Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Prepared Saxophone with Balloons: Kayla Milmine-Abbott

This prepared saxophone submission is by Toronto-based soprano saxophonist Kayla Milmine-Abbott. In addition to being a solo saxophone performer, Kayla co-leads the Toronto Improvisers Orchestra (TIO) as well as FASTER, a sax/guitar duo with her husband Brian Abbott, also heard on the featured track “Nuclear Fishin.”

Like myself, Kayla is very much interested in making horn preparations as a means of arriving at unexpected sonic outcomes by altering the way in which air enters and passes through the instrument. Kayla’s saxophone preparation involves an un-inflated round balloon placed over the neck opening of the soprano.

In describing how this works, Kayla said, “... basically half of the hole in the neck of the horn has to be uncovered in order to get sound to play. Also, I cut the part of the balloon off that you blow the air through because it was too tight around the cork - I place the mouthpiece on the very end of the neck, so that the rubber and cork don't have too much contact, as it squeezes the cork, and causes it to chip.”

In describing the different sounds produced, Kayla said: “I especially like the multi-phonics in the low register." This sonic reference can be heard at 3:12 of the recording. (The featured track below)

When I first heard Kayla use this technique, the rubbery/latex aspects were pretty apparent. There seemed to be a built-in glissando effect in the sound.

But do check out it. And check out the entire recording. Pretty innovative stuff!

Stay tuned!




Nuclear Fishin'

Nuclear Fishin' by FASTER
Kayla Milmine-Abbott - Soprano Sax
Brian Abbott - Guitar

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Moral Licensing: Balancing Good and Bad

Moral licensing is a phenomenon where we're less bothered acting less virtuous after doing something virtuous. Simply put:  After a positive action, we feel less guilty doing something negative. 

If you work out before going to dinner, you're more likely to have a dessert or eat more carbs than usual. 

Let's say you've spent considerable time advocating on behalf of a group outside of your own race, religion or culture, and have invested significant time nurturing meaningful relationships with folks from these groups. You'll feel less guilty about saying something that's culturally inappropriate to or about them.  

Remember Bill Maher's public blunder? He probably felt he had a moral license to say "house nigger" since he's dated black women and often advocates on behalf of blacks and other minority groups on his television show. When he said it, he probably felt, "Hey, I'm Bill Maher, the super liberal, they know that I'm cool." I have no doubt that it was coming from a harmless place. However, someone who's a stark conservative and has little association with blacks would never feel comfortable saying that publicly and so nonchalantly.

How does this affect us as musicians? 

  •  If you have a gig where you're able to pay your band handsomely, you won't feel guilty about not paying for dinner or offering to cover the car fare. 
  • Maybe your gig from the night before goes really well, you're more likely to take the next day or two off. I'm guilty of this more times than I want to admit.
  • Let's say after a gig everyone is telling you what a great sound you have,  the next day, we're more likely to skip the long tones portion of our practice routine. Again, guilty as charged.
  • You're doing well career-wise.  Now you're more likely to skip practicing, altogether, especially if you're playing a lot. 
  • Here's one I'm sure many can relate to. Let's say we're having a good year financially, you're probably less prudent with your spending. Instead of putting away the extra income for a rainy day, we're more likely to spend it foolishly. In fact, we probably spend more wisely when we're making less.

But as you can see, moral licensing can lead us to less productive and regressive places.  

What's the remedy? Moderation.

This is one of the reasons I stress maintaining an equal-tempered perspective on things that happen to us--the good, and the bad. 

With the exception of stopping practicing altogether, none of the aforementioned are catastrophic. But it’s good to understand moral licensing so that we can embrace progressive behavior, instead of regressive behavior as a consequence of doing something positive. 

Move towards the sun, not towards the dark.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Popeye Effect: The Path to Transcendence

Artist Jeff Koons refers to Popeye as the archetypal figure of transcendence. Before he eats his spinach, he is just an ordinary man. In fact, his mantra is “I am what I am.” Meaning nothing special, only Popeye. That’s until he eats his Spinach. Then a miracle happens.  He goes from ordinary to extraordinary. 

This idea of moving into a transcendental state is what we do as artists. 

I’ve often felt that the only time I can command respect is when I play. In fact, people who mainly know me as an artistic civilian are usually surprised at how differently I appear when performing. I imagine I would probably feel the same way if I were observing me from their perspective.

As artists, it’s crucial that we don’t merely perform or merely create. If we don’t transcend, we are not maximizing the mystical side of creativity; the unexplained. It’s sort of like being an actor and merely reading the script instead of transforming and becoming that character. I’m not convinced that our earthly self and our creative self should be one in the same. Our earthly self-has way too many societal barriers to contend with.  Whereas, our creative self has but two: imagination and courage. Imagination enables us to envision, courage gives us the hutzpa to bring it to fruition.

Don’t let your human self-perception stand in the way between you and transcendence. As the army says, “Be all that you can be.” Even if what you become is not of this earth.  Give outer space a try. It seemed to work for Sun Ra.

As Friedrich Nietzche said, "No artist tolerates reality." 

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