12/31/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 365)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 365

Date: 12/31/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


Today is the last day of the 12 Moons Project.  My morning began, as so many tend to do, working in my practice room at home.  The first few days and the last few days of the project began much the same.  My students are on Winter Break and so I’m afforded time off as well.  In the first few months of this year in particular, my days were so tightly packed that it became a daily fight to maintain my practice schedule, a calm and focused mind, and to include the necessary time to document.  It seems ironic to me now that I find myself ending the project with the luxury of time on my hands.  This morning I felt calm and relaxed.  I slept in for a hour longer than I had intended and practiced for a few hours before recording.  I searched for a specific improvisational model or fingering system during my practice session to use in today’s piece, but in the end a freer, more liberated improvisation took shape.  

During this improvisation I do stick to a few selected mutiphonic fingerings, but I began with no pre-thought concept aside from the opening fingering.  I maintained this mutliphonic or some close version of it throughout the piece.  This was as follows:

(Left Hand) 1-2-3, Octave, Low B // (Right Hand) 2-3

I trilled the F key in the right hand continuously during the improvisation.  There was an amazing range of sound with the above fingering, but I also worked between the upper register and the lower tones by taking away the octave key to dig further into its inner parts.  About half way into the improvisation I began using my voice as a tool to add more color to the sound spectrum.   I kept the trill tempo as static as possible, waiting until the last 1/3 or so of the improvisation to abruptly increase the tempo.  It was at this point that the volume and intensity is abruptly ratcheted up.  I also began intermittently putting down the Low Bb key, which added in a second multiphonic.  I created aggressive punctuations in the sound spectrum by flicking closed and open the Low C key in the right hand while exploring these two multiphonics.

This project has been an extraordinary journey for me, personally and artistically.  Thank you for listening, reading and supporting my music.  I am truly grateful to have shared it with you.


December 31st, 2013

The image accompanying today’s post by Hiroshi Yamazaki.

12/30/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 364)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 364

Date: 12/30/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


I rose early today and spent the morning with my family.  With the holidays drawing to a close, my brother was heading back out of town and those of us with the morning free got together to say goodbye.  Well before sunrise, and an hour before leaving the house, I went into my practice space to see if the morning could grant anything to me in artistic inspiration.  Traveling to my families house requires a total time commitment of about an hour and a half, this despite the fact that they live only about 15 miles away as the crow flies.  This is in no way a burden, as the long time required for travel is just a reality and now affords me time for different kinds of productivity.  I always have a book with me, a small horn or a few albums that need listening to.  This can make an hour trip seem like 10 minutes.  Reflecting on this during my brief practice session this morning, the theme of “malleable time” became my inspiration for today’s improvisation.  

During this piece I played continuous strains of melodic activity, all done with a quiet, but firmly pressed articulation against the reed.  I allowed the tones of the horn to speak, but never at full volume–just enough for them to “ping” with legato phrasing in the moment of articulation.  I approached the improvisation by making pairs of multiphonic fingerings, each pair selected at will, with their individual multiphonics repeated several times before moving onto the next.  I then articulated free-flowing melodic lines from the mid to upper register before settling on another repeated multiphonic pair.  Working with the theme of malleable time, I performed a longer, 10 minute improvisation that began with rapid single tonguing, and I attempted to gradually slow the piece down throughout the duration of the improvisation.  During this process I tried to explore in my own mind the duration of time that had passed, and to fold myself into this gradually diminishing world.  I was specifically interested to see if time passed more quickly for me during the faster portions or the slower portions.  Not to my surprise at all, I found that the slower portions seemed to move at an infinitely slower rate.


The image accompanying today’s post by Jose Damasceno.

12/29/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 363)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 363

Date: 12/29/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


I explored partial voice exchange and melodic shapes within multiphonics for today’s improvisation.  It was a beautiful, calm morning on this island.  The weather was mild, with light, misting rain and greenish hue about the forest.  To reflect this I found two chords that laid well together, and tried to create an atmosphere of calm in my practice space.  I approached the improvisation freely after having gained some control with the two fingerings.  

I was struck by the subtle beauty of the two chords.  Within their internal pitch structure was one example of voice exchange. Chord 1 used the two pitches F# and C.  When moving to Chord  2, the F# moves up to a cluster of the pitches A and B (each a quarter step flat).  The upper register C from Chord 1 moves up to become an upper register F# in Chord 2.  Even though the voices both move upward from Chord 1 to Chord 2, the common exchange of the F# from the mid to high register binds the two chords together.  These two shapes are written as follows:

Chord 1.  Pitches F# and C

(Left Hand) 1-2-3, Octave, Low B // (Right Hand) 1-2-3, Low C

Chord 2.  Pitches A, B (each a quarter step flat) and F# 

(Left Hand) 1-2, Octave, Low Bb // (Right Hand) 1-2-3, Low C

I also wanted to explore a combination of controlled and indeterminate elements during this improvisation.  I did so by choosing a few spots during the improvisation to simply lift a key to see what harmonic colors the horn itself could add.  I then incorporated these into the overall improvisation.  For example, at the 1:00 mark, I decide to open and close the side Bb key during the then established tempo.  This helped to transform the two simple chord shapes into more of a melodic statement.   Another example of this indeterminacy can be heard at 2:03 where the harmonic language abruptly shifts upward.  I thought this was an incredibly beautiful bit of unplanned material that truly added a color to the improvisation I would likely not have otherwise chosen.  Once it was played, I then briefly incorporated it into the chord cycles.

