UPDATE 2016!- After several annoying wordpress issues which rendered my player unusable I am now slowly going through this page and reconnecting the audio- thanks for your patience!

On sono there are over 30 hours of mainly unreleased compositions of mine with the focus being on live recordings. Below this are my notes and sound examples on the subject of micro-tonality dating from some time around 2002 ( be warned!). Allow time for some of the files to open as they are all in high quality format, most of them 192 kbit/s. Some of the tracks are over 45 minutes long and load as one file.

I have arranged the files under styles such as jazz, installation music, eclectica, and spoken word (softspeakers) to make it easier for you, dear listener. If you want to listen to different mp3 at the same time which I am sure you are all dying to do with my music than just open new windows. For now just click and enjoy…


Nils Wogram- Trombone, Hayden Chisholm- Sax, Matt Penman- Bass, Jochen Rueckert- Drums. Recorded by W.Stach, 2007.
Lake (Wogram)
TimeFlies (Wogram)
Time Flies

with John Schroeder-Drums and Phil Donkin- Bass.
Live at Loft, Cologne, 2005.
Free-flight and the Life of Hands in Love

Nils wogram- Trombone, Hayden Chisholm- Sax, Matt Penman- Bass, Jochen Rueckert- Drums. Recorded by Swedish Radio, 2005.

Introducing the Ambassador

Nils wogram- Trombone, Hayden Chisholm- Sax, Matt Penman- Bass, Jochen Rueckert- Drums.

Cologne WDR Radio Hall, live, 2001.
Hayden Chisholm, Frank Gratkowski, Franz Hautzinger, Tom Manoury, Nils Wogram, Jochen Bohnes, Daniel Schroeteler.
full version

Hayden Chisholm- Alto Sax
WDR big band
excerpt from “Pagodas”
Etween Bislands
Sight Netch
Sainy Reasons
Nopical Tright

From the album “Getting Rooted”:
Dragon Pearl Massage Music

Introducing the Ambassador

Recorded at Piethopraxis studio by Marcus Schmickler. Unreleased.Cologne 2002.
Hayden Chisholm- Ato, John Schroeder- Guitar, Dietmar Fuhr- Bass, Daniel Schroeteler- Drums

This was a nice band we had for a while in 1999. Unreleased.
Hayden Chisholm- Ato, Matthias Schubert- Tenor Sax, Sebastian Grams- Bass, Joost Lieverts- Drums

from the album “Nearness”, 2005. Hayden Chisholm- Alto, Matt Penman- Bass, Jochen Rueckert- Drums
Tout de Moi
You Don’t
No Days

Live at Loft, Cologne, 2005.
Hayden Chisholm- Alto, Phil Donkin- Bass, John Schroeder- Drums

Hayden Chisholm- Alto, Matt Penman- Bass, Jochen Rueckert- Drums, Kurt Rosenwinkel- Guitar, Chris Potter- Sax, Ben Monder, Guitar


This little baby I named the Fibonacci Raga. It is created with my alto, a sruti box, and my voice. The raga itself returns back to the 5th, 8th, 13th, and 21st overtone of C, the fundamental. It is another way in which I am exploring this glorious sequence with my copper and reed, reaching up into the majestic firmament fretted with golden fire as best I can. Recorded by Pedja Avramovic in Studio P4 Berlin but one moon ago:

At this year’s Music Village in Greece I played a duo with Kostas Anastasiadis in the schoolyard. Here are the results:

Jochen Bohnes- Electronics, Hayden Chisholm- Soprano sax, Voice.1.
(43’43) 1.
track 4 first known and performed as “Massenbach”

Hayden Chisholm- Sho, Bagpipes Marcus Schmickler – Electronics

Jochen Bohnes- Electronics, Hayden Chisholm- Soprano Sax, Voice.
Guido d’Arrezo’s Gadeway (24’51)
Hill (14’21)

by Hayden Chisholm and Marcus Schmickler
Claudio Bohorquez- Cello
1. CB

Hayden Chisholm- Clarinet, Soprano, Alto, Bass Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet with overdubs


Hayden Chisholm- Soprano Sax
Recorded at the Charterhouse Church in Cologne, 1996.
1. Magnificat3

Hayden Chisholm- Alto Sax, Cello, Bass Clarinet, Voice
Recorded in Cologne, 1999.

