Current Research Project - Doctorate

My current research area is examining the challenges faced by classical saxophonists in the interpretation of cross-over repertoire. Although early days, the aim of my research is to analyse and identify the stylistic challenges faced by classical saxophonists within this genre and look at developing approaches to assist in creating an informed interpretation.

My objective with this research is to examine ways of bridging the education divide between classical and jazz saxophone and to look at developing a pedagogical methodology that would complement the teaching of both styles of playing.

Blowing Zen - Masters Research

As part of my Masters degree at the Sydney Conservatorium, I completed a thesis entitled Blowing Zen: Non-Western Influence on the Scores and Performance of Contemporary Saxophone Repertoire (2010). 


The saxophone has long been viewed a musical outcast, its Dionysian qualities heralded as its most important yet simultaneously most exclusionary characteristics. In no area has this nonconformist nature been more enthusiastically embraced than in saxophone works requiring the performer to operate from a performance practice idiom outside Western art music. Occasionally, these works require the performer to mask the saxophone as another instrument and implement stylistically appropriate effects throughout. More often, the works are based in a philosophy distinct from Western conceptions of music, requiring the performer to ‘invent’ music or apply tools of indeterminacy. In either case, it is the performer’s choices, informed by both previous experience and personality that shine through when these works are played. Such compositional design places high demands on the individual and emphasizes plurality over standardization in interpretation.  

This thesis surveys non-Western influence in avant-garde saxophone works in two sections. The first discusses indeterminacy in the experimental music of John Cage as an outgrowth of Eastern philosophies put forth in the I Ching and its related manifestations in contemporary saxophone music. The second discusses the presence of Zen Buddhism in performance practices of the Japanese shakuhachi, aligning this concept with Ryo Noda’s early saxophone works Improvisation I (1974) and Murasaki No Fuchi I (1981). This background provides the context for analyzing performances of the works Hard (1988) by Christian Lauba, Mai (1975) by Ryo Noda and Fuzzy Bird Sonata (1990) by Takashi Yoshimatsu. An impetus on diversity of performance is found to be inherent in the compositional design of these works and acceptance of such plurality is seen in reviews of disparate performances. Future research regarding non-Western compositional influence on the integration of audio technology into saxophone composition is then put forth as a further step in this line of inquiry.

Copies of this thesis can be found on Australian & New Zealand Music Research.