12/12/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 346)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 346

Date: 12/12/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


My improvisation today is inspired by the solo techniques of drummer Chris Icasiano.  Chris is my longtime musical partner, and I’ve spent countless hours and many years now listening to his playing in rehearsals, shows, albums, and performances.  In the past couple of years Chris has started performing solo drum improvisations more and more, and I’ve really come to be particularly inspired by his solo brush techniques.  There are of course many, many ways Chris approaches improvisation, but today I decided to hone in a few of the selected techniques I hear him explore very often with brushes.  These include: 

1.  Sections of spacious, extended phrases followed by interruptions of much denser material.  

2.  The omission of elements of his instrument with later inclusion.  For example, in a 10 minute piece Chris will often play only on the snare drum for the first 3 minutes before allowing a second, much more jarring texture, such as a symbol, to enter.  Chris talks about this quite a bit with me as “orchestrating” the drums.

3.  Abrupt dynamic changes, such as rolling quietly on a symbol, followed by a much louder hit on a different symbol.  

4.  Extreme texture differences.  This could easily be lumped into the concept of “orchestration” from number 2 or “omission of elements” from number 3.  However, the extreme texture I specifically admire is his use of more traditional tools, such as the drums heads and symbols, followed by less traditional tools such as swiping at a symbol with the end of his stick, or clicking and clacking on the rims of the drum, all this while often incorporating his “traditional” techniques inside his broader phrasing.

5.  Long-form development of a broader theme.  Chris is very good at structuring a lengthy piece of music while maintaing his original idea sets.  

During this improvisation I tried my best to interpret an improvisation in Chris’ solo style.  I began with lengthier phrasing, followed by abrupt shifts into quicker, denser material.  I used my air along with very specific fingerings to try and sound like a set of brushes interacting with a snare drum.  I used two multiphonic fingerings, one with a wetter sound, akin to Chris rolling on the symbol with mallets, and another with a dryer sound, as when he strikes a symbol at medium volume with  mallets.  Using the themes of “omission” and “orchestration” I waited until the end of the improvisation to begin incorporating pointillist clicks and swipes.  


The image “Axionometric Construction” accompanying today’s post by Gustav Klutis (1921).