Hayden Chisholm Ensemble Recorded in Cologne, 1998.
1. Egyptian

For Boy Soprano, Saxophone, Tape, and Ensemble. Recorded live in Wellington with STROMA ensemble.

Hayden Chisholm- Sax, Jochen Bohnes- Electronics, Jochen Rueckert- Drums. Recorded live in San Diego, 1999.
1: Feldberg

Hayden Chisholm- Saxophones

From the Blemish remix album by David Sylvian. Burnt Friedman-Electronics, David Sylvian- Voice, Hayden Chisholm- Clarinet.

Live at Cologne Aposteln Church, 2000.
Liesel Juergens- Soprano, Hayden Chisholm- Voice, Gareth Lubbe- Voice, Tom Manoury- Voice, Adrian Brendel- Cello

Live in the Stupa of Colorado Shambhala Mountain Center, 2004.

Live in Cologne WDR 1997. Hayden Chisholm Ensemble.

Live in Cologne, 1999. Hayden Chisholm Ensemble.
1.New Scottish Rites

I must have been 20 or so when I recorded this odd little duo with Jochen Rueckert.
1. Belle du Vent

___________________________________________installation music:

Piazza Plebscito, Naples, 2002. Live recording from the opening.
Liesel Juergens- Soprano, Hayden Chisholm- Voice, Soprano Sax, Gareth Lubbe- Voice, Tom Manoury- Voice, Arnando Vacca- frame drums, Daniel Schroeteler- Drums, Childrens Choir from Naples
1. (excerpt) Spiriti Madreperla

Recordrd in Cologne by W. Stach. Premiere in Pollenca, Mallorca, 2003.
Denizhan Kocer- Voice, Hayden Chisholm- Clarinet, Gareth Lubbe- Voice, viola, Adrian Brendel- Cello, Thymios Atzakas- Oud, Rhani Krija- Percussion
1.(excerpt) Moonmirrow

Cologne Loft 2005- live.
Denizhan Kocer- Voice, Hayden Chisholm- Clarinet, Claudio Bohorquez- Cello, Gareth Lubbe- Viola
1. (33’00) Belle du Vent


Cologne Loft 2005, live.Hayden Chisholm- voice, Frank Gratkowski- clarinet, Simon Nabatov- piano, Claudio Bohorquez- cello
Ulysses 1

Cologne Loft, 2004, live. Hayden Chisholm- voice, Nils Wogram- trombone, John Schroeder- piano, Matt Penman- bass, Gareth Lubbe- Viola and Voice

Moers Festival Project, 2004.
1.[audio:01 molly.mp3]

Berlin, 2003. Special Units with Antonis Anissegos and Jochen Bohnes.

Stumbled across a beautiful western raga in just intonation for violin and double bass- Plainsound Glissando Modulation by Wolfgang von Schweinitz. The more I soar with overtones the more I love to hear them sing out from other instruments. If we could return to the overtone core of the keys and still keep our flexibility in transposition…. Here is one movement: Scheinitz

I think it is worth taking the time to dive into these natural sound worlds which are far removed from the equal temperament we are usually bombarded with. -Let me give you a fantastic quote by Gareth Loy to get things going:  “The equal-tempered scale inherits nearly all the important components of the Pythagorean scale and can also transpose. Now every key sounds as in tune (or out of tune), as every other key, just as we wanted, but at the expense of the pure integer ratios, which have been virtually banished. It is somewhat reminiscent of the modem practice where an oak grove is ripped out to build a shop- ping center and then the shopping center is named Oak Grove. We are left with the impression of the pure intervals but not with their reality. We get the advantage of the modem conveniences (transposition) but at the expense of the reason we wanted it. Isn’t it interesting that not even music is immune to the inevitable downside of technological advance? The moral: nothing is free.”


