Randall Hall

The passage between

Innova 715

 

The unconscious speaks to us in dreams.  The images that appear in dreams coalesce in the public consciousness as myths.  Ritual is defined as the acting out of a myth, the purpose of which is to send the participant out of the realm of domestic and economic concerns and into a psychological state that is receptive to transcendence.  The public presentation of art in a concert may be viewed as a ritual.  The audience has the opportunity to leave the burdens and responsibilities of the day and move into a world of reflection and transformation.  If art is ritual, and ritual is the enacting of myth, and myth is the public manifestation of dreams, then it follows that art is itself the manifestation of a dream, the language of the unconscious.  This view holds true in varying degrees to all types of art, but is particularly applicable to the music on this recording, alternately described as contemporary, experimental, or, my personal favorite, “shockingly modern.”  The landmarks and techniques of traditional music have been generally abandoned, there is little to no reference to key, melody, harmony or predictable rhythms.  It is as though the sun has set on the grounded conscious world and we enter the groundless, murky world of dreams.  Experimental playing techniques such as microtones, multiphonics, slap tongue, and other acoustic effects are added to electronic resources, ranging from tape composition to analog effects to live digital processing, to take us out of and beyond the solar realm to the lunar.  The pieces themselves run the gamut from fully notated compositions to those with varying degrees of aleatoric procedures to completely free improvisations without any prearranged material.

 

Many listeners will find this music alien, even disturbing, qualities often associated with dream imagery.  Carl Jung said that art that taps into the unconscious is characterized by a “strangeness of form and content”, as can certainly be said about this program.  For those unfamiliar with modern music or with a ritual conception of art, the journey may be uncomfortable at times.  But trials are the very means by which superficial concerns are transcended.  This idea follows the basic archetype of myth: the hero departs the known world and undergoes the ordeal of the forest, cave, depth or some other unknown.  Having overcome these challenges the hero crosses the threshold and opens up to eternity, and then returns transformed.  This recording, like any experience of art, offers the chance to symbolically undertake this heroic journey.

 

This performance of Carnivore, for saxophone and electronic effects (2006), was recorded live in a concert of free improvisations.  The only organization was the idea of some type of aggressive descending line.  All other musical details were worked out in the performance. Unbeknownst at the time, this improvisation would become the germ for the saxophone material in the composition, The passage between.

 

Christian Lauba’s (b. 1952) Neuf études for various saxophones (1994) have become landmarks of the modern classical saxophone repertoire.   These four pieces from Book 1 (Cahier 1) for solo alto saxophone, each explore a different extended performance technique:  Balafon uses circular breathing and subtone, Savane employs consecutive multiphonics, Sanza explores the use of stacato articulation and multiphonics and Jungle exploits slap tonguing integrated into legato passages.  Both the titles and the sound of the music evoke exotic images of far off lands like Tunisia, where the composer was born.

 

In Three reflections on Eternity for baritone saxophone and interactive computer (2006), I am joined by my longtime friend and collaborator, Jonathon Kirk.  Together we form the contemporary improvisation ensemble Pendulum, and these tracks are typical of our work in that setting.  Kirk uses MAX/msp to process my live improvisations.  The three pieces are void of any predetermined organization, i.e. totally free improvisation.  The titles are retroactive and originated from a comment Kirk made after recording track 8, Apocalypse, observing that “we had an apocalyptic groove going there...”

 

The passage between, for alto saxophone and tape (2006), was composed for the Artful Library program in the Tredway Library at Augustana College.  This project asked faculty artists to re-interpret art works held in the library.  This piece was inspired by “1316 Twilight” by Dan Spahn and “Cathedral Doors at Bath” by Caroline England, both depicting doors.  The saxophone plays over the sonic backdrop provided by the tape.  The primary source material for the tape is a recording of the pre-natal heartbeat of my son Rylon.  Additional material was taken from his early vocalizations and from conversations he had with his mom and his big sister Rachel.   The piece unfolds in three main sections.  The first section focuses more on Rylon’s heartbeat and the last section focuses more on his voice.  This transformation from water creature to air-breathing creature is reflected in the image of doors.  Doors mark passages between two locations, crossing a threshold into a new place.  This is a metaphor for the physical transformation a child experiences in birth, or the spiritual-psychological transformations we undergo as we are born into new levels of consciousness.  The middle section of the piece represents the passage between what was and what is to come.  It is the most violent part of the work.  Trauma, pain and struggle are experienced in physical birth and they are also connected with psychic birth.  Before we can move into a new psychological state we must first die to our original one.  In myth this struggle is always portrayed with some image of death: beheading, dismemberment, burning, crucifixion.  Yet from this death springs new life, rebirth and resurrection.  We resist this symbolic death when all we see is the pain and disorientation it involves, unable to see the new life waiting.  Thus the process of transformation appears horrific until it is complete and its true evolutionary nature may be perceived.  This idea is understood in the East where the Buddha, who is the guide to enlightenment, may be portrayed as a demonic force that comes with a sword to cut away the old psychic state.  Once this transformation is complete and the threshold is crossed, the same figure then appears as angelic. 

