Randall Hall

The Center for New Music


 Randall Hall, saxophone

 University Capitol Centre Recital Hall        October 10, 2011   7:30 p.m.

            This past Monday the Center for New Music of the University of Iowa presented a concert by Dr. Randall Hall, one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary music for saxophone.  Dr. Hall, known for his talent with both traditional and new music styles, impressed the crowd with dynamic displays of musical progress, utilizing both an alto and a tenor saxophone as well as electronic music.

            As the audience entered the recital hall, a surprising sight greeted them from the stage.  Rather than just a music stand or piano there were two large speakers on either side of the stage, two music stands on the stage, and a table which housed a laptop and multiple cables, leading off the stage to the speakers and an unknown power source.

            Dr. Hall is a composer of new music as well as a performer.  He is also well-known for his “slap tongue” work, his improvisational playing, and his multiphonic abilities, in which he plays multiple tones at once.  In fact, extended techniques were used in every piece on the program, including those written by Dr. Hall himself.

 For more information on Dr. Hall, please click the following link:


            He did not disappoint his listeners as he began the first piece, entitled 24 Multiphonic Etudes, composed by Dr. Hall himself in 2008.  Dr. Hall chose to begin the program with Nos. 21 and 24 of this work.  While No. 21 was interesting in its use of multiphonic trills and long musical phrases, No. 24 was definitely a show-stopper.  In No. 24, Dr. Hall interspersed loud, high, multiphonic interjections with smooth, clear lines of solo saxophone melodies.  The resulting effect was one of dual saxophones.  It was also clear to the audience that Dr. Hall was used to playing this kind of music, as he looked perfectly at ease on stage during what must have been a difficult number.

            Though I could give a detailed account of every piece I enjoyed in this concert, I will only give you the highlights of some of my favorites.

 For a complete program, program notes, and specific concert information, please visit:


              Apparition was the fourth piece played on the first half of the recital.  This piece, written by Ed Martin, combined alto saxophone and electronics for a unique aural experience.  The piece began with a rough, ethereal sound coming in a short but intense sigh, immediately conjuring up the idea of an apparition, or “ghost saxophone”.  The electronic music continued to build, using percussion to set the mood of the piece.  The piece continued to build and then the saxophone entered, playing multiphonically, adding to the intensity and driving rhythm of the piece.  As the piece continued, a great swell of sound filled the room with a wash of musical color, which was suddenly broken by a high range, piercing sound from the saxophone.

              After this dramatic climax, the song slowly wound down as the rhythm slowed and the notes again became more distant.  During the end of the piece the audience also got to experience the “slap tongue” talents of Dr. Hall, in which he uses the mouthpiece of the saxophone as a percussion instrument, sending air through to clearly articulate rhythm but not add actual pitches to the music.

             The second half of the program was also remarkable because, unlike the first half, it was difficult to distinguish specific songs.  In the first half of the program, some music was solo alto saxophone and some was saxophone with electronics, and the audience clapped after each piece.   The second half felt as though it truly started with the third selection, ite bakkhai, part I, written by Dr. Hall.  Spoken poetry in a foreign language, possibly Asian, was pumped through the speakers toward the audience.  Though it would have been nice to have had a translation of the text during the performance, the text is included in the program notes which can be found on the Center for New Music website.

               Heavy reverb was used on the saxophone, giving the texture of the music a dream-like feeling.  Dr. Hall became involved with the speaking as he murmured in time with the electronic music.  He also sang into his saxophone, producing a unique buzz and sound combination.  The tenor saxophone doubled throughout the piece as both percussion instrument and melodic instrument, as it was frequently slapped and the keys noisily tapped by Dr. Hall, always in perfect rhythmic symmetry with the electronics used.  This set ended after Dr. Hall walked off the stage, allowing the electronic music to fill the room; he re-entered the stage for his well-deserved bow.

            If you have never heard extended techniques brilliantly played on a saxophone or have any interest in how new music can be combined with traditional instruments, Dr. Randall Hall is a performer you would enjoy watching and listening to!

            I could not find any videos of Dr. Hall performing pieces from the concert.  However, the following link is a good example of Dr. Hall’s skill combining saxophone performance and electronic music.


For more information on The Center for New Music mission and concert series, please visit:


For more information on extended saxophone techniques, please visit:


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