15 Density Movements is the name of the work I wrote for 8 Alto Saxophones. We performed it last week in Cologne and in Berlin and I now offer a rough mix. Uploading rough mixes in mp3s for all and sundry is a disgusting and irresponsible habit of mine which I intend to stop immediately after this post.

Program notes? A couple of souls asked me if I had any pictures in my head. Not really, just the sounds but here are some scribbles all the same. At the end the piece is played as one file.

The performers were Benjamin Weidekamp, Pierre Borel, Oliver Gutzeit, Frank Gratkowski, Christian Weidner, Florian Bergmann, Leo Huhn, and myself. This recording is from St Gertrud church in Cologne from last Monday.

15 Density Movements

1. Tune In
Density Koeln
The players “tune in” with a concert C whilst the freight trains pass by behind the church. Two chords then sound out with partials  from the 4th then 5th octave of the overtone series. The plays then “tune in” to each other further with 6 random chords before the tones become air.

2. Tempered Temperer
Density Koeln
The players divide into smaller groups, each group bearing a different interval. The groups play off against each other, sometimes blending and sometimes clashing. The 4ths offset the 5ths, the 3rds betray the 2nds.

3. White Cluster
Density Koeln
In the first the players play any note from C major Concert (hence “White Cluster”). The monochrome sound cloud is offset by 3 cluster gradually rising throughout the movement.

4. Winter Sun Row

Density Koeln
24 Tone rows played horizontally (ie in the normal axis of perceived time)are then frozen as chords and heard vertically (ie in time stretched) whilst the rows continue to move through the group as if we were playing jazz. Then the rows are being heard played horizontally and frozen by the entire group. Winter sun? ‘Twas shining off Mont Serrat twixt my paper and pen.

6. Row vs Rows
Density Koeln
Each player’s different 24 tone row is heard against the others, creating dense chords encasing a major chord hidden within. The church organ is then cut in two so to speak and the two halves are played off against each other.

7. Cluster to Air
Density Koeln
A dense cluster sound eventually turns into the north wind. A multiphonic chord sounds out as a distant train disappears down the Rhein.

8. Symmetrical Increase
Density Koeln
With each chord, the distance between the individual notes increases symmetrically by quarter tones as the duration is shortened. We explode and implode simultaneously.

9.  North Cape
Density Koeln
Light whistles emanate from the wind around the lighthouses on our mouthpieces. It’s lonely in there. An overtone chord brings us back home but our parents don’t recognize us anymore and the wind returns from afar. When we fall asleep with our saxes in hand on the ikea couch we enter the abyss.

10. Church of 24
Density Koeln
Bells tuned in 5ths from a 24 note scale sound out one after another. If this was a call to prayer I would roll up my carpet and come.

11. Cluster Choral
Density Koeln
Upon entering the church I find the choir is singing in a kind of dense 8 part harmony. The clusters fill the space.

12. White Abstract
Density Koeln
Like movement two, noted from C major concert are offset against each other. The players constantly adjust the notes in the sometimes  futile attempt to tune the chords. The overtone chord from movement one returns. Returning to diatonicism after microtonality always opens new doors of perception for me.

13. Major Attempt
Density Koeln
In the beginning was air. Major chords fall away, are smudged and painted over, as the entire group slides between registers microtonally. It is a major attempt by 8 altos.

14. Broken rows
Density Koeln
They move, they freeze, the blow. Rows are played and frozen. It’s over before I even wonder why.

15. Tune Out
Density Koeln
The overtone chords return. The players “tune out” with random chords. One of them, I don’t know who, decides to go in high.

15 Density Movements Complete :
Density Koeln

Some Thoughts on Microtonality for Saxophone

Achtung! The following dates back to 2002- in the meantime some of my views have changed radically but I am leaving this up all the same

The technique of playing Saxophone has seen some major developments in its short history. Looking for some ways to push this further while studying I was drawn into microtonality. At first this meant coming as close as possible to 24 tones for each octave stretching over the instrument, firstly on soprano then later on the alto.

On wind instruments we approximate the intervals. Intonation is always a kind of compromise. First and foremost we have to develop our ears. Being able to listen carefully while blowing air down a pipe is harder than we think. Tuning is a subtle art. When we ask young reed players to tune up to a given note and then push or pull their mouthpieces in we are leading them down the wrong path. On the saxophone every note has to be heard before playing and corrected in the learning period.