During this piece I used a medium-light reed and played at an extremely quiet volume.  Even though I recorded early this morning, for some reason there were more people driving out on the road than usual.  The comparative volume of a few cars driving by shows how quiet my dynamic level was.  


The image “Untitled” accompanying today’s post by Wade Guyton (2006).  The artist “typed the characters onto a sheet of paper. He made this painting by folding a piece of linen in half vertically and pulling it through an inkjet printer, so the two halves were created autonomously and successively. In this way, the artist relinquished control over smudges, streaks, blurs, overlaps, and alignment” (moma.org).

12/28/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 362)


12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 362

Date: 12/28/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


This morning I practiced for several hours before beginning the process of recording.  This was an intentional choice.  The 12 Moons project itself has, from day 1, become the center of my creative life each day this year.  I’ve made every effort to relieve myself of feeling any kind of burden with this daily task.  Each day I try and make the process of recording as relaxed as possible, taking advantage of my mood, physical location, and my practice session itself.  As the project is drawing to a close, I’ve specifically thought about the patterns that have emerged in my artistic process from day to day.  

More often than not I record during my practice session.  I’ve come to recognize a flat-out reality that once I’ve recorded, I feel a sense of artistic and personal accomplishment that often makes me loose focus on my instrument for the rest of my practice session.  Even if I urge myself to continue practicing, I often feel less reward at the end of the session, finding that the peak of my accomplishment was the recording itself.  This is of course diametrically opposed to the all important snails-pace of progress through focused, daily practice.  For this reason, in the last 1/3 or so of the project I’ve begun recording towards the end of my practice session.  Most days this works fine, but in others days, particularly when my artistic fluidity is slower than usual or if I feel pressured for time, this can lead to a heavy stress load, and often take much longer than usual.  However, even in these situations, at the end the day I feel fulfilled knowing that I’ve devoted even more time to the horn.  Today was one of the days when my artistic process moved slower than it general does.  It took time, but the piece eventually came.  

During today’s improvisation I used 2 fingerings and sang into the horn using upward pitch bends.  The improvisation was centered around a Concert Db fundamental, with the second fingering moving the piece into moments with an Ab fundamental.  I used continuous loops of the gesture as well as silence, soft and abrupt cut-offs.  I initially decided to use a single fingering, but during the mid point of the improvisation I felt the piece needed stronger contrast.  While singing in the upper side of a pitch bend I decided to move to a Low Bb fingering.  I chose this moment because this particular fingering would require a looser sub-tone embouchure in order to match the timbre of the Concert Db.   These fingerings were as follows:

Concert Db fundamental:

(Left Hand) 1-2-3, Low Bb // (Right Hand) 1-2-3, Low Eb

Concert Ab fundamental:

(Left Hand) 1-2-3, Low Bb // (Right Hand) 1-2-3, Low C


The image “March 28, 1973"  accompanying today’s post by Charles Hagen (1973).

12/27/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 361)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 361

Date: 12/27/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


Caught between holidays, I have the week off from teaching until after the New Year.  I went to bed early last night and woke up around 5am ready to start the day.  I leisurely went about my tasks this morning, interspersing the day’s obligations with reading, working on album material and practicing.  This relaxed but productive atmosphere highly influenced today’s piece.  I decided to work with two themes in this improvisation: Constant Resonance and Air Flow Articulation.

The term Constant Resonance comes directly from the 12 Moons project itself.  My wife and I recently discussed my use of the phrase as something that appeared fairly often early on in the project.  This is an evolving term for me, and in many ways is just an ever-present focal point in my playing.  I view Constant Resonance as a focus more on liquid, undulating tone textures as the main source for an improvisation, versus rhythm or melody, or harmony.  I worked to incorporate this theme with the physical technique of using my Air Flow as an articulation source verses my tongue.  During this improvisation I used a single fingering, and relied on the tongue movement inside my mouth, mouth shapes and air flow to explore pushing a pulling tones out of the horn.  

The fingering used today was as follows:

Multiphonic fingering with the following primary tones: F# (quarter step flat) G (quarter step sharp) and C#.  Many other pitches in the upper register emerged during the improvisation as well.

(Left Hand) 1-2-3, Low Bb, Octave // (Right Hand) 2-3


The image “El Vendedor de Alcatraces” accompanying today’s post by Diego Rivera.