The saxophone in classical and contemporary music is a much under-explored instrument. In jazz, it has gone through almost every sound and technique possibility over the past 100 years.
But for saxophone music today, there is little to compare this album to. Breath by Breath by the Australian-French composer and sax player Katia Beaugeais stands as a landmark in recorded sax music. Produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC Classic), this is their first album featuring saxophone extended techniques to create atmospheric sound worlds, air wind sounds, circular breathing, multiphonics and slap-tonguing.
Breath by Breath is named after Beaugeais’ soprano sax piece where she circular breathes for seven minutes non-stop. This is perhaps something that has never been recorded throughout history. Breath by Breath has also been featured on BBC Radio 3 and it’s currently on the ABC radio program, New Waves. All album works were specifically composed for international performances.
This album consists of all new music by Australian composers. It features the sounds of the saxophone by four women and one male composer: Katia Beaugeais, Katy Abbott, Anne Boyd, Rosalind Page and Bruce Crossman.
Beaugeais says about her album, “Composition and performance have played an equal role in forming my raison d’être, and saxophone contemporary playing techniques have become an integral part of my composition style. Saxophone extended techniques transport the performer and audience to another place. When I circular breathe, I forget where I am, as I am completely immersed within the sounds of my saxophone. My aim as a composer-performer is to help other composers explore unique saxophone playing effects in their music to create new sound worlds”.
Track 1 – Katy Abbott – MultiSonics (2018) for alto saxophone
As the title says, it’s multisonic, it’s also multi-rhythmic and multi-dimensional. On a close listening, you can hear every single finger movement and breath. The quality of the recording is astounding. The multiphonics make it sound like there is more than one player and the subtle lilt of the tone quality all the way through shape a world of mesmerising sound.
Track 2 – Katia Beaugeais – Breath by Breath (2018) for solo soprano saxophone
This almost 13-minute work covers the gamut of sounds and extra sounds possible on a sax. Like a soundtrack to a movie, it consists of hypnotic effects that make the sax sound like it’s a small group. It hypnotises and sinks you into a sound world that echoes around you, and through you.
Track 3 – Anne Boyd – Beside Bamboo (2018) for alto saxophone and piano
The deep dark beauty that inhabits the first few minutes of this piece then bursts into a ray of sunshine. The melodious and flowing tune floats above the listener as clouds do. This work mimics a soft aural journey that will leave listeners feeling like they are floating.
Track 4 – Bruce Crossman – Dying of the Light: Pacific Resonance for Peter (2015/2017)
The pealing of a tiny temple bowl rings out through this track; it signals something new is about to happen. Accompanied by constant breath noises throughout, there’s some amazing dextrous playing combined with a repeated long crescendo that holds this piece together.
Track 5 – Rosalind Page – Intermezzo 1 – Fuglar himins – Birds of Heaven
The serene beauty of this work is in its mystery. It just hangs there in the ether. The piano and sax have different things to say but they combine, they affect one another. Like an impressionist painting, it suggests what the sky sounds like as birds pass by.
Track 6 – Rosalind Page – Intermezzo 2 – Straumur – Stream
This eclectic work has many layers. Lasting just over six minutes, the piano does not come into just on four and a half minutes and it totally changes the piece. The sax, on a solo journey for the first part, may be searching for an accompanist, it then finds its companion and the two run off into an exploration through a tonal dreamy soundscape.
You can hear the whole album or purchase it here: 2021 ABC Classic Album of new Australian Sax Music.
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