Our hearing patterns are also governed by the same kind of “symmetry” we like to play with. We hear and play melodies in 4’s 8’s 16’s and when we improvise, we struggle, and most never even come close, to breaking free of these ingrained patterns. They are certainly not with us from birth, we pick them up as children.

Most of the expressly microtonal music out there is academic and sounds like it was created by and for frustrated musical and social hermits. Any music that defines itself as microtonal and aspires to anything other than an exercise tends to fall flat on its face.

A lot of microtonal advocates critise the 12 tone-per-octave system, however expression requires restriction.

Most “world” musics use micro intervals, but in a musical, expressive way. Many composers use them in an academic way- this is an excercise, it is devoid of expression. If the expression surfaces it seems to be by accident .

The microtone etudes I made are called etudes because they are only a study device.Only later I dubbed them “Caprices” Do they have any musical vaue? Who should judge that?

Microtonality on the saxophone has a lot to do with increasing the sound potential and resonance of the instrument. The more fingers I have down means more saxophone vibrating means richer sound means more tonal possibilities.

Microtoanlity means increasing and fundamentally changing our patterns of hearing. Being raised in a diatonic musical world for 20 years and then trying to break out of it is a long road but one full of rewards. Once we move back in to our familiar chromatic musical world after playing micro intervals we find our hearing has become more exacting.

Using microtonality in a jazz situation often leads us quickly to the mississippi delta- this is because we “feel” a lot of blue notes when we play (esp. 3rds, 4ths, and 7ths in their altered forms) and having more microtonal faculties on our instruments lets us approach the expressive possibilities of singers. Of course this is again all to do with our hearing-on a high level of improvising we play what we hear. Unfortunately for most of us, when our ears were really open at a young stage, the aural input wasn’t all that rosy.

It’s important and very useful to differentiate in questions of microtonality who is playing on purpose and who is not.

Because all tonal playing is an approximation on the sax, we are on an impossible mission and that is why the ride is full of bumps. However when exact playing is achieved at slow speeds and then gradually increased the results can be impressive and confusing for the untinitiated.

When most players begin to improvise, it’s the fingers who do the walking- “giant steps” is the classic example for pattern based playing. Now it’s 2004 and time to move on

When we start to become more exacting with the intervals we play we find we have to slow down the tempo of the music in order for our ears to come along with us. This again goes against the grain of jazz and improvised music so I think it’s best we get off the bus for good and just walk.

Each interval has a distinct colour in the diatonic system.Playing an E over c major or over a major are two different worlds for me. With microtonality we are simply smudging some of these colours and deconstructing the borders between them.

With microtonality and the attempt to play difficult new scales on the saxophone we approach the physically impossible- that is where I want to be- in the no-mans land shortly before technique breaks down and what we aspire to morphs into something we didn’t know before.

Sometimes when playing microtonally for extended periods I have the feeling I am moving away from a “human” music into something else.By “human” music I mean produced by and for featherless bipeds. When dropping microtonal lines into a normal diatonic context it feels like an invocation. (and how does that feel???ed)

If we want to keep our listeners we have have to take them by the hand and lead them slowly down the path while gently opening their ears at the same time. With microtonality on sax we are aided by the fact that even the deafest of critics can pick up on the broader ranger of tonal nuances we thus control.

When playing microtonally we need sensitivity from the musicians we are playing with. In other words, if the band’s too loud, grab a soprano and start playing in the top register a semitone out, leave the subtleties for after the show when the pole dancing is over.

It’s possible to dance to microtonal sax music, it just feels a little different.

