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Fountain Resonances
For tenor saxophone and string ensemble.

Recorded by:
C.R. Kasprzyk, saxophone
Peabody Conservatory string players

Fountain Resonances was the first written composition to utilize the spectral gargle technique. The spectral gargle requires a player to incline a single reed instrument and blow water into the mouthpiece. With the right volume of water pooled in the mouthpiece and with the right embouchure, the performer can produce some of the most harmonious bubbling sounds. With more practice, the performer can control the focus of the bubbling and the overtone that sounds from the instrument as plops and gurgles. This technique is used throughout all twelve minutes.

The work includes an optional parts for electronics and string players. The string parts were derived as echoes of the saxophone and the electronics. The electronics involve complicated processing of the saxophone part including live sampling and transposition.

The string parts are synched to the saxophone performer via many cues. The string players are not synchronized metrically, but instead have repetitive fragments that highlight and compliment the sounds produced by the saxophone.

Clashing Spectra

Many composers of the 20th century took advantage of spectral aspects of sound in their orchestration. Look as far back as Chopin to find a composer combining notes on a piano that ring like no other chords had before. Bartok used a low instrument to play a tone doubled by a high instrument playing a harmonic of that tone. Writing for orchestra requires a lot of thought about contrasts and clashes between very different instrumental timbres and about spectral density. Recent developments in composition include deriving musical material from non-musical sounds. Composers like Tristan Murail analyze a sound file with a computer and recreate non-musical sound events with musical sounds.

Due to the already spectral nature of the spectral gargle, it blends very well with string overtones. Fountain Resonances highlights an interesting acoustic phenomenon where two fundamental tones can share pitches in their overtone series. These shared tones may not be precisely in tune with one another and will also not be in tune with a string player playing in just intonation. This can create interesting and surprising vibrations. This phenomenon becomes exciting when counterpoint is created by a monophonic instrument when its fundamental tone changes and an emphasized overtone remains the same.

Some of the greatest moments in Fountain Resonances are when string players are playing two different fundamentals that contain the same overtone allowing the saxophonist to shift between the two spectra. This creates opportunities for glaring but very beautiful dissonances and complex crossfades between spectral harmonies.