Sam Newsome

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

Video Feature: Sam Newsome, Ben Stapp, and Joanna Mattrey

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Marcel Duchamp Approach to Music

I have always loved the Marcel Duchamp idea of turning everyday life into art. Taking that which is personal and private and bearing it front and center for the world to see. Those of you not familiar with Marcel Duchamp, he was a 20th-century French painter and sculpturer who was considered the father of conceptual art. He coined the phrase "readymade," which referred the mass-produced everyday objects taken out of their usual context and presented through a more high art lens. 

How did I translate this to music?

Well, fidgeting with the instruments keys is a saxophonist's most frequent and subconscious pass time. We do it before we really play. After we really play, and often while others are playing. But what if these moments that we unconsciously dismiss as mere perfunctory movements of our fingers were viewed as creative gardens where profound musical moments are grown. And not just perfunctory sounds we make to pass the time.

On my new recording, Sopranoville: New Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone, I recorded three pieces that demonstrate this in true Marcel Duchamp fashion. It was an interesting experiment to try. Going into it, I had no idea how it would unfold. But much to my surprise, the results were pleasurable. I was most excited in that I had stumbled onto a new sound--at least one that was new for me. These pieces reaffirmed one of my affirmations, which is that if you want unconventional results, the process through which you create must also be unconventional. You can practice the C major scale until the cow's come home, and it will only produce a C major scale, just faster and cleaner. 

Thinking in this non-linear way inspired many of the pieces I created on this recording. As artists, once we get over the initial fear of producing creative flops, we liberate ourselves in the process. When I'm putting together these improvisatory type albums, such as Sopranoville, often what I create is a dismal failure, I must humbly admit. But, occasionally I will have a creative breakthrough that will make it all worth it. This is life. Sometimes you have to just go for it, and be patient for the gems that emerge from the creative rubble. 

This piece is from the Clicktopia series on the recording. This is called Clicktopia Part 1: Music for Six Sopranos. Let me know what you think. There will be more to come. 

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