One of the refreshing elements of microtonality is moving beyond an EITHER major OR minor tonality. I am neither happy nor sad, I simply am.


listen to an excerpt from “air blues”, a microtonal ensemble piece for jazz group recorded at the WDR :

listen to “enter the jade palace” with root70, I wrote a microtonal intro for trombone and sax.

or how about something from this suite? a microtonal woodwind work I wrote in 1998?

a little jazz improvisation on soprano using microtones in a free and nonchalant way

Flock is a piece for saxophone quartet inspired by the movement of animals :

some more split scales from the Circe album. Here minor 3rds are split in the middle
Circe 4

Microtone Caprices for Saxophone

My work with quarter tones began in 1995 when I first began to develop a set of fingerings for the alto saxophone. Over the course of time I found one could achieve more accuracy on soprano and so most of my work was done on that instrument. I began working with smaller intervals purely for ear training purposes and this proved to be the biggest challenge- readjusting my conditioned hearing. Once this was done over the years I began using the new tone fields in all sorts of ways. I split intervals such as minor thirds and perfect fourths exactly in the middle and came up with some interesting new scales that could be played on saxophone. The possibilities seemed endless so I first remained with a few workable models and used them in as many contexts as I could find.

These caprices were a logical step in the training of these new tonal models. They all originate in the time from 1999 to 2001. Each one deals with a specific quarter tone field and a simple rhythmic framework. The material is reduced so as to allow the young quarter tone student to concentrate on one problem at a time. They should all be performed with a metronome unless of course they are performed in public.

In these works, thematic development is restricted to issues of technique. The changes and modulations are very limited and designed to stretch the students hearing as the etudes progress. First work on the etudes could involve tempos 4 times as slow as those used on the recording.

Caprices 2 and 8 are brain stretchers and and use no notation. Instead, a rhythmic structure is set down and two harmonic fields (major scales a quarter tone apart) are played alternatively in a longer duration, causing the harmonic fields to overlap the rhythmic structure. Combining this with a free choice from the tonal fields leads to limitless variation and a good exercise for the concentration faculties.

The use of circular breathing should not be over emphasised. It as useful as a way of smoothing over the tonal modulations but it is not necessary for the performance of the etudes. I consider it nothing more than a handy wee device to be used by the by.

The tracks were all recorded with a close microphone so as not to miss a single nuance. Small irregularities in phrasing and articulation are hence amplified but I wanted the most direct effect possible.

The last tracks use overdubs and are excerpts from a longer work for 8 woodwinds that has not yet been performed live called “suite”. I set several lines uni sono in octaves requiring exact intonation of the quarter tones. This can be further experimented with positive results. It was written for alto and soprano saxophones, and clarinets.

Quarter tone fingering charts for woodwinds are now readily available and easy to find. The scores for these etudes can be ordered directly.

Have fun with these caprices and get prepared to let a whole new way of hearing open up your mind.

Micro 1

Micro 2

Micro 3

Micro 4

Here is a PDF with my fingerings and some basic exercises I started with.

From the “Circe” Album where several tone fields of split 3rd and split 4ths and displaced major scales are investigated:

1.Circe 1

3.Circe 4

4.Circe 5

5.Circe 6

6.Circe 7

7.Circe 8

8.Circe 9

9.Circe 10

10.Circe 11

11.Circe 12

During our rehearsal week for the Kaum Quartet in a lonely cottage in county Wicklow, Ireland , we found ourselves around the fireplace talking of all manner of things, music and saxophone related. Somehow Sean managed to leave one of the mics on and there are some funny moments in this discussion. Frank goes off on a long journey concerning classical and jazz saxophone, the true nature of improvisation and subjective reality in music. there are some bits where he really hits the nail on the head as far as classical versus jazz saxophone issues go. The whole deal is uncensored: [audio:http://www.1xN.org/softspeakers/audio/MIXED/kaumtalk.mp3]

I always liked to practice over a tambura drone but it is hard to find some good recordings of them. I recorded mine recently and now have it here as a 20 minute file. There are different tunings within the track with the base note remaining e flat throughout.


Here is some other microtonal music I enjoy :

Horatiu Radulescu Streichquartett Nr 4 opus 33:

Giorgio Netti – NecessitaÌ€ d’interogare il cielo :

intuire la dispiegata forma della luce :

Here is La Monte Young´s “The Well Tuned Piano” – a beautiful journey for man, machine, and the ear of the behearer. It takes some time to feel at home in this justly intonated body of sound but it is well worth staying the while. (60´)
Well Tuned