 

Quelque chose que mon pŹre a tunu ą ses mains (Something my father held in his hand), for alto saxophone and electronic effects (2006), is a reminiscence of my father.  Some years after his death I found a piece of scrap paper with some notes he had jotted down; what would normally be considered garbage had in this context become an icon.  As I held it in my hand there was a strange wave of grief, nostalgia, anger and numbness.  The French title is more for emotional defense than pretense.   Musically, the improvisation is much more restrained and melodic than we have heard so far.  It also exploits the saxophone’s ability to generate its own drones and accompaniment through the use of electronic effects.

 

Each of the Four dogmas, for solo tenor saxophone (1998), is an improvisation on four small thematic cells.  This concert recording is an older performance and demonstrates the beginning of what would become a hallmark feature of my improvisations: a certain insistent reiteration of development.  The titles have nothing to do with the music, the names coming years after the music.  Or do they?  My wife Vicki, somewhat randomly and spontaneously came up with the titles without listening to the recording.  The degree to which they fit the musical content is startling to the point of being weird, as though we were both independently and years apart, guided by the same muse. 

   

         R.H.

 

Saxophonist, improviser and composer Randall Hall is internationally active as a performer and clinician.  He has performed in the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Japan, China and Taiwan.  He has also given lectures and master-classes at institutions around the world, including Harvard University, Cornell University, the Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory, the Luxembourg Conservatory and the North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Conference.  His compositions have been heard at the Logos Foundation (Belgium), INVIDEO Festival (Milan and Stuttgart), Not Still Art Festival 2004 (New York), Light Cone Show (Paris), Particles and Pixels Symposium (New Zealand) Cincinnati International Film Festival, New Hampshire Film Expo, Yantai Music Festival (China), the Image-Movement-Sound Festival (Rochester NY) and the Electroacoustic Juke Joint (Mississippi).  Randall Hall is the recipient of numerous honors including a Fulbright Grant, Frank Huntington Beebe Grant, Presser Music Award and the Premier Prix in the Concour Région Ile-de-France. He has studied saxophone with Claude Delangle, Jean-Yves Fourmeau, Jean-Michel Goury, Kenneth Radnofsky, and Ramon Ricker.  Dr. Hall holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (DMA), the New England Conservatory (MM), and the Conservatoire National de Région de Boulogne-Billancourt, France (Premier Prix). He is Assistant Professor of music at Augustana College in Rock Island,

Illinois.

 

 

For more information go to www.randallhall.net

 

This recording was made possible by the generous support of

Augustana College through the Fund for New Faculty Research.

 

Tracks 1and 10 recorded live September 15, 2006,

Wallenberg Hall, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL

Tracks 2-4 and 9 recorded June 18-20, 2007, Ensemble Room, Augustana College

Tracks 6-8 recorded September 16, 2006 Wallenberg Hall, Augustana College

Tracks 11-14 recorded live October 4, 1998, Wilmot Hall, Nazareth College, Rochester, NY

 

 

Final Mastering: Greg Reierson, RareForm Mastering

Photos and cover design: Karl Hutchinson

Graphics Editor: Ron Van Volkenburgh

 

Innova Director: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

www.innova.mu

ival (Rochester NY) and the Electroacoustic Juke Joint (Mississippi).  Randall Hall is the recipient of numerous honors including a Fulbright Grant, Frank Huntington Beebe Grant, Presser Music Award and the Premier Prix in the Concour Région Ile-de-France. He has studied saxophone with Claude Delangle, Jean-Yves Fourmeau, Jean-Michel Goury, Kenneth Radnofsky, and Ramon Ricker.  Dr. Hall holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (DMA), the New England Conservatory (MM), and the Conservatoire National de Région de Boulogne-Billancourt, France (Premier Prix). He is Assistant Professor of music at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

 

 

For more information go to www.randallhall.net.

 

This recording was made possible by the generous support of

Augustana College through the Fund for New Faculty Research.

 

Tracks 1and 10 recorded live September 15, 2006,

Wallenberg Hall, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL

Tracks 2-4 and 9 recorded June 18-20, 2007, Ensemble Room, Augustana College

Tracks 6-8 recorded September 16, 2006 Wallenberg Hall, Augustana College

Tracks 11-14 recorded live October 4, 1998, Wilmot Hall, Nazareth College, Rochester, NY

 

 

Final Mastering: Greg Reierson

Photos and cover design: Karl Hutchinson

Graphics Editor: Ron Van Volkenburgh

 

Innova Director: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

www.innova.com