Saxophone Synthesis Compositions are an ongoing, performance based, musical project. Centered around both alto and baritone woodwinds, these works meld together harsh, long form soundscapes with the traditions of spiritual music using contemporary approaches. The proposition of this music takes place as often in remote settings as they do in front of a live audience. Audio/video transmissions and recordings take the place of the stage when performances happen outside of urban events.
For Ruehlen, the saxophone is an instrument that extends and highlights the breath of the body--not just a series of notes but an inhalation/invocation and exhalation/exhaltation. Through coupling the acoustical body with live modular synthesis, mixers, microphones and liminal effects, "Sheets of high-pitched ambience lay the groundwork for the saxophone meditations, (while) program glitches and shorting nodes accompany slow marches toward completion. Tones hang in the atmosphere in humid ambience, the sax slowly stirring them until they curdle," writes Ryan Masteller of Tabs Out.
The performance of patching the horn into a complex system of filters in remote and urban settings allows Ruehlen the chance to inhabit multiple voicings and rhythms at once. Feeding off of his own playing, the soloist feels more like they are in conversation with several versions of their location; an ethereal duet with the immediate and imagined environment. Much of Ruehlen's inspiration that develops during the composition process (both live and built upon) draws heavily on landscape, and how landscape transforms, deteriorates, becomes unrecognizable, and reawakens amidst human consequence.
For years, the desert Southwest and West of the US has been a situated environment for considering how music, noise, and place envelop one another. Ruehlen, "Signifies the desert as much more than a remote, desolate, forbidding, eerily silent place without much of a human footprint. Once someone moves off the grid and finds the sweetest isolated spot, there is opportunity to capture noise that compels the listener to consider it in a whole new realm. The deepest listening experience occurs with the focus on the music of a place being transmitted from a remote location where the sensations of time, sound and space synthesize into a different realm," Les Roka writes in the Utah Review.
As a new eon descends upon the planet, an eon hinged on catastrophic change--much at the hands of Capital--questions surrounding why and how music is produced drift in the aether. What does it mean to make music in correspondence to the disappearing of birdsong across the North American terrain? What does it mean to access and emphasize the breath as air becomes unbreathable? What is the ambience of cataclysm and social upheavel?