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Improvisation recorded at home on 8 March 2014 using sopranino, sorano and decayed tenor saxophone.

Up until 2000 my sole instrument during my adult life was the saxophone. The instruments varied over the years with a Meister soprano saxophone being used between 1984 and 1990. From 1990 to 1995 my instrument was almost exclusively the alto saxophone (used during extended recording in woodland) and then returning to the soprano (when I came back indoors). From 2000 to 2005 the sopranino saxophone was the instrument of choice. After 2000 other instruments began to dominate, most importantly a collection of objects that could be bowed, hit and blown. Solo and group playing included this extended array of growing instrumentation (gongs, cymbals, game calls, tins filled with earth, stones or glass, small explosives etc) and the amount of time in performance given to the saxophone decreased until in 2005 a number of concerts were performed without a saxophone. Initially this was liberating, freeing me from the perceived constraints of the metal tube, reed and column of air. However, the saxophone has never lost its interest for me and remained the instrument at the core of my musical production. I still suffer withdrawal symptoms if I don’t play. The other instruments do not have this pull and today there is a better balance, with the saxophone always present and whether recording or in concert I try to provide it with a special place in the context of the music. Still, recent demands have drawn me towards the group aesthetic or production using a scrap book approach presenting curated and discovered sounds.

The opportunity to provide a recording for Confront reminded me of the occasions when I played with Mark Wastell during the 1990s. These were duos, trios and quartets where I only played the saxophone (and Mark only played cello). In contrast to the recent activities outlined above, I decided to restrict the recording to solo saxophones. The main instrument used is a Yanagisawa Soprano – The Castrato saxophone. There is also a damaged Couesnon Tenor – this instrument is a French military band instrument from the 1920s that allows certain fingering combinations that are not available on modern instruments. And finally the Yanagisawa Sopranino – The Piranho saxophone, being the one that bites.

For me, once mastered, the saxophone has offered a means of producing a huge variety of sounds and tones from a single source, all of which can be controlled by the smallest muscular changes of fingers and mouth/tongue position.

As with all my work the emphasis and criteria for success rests with the construction of form across the whole piece – the way in which each incident, episode, sound and sequence of sounds relates to those preceding it and those that follow. Many years of playing have gone into the making of this recording. (Mark Browne)

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