“Two Minute Catharsis” is an exploration of how “outside” notes can fit naturally “into” a jazz composition. The listener, even without a formal understanding of jazz, should feel which phrases don’t fit in, and experience a renewed sense of balance when the harmonies return to stability. The saxophone “sings” a melody in haiku form.

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Two Minute Catharsis is a composition for Soprano Saxophone and Omnisphere drone.

The drone consists of two sounds from Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2: Dawning and Distant Dreams. I simply held a C for around two minutes. These sounds have more than one note though; an ethereal, suspended chord sounds from them.

The melodies are mostly in the C aeolian mode and since the soprano sax is a Bb instrument I had to play in D aeolian. For an emotional contrast, in certain spots I play notes very much outside of the aeolian mode, and this creates quite a bit of tension as the drone accompaniment underneath never changes. Returning back to aeolian provides some release. These melodies were all derived literally from a series of haiku (3 lines each with 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables). I tried to make the sax lines sing the words. However, if you were to ask me who wrote them and what the words are, I would not disclose… THIS will forever remain a secret… a mystery.

The soprano saxophone was recorded in my studio with an Avantone CV-12 (tube condenser microphone) through a Focusrite Clarett 8PreX into MOTU Digital Performer software. The sax performance was a complete, unedited take.

“Conceived by Aristotle as the cleansing effect of emotional release that tragic drama has on its audience, catharsis stems from a Greek verb meaning “to purify, purge.” Today, it can be used to describe any emotional release, including a good long laugh or cry that is followed by a sense of balance and freshness afterwards.”



    • Barry Hartglass

      Thank you Jay. “The Secret Power Music Holds Over You” is fascinating and entertaining, although the narrator should learn how to pronounce the mode names correctly! Thanks for sharing that video. I encourage all of my students, past and present, to check it out!

      I’m a big fan of composing with modes. I love Ron Miller’s book, “Modal Jazz Composition & Harmony” volume 1, especially p.29 where he lists the Emotional Generalizations of modes. Aeolian, the main mode in my Two Minute Catharsis piece, is described as melancholy, sad, somber, and darkly romantic in the book. That’s more or less what I was going for…

      I liked how the video narrator took this further and not only described the emotional feeling of various modes but also listed popular and rock songs that have used them. Good stuff!

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