The words we use to describe the sounds we hear are misleading and insufficient, just as the terms we use to describe the colors that constitute our visual perception. Words limit what we hear/see. Words limit how we perceive that which we can actually hear/see. When the “timbral” aspect of sound is not hastily approached through the bias of our verbal language, but through concrete knowledge of the actual physics of vision and of color, a new musical dimension can arise, a musical dimension that lives inside the microscopical dimension of miniscule gradations of acoustic energy, gradations that we perceive as the “color of sounds”.
In the piece [K] for tenor sax, I approached this musical dimension through a focus on the so-called “alternate fingerings” of the saxophone, seen as a means to unleash the enormously rich sonic potential of this instrument. The title of the piece is in fact a pictogram of a human hand, as in the ancient glyphs from which the letter K was derived.
The precious collaboration with Jonathan Chazan allowed to carry a meticulous work of study and classification of the sound of different fingerings (both through spectral analysis, both through the study of the mechanics of the saxophone); through this process, it was possible to devise a notational system based on the use of color as a means to graphically represent the energetical characteristics of sounds, in a chimerical effort to achieve clarity in a realm were logic thought shows its limits.
[K] is a remarkable piece and a process I feel lucky to share with Mateo. First, as a piece: its main materials are produced by progressive bisbigliando fingerings or spectral development of different notes by strategically closing and opening keys, which will affect the brightness or darkness of a sound, preferably without bending the pitch too much. It is not the first piece to use this material or idea, but It may be the first piece for saxophone which deliberately used spectral scales to such an extent and accuracy.
Through months of tests, playing long notes, and comparing and sorting them out in different charts, we produced different scales with different degrees of spectral variety, pitch accuracy, sound production events, playing facility and overall effectiveness throughout the piece. Finally, two scales were chosen, one by Mateo (as appears in the score), which had a clearer spectral pallet, and was easier to play, and a second one by me, having a more reduced spectral variety but with a more accurate scaling of colour change, almost no pitch bending, and much more challenging to play (as can be heard in the recordings).
As a process, It was a deep, long and arduous process of cultivation that allowed each of us to continue forward into new things; for Mateo, It was new pieces duo pieces for two saxophones, “JYI” and tenor saxophone and hi-hat “Irídea esencia”, and for me, It allowed the breakthrough I needed to assure myself that there is much to discover in this field and that I am able and should proceed in this direction to establish my next project, “SpecraSax”.