The piece focuses on the essence of the spectral properties of the instrument, as expressed in different playing approaches, of different colores of tune. At its core, the piece revolves around a spectral modulation, which facilitates the transition between the different tones of the saxophone via places where the spectral content is shared by several plying approaches. To realize this Idea, we use a notation system that points graphicly and numerically to which tone approach should be utilized. This method, so as the numerical range, was conceived by a joint collaboration of trial and error, exploration, and spectral analysis of the saxophone in diverse playing approaches.
The live electronics is based on a tone-spectral analysis and recognition tool core, developed by Jean-Francois Charles. The software is activated by different pre-learned textures and playing approaches and recognizes them in live playing. The recognition allows real-time processing of the real-time video, whereas the final goal is to create a visual affect that incorporates with the live playing and expresses the fluctuations of the tone colors.
The composition is inspired by the Buddhist Idea of “life’s endless cycle of agony.” The musical materials are highly reduced and repetitive, lacking actual development, but each repetition shows a different facet, according to its spectral context area.
I was lucky to meet Gil via a composition contest I organised in 2017 for new pieces for saxophone quartets, which he won, and I got to play his piece L’apple du Vide with the Tel-Aviv saxophone quartet, which I was part of at the time. We tried to describe and define the yet unexplored areas of interest through our preliminary discussion, and we were somehow drawn to the vast void of the wind instruments world regarding spectral awareness of tone.
The saxophone is versatile and rich in its tone pallet, yet, little of it is done with awareness and organisation of this abundance, a bit like a toddler in a candy store. So inside this store, we started to put stuff in drawers and arrange by colours and took a trip. The outcome was a sort of very long etude – seven pains in which I juggle between different tone production techniques and positions, in goal to produce all these different tones qualities, maybe for the first time, in a premeditated way.
After two years of work, I feel we are only standing in the footsteps of the colossal mountain, full of potential, surprises, and treasures. When and if the summit will be reached is yet to be seen, but we keep on climbing together.
More information on this piece and on future plans by Gil:
The overall future goal of this project is to develop a method for composers and performers to indicate specific timbres and interpret them precisely, aided by technology. Eventually, we want to expand it into a quantitative-notational language that allows expressing timbres efficiently and unambiguously. Our particular interest in developing this method comes from the unique mental state a timbral-centric system creates in performing and listening to music. Because it is not necessarily intuitive, it can bring composers and performers to novel, engaging, and unpredicted musical places.
Our goals for the following stages of the project are: to improve our spectral analysis and timbre recognition system; to gain a better understanding of the perception of different saxophone timbres; to compose a new, shorter piece; and present our work in academic settings. Currently, we are working on a new composition that addresses some of these goals. The new piece puts to the test psycho-acoustic ideas of timbre perception through the prism of the method we started to develop in Siete Dolores. It also uses the new extended playing techniques developed for “Siete Dolores” with the latest addition of a vast pull of fingerings that enhance specific spectral content and includes new digital tools we built for spectral analysis and processing in real-time.