to rise, fall, do both, or hold steady. 

I played at a lower dynamic level during this improvisation, but in the later half as I began playing more aggressively and louder, I began walking away from the microphone.  My aim here was to give a sense of the large size of this room.  Since the tiny subtleties of sound in the horn were being lost in the shear volume, I wanted the room itself to express this new energy.  I also wanted overall level of volume to be balanced throughout all the sections of the improvisation.


The image “Sunrise” accompanying today’s post by Otto Dix (1913).