11/02/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 306)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 306

Date: 11/02/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


During today’s improvisation, I worked with two split-tone fingerings that each used a minor 7th interval.  The first of the two fingerings used tempered tuning with the concert pitches G# (mid register) and E (upper register).  The second used non-tempered tuning, with a concert G (quarter step sharp) in the middle register and a concert Eb in the upper register.  These were fingered as follows:

Fingering 1.  Pitches: G#/E

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

Fingering 2.  Pitches: G (quarter step high)/Eb

(Left Hand) 1-2 Octave // (Right Hand) 2-3

I was interested in the beautiful timbal qualities brought out in these two fingerings by cycling open and closed keys, and well as flicking open and then closed other keys.  This included the Side C, Side Bb, High F, as well as the Side F#.  The first example of the “flicking” open of a key takes place about :20 into the improvisation, when I began flicking open and closed the side F# key.  As the piece progressed I began gradually incorporating sound cycles into the soundscape as a more prominent feature.  I also incorporated a melody into the two chords, which became a theme I repeated a number of times throughout the improvisation.  The melody used the following pitches: Eb, D, B, Ab.  This melody was finished with a final pitch–G (quarter step high), which was also a split tone with a concert Eb in the upper register.  This final sound in the melody used Fingering 2, as acted as a bridge away from the single pitched melody back into the two split tone fingerings.


The image “Untitled” accompanying today’s post by Charline von Heyl (2003).

10/27/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 300)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 300

Date: 10/27/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


It rained this morning for the first time in weeks.  The drier weather was very unusual for our region this time of year, and it was a welcome sound hear the rain poring down the gutters.  I felt inspired to go immediately into my practice space to begin practicing and recording this morning.  In today’s improvisation I wanted to capture the welcome change in the weather and its union with my calm, unhurried morning.  This improvisation was recorded at a very low level of volume, and pivoted around a central Low B sound cycle and simple melodic gestures.

During this piece I used the Low B fingering with the octave key depressed.  I maintained a de-tuned B Major sound cycle by blowing into the horn with an overtone shape and trilling the Octave key continuously.  Melodically, the improvisation primarily used 4 pitches: Middle octave B, C#, D, and the upper octave A#.  In the sound cycle the low octave B is maintained along with elements of the major chord, creating an ever present pad beneath the 4 pitches, which I explored freely.  At two points in the improvisation, after playing the A# in the upper register I would take away the B major pad beneath, and bend between the A# and B#.  In the final few moments of the improvisation I released the octave key and began trilling the F key in my right hand, allowing the Low B fingering to resonate more freely for just a moment.

During this improvisation the fingerings used were as follows.  The Octave key should be trilled continuously at all times:

Middle octave B:

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

Middle octave C#:

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

Middle octave D:

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

Upper octave A#, as well as the A#/B# split tone.

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


The image “Untitled” accompanying today’s post by Hann Trier (1967).

10/26/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 299)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 299

Date: 10/26/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


This morning I learned that Howard Bowker, a father, grandfather, friend to many and joyous person to all passed away.  Howard was the father of my friend Mike Bowker, a close friend and fellow musician I grew up with through middle school and high school.  Howard was one of a few rare souls on this earth that could make a person feel so good, and so central every time I talked with him.  In middle school, when it seemed like every conversation with an adult was cursory, Howard would philosophize about the world with me.  

I’ve spent an amazing day with my wife today, just talking, cooking and driving around the island.  In reflecting on Howard’s passing I thought so much about this today.  There were so many people from my past that excerpted the tiniest bit of influence over me, and it’s often hard to notice it at all with some folks.  Of the memories I have of Howard, it was his unwavering love for his late wife Ann that always struck me the most.  Howard adored Ann, and it was extraordinary to see them together as a unit.  After she died, Howard kept a journal with a daily count numbering the days on this earth he had to spend without her.  I feel so thankful to have known Howard, and to have grown up with a role model that gave me happiness and humor in every conversation.  Of the subtle influences I absorbed growing up, I am so thankful today for Howard and Ann, who showed me what a union between two people could be.

This improvisation is an elegy for Howard Bowker.  


The image accompanying today’s post is Howard.  Rest in peace.

10/23/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 296)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 296

Date: 10/23/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


In this improvisation I worked on pulling aggressive sound textures out of the horn through singing into it with a fixed drone pitch beneath.  The main points of tighter, gritty oscillation occur a half step above the root in the lower register, as well as a half step below the root in the upper register.  I purposefully wanted an imbalanced approach during this improvisation.  I heard the quiet storm that opens the piece as a pre-cursor to the more overt sound aggression to come.  

During this piece I kept my singing range within the span of an octave.  I chose a range that was comfortable to sing, and a pitch that I was able to hold as static as possible while singing.  The range spanned the low register F to the mid register F, with the Low F being the drone pitch.  I avoided singing intervallically and instead snaked my way up and down the horn.  Despite the high amount of sound density in this piece I wanted to limit the spectrum of sounds to be introduced.  There is one bright chirp near the end of the piece, which was unintentional.  I avoided allowing the horn to begin squealing or squawking, and tried to sing with a more pure tone quality to see what sounds could be created with a more fundamental approach to air flow in and out of the horn. 

In the last 30 seconds of so of the improvisation, I held out the low F in unison with the fingered F pitch.  There was a specific vibration in my chest that was occurring, possibly due to my tired vocal chords, and while playing I could hear another F speaking a full octave below.  It entered the sound spectrum in fleeting moments that were difficult to hold on to.  


The image “Orange Sound, project” accompanying today’s post by Lauretta Cinciarelli (1999).