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New work for Splinter Reeds by Ken Ueno

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The Hookah Sax!

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Splinter Reeds
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Splinter Reeds was proud to premiere Ken Ueno’s “Babbling” on November 6, 2016 at the 39th Annual Festival of New American Music at Sacramento State University. The full performance will be posted when the video is available!

For now, we wanted to share a clip of David practicing his Hookah Sax for the first time after finding the right size vinyl tubing!


David’s Simple Instructions for making your own hookah sax in B-flat

I used 3/4″ thick vinyl tubing, which wedges into the body of the instrument very snugly, and needed some shaving of the tube to fit in the neck. I found that Oboists tend to have tools around that work well for cutting vinyl tubes. ;)

In “Babbling,” the tube is cut short to sound a very low concert B-flat (sounding an octove lower than the lowest note of the bassoon and bass clarinet). This is a 10 foot tube in the video, with a pitch considerably below the one desired. After cutting the tube to sound a concert B-flat when inserted into the saxophone, the tube length is approximately 94″ long. I’d advise buying a tube no shorter than 100″, and then cutting off small chunks to fine tune the pitch. 



We’ll be back soon with more from the premiere performance of Ken Ueno’s “Babbling”


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March 6, 2015: Two Concerts at the Presidio

Posted on February 12, 2015 by Splinter Reeds
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Come join Splinter Reeds on March 6th at the Presidio Officer’s Club in San Francisco! We’ll be presenting two FREE sets of new music as part of a collaboration with the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music and the Presidio Trust. If you haven’t caught us in concert yet, this is a great opportunity to hear what we’re all about.

The combined sets will include music by Dai Fujikura, Marc Mellits, György Ligeti, Ned McGowan, Ryan Brown, Ron Ford, Carlo Gesualdo and Tom Johnson. 


Posted on February 12, 2015 by Splinter Reeds

Thanks so much for following our project! We’re super excited to be working with Ken Ueno on a new work. Over the course of this collaboration, we’ll be providing updates to this project as well as upcoming concert information. One initial change to note: we do plan to record Babbling, however it will happen on our second album, not our debut album (which we are recording this June).


Splinter Reeds is commissioning composer Ken Ueno to compose a new work for reed quintet, titled “Babbling”, to be premiered in San Francisco in spring 2016.

Splinter Reeds is on the forefront of pushing the reed quintet repertoire in a more experiemental direction. Splinter Reeds’ commitment to adventurous programming has led them to seek out some of the Bay Area’s most creative composers and push the boundaries of the reed quintet sound. Working with Ken Ueno will allow us to experiment with instrument modification and create a piece with an aesthetic unlike anything in the existing reed quintet repertoire.

“Babbling” will be premiered in Spring 2016 concert at the Center for New Music in San Francisco, for which Mr. Ueno will be in attendance to introduce the work. Splinter Reeds will include the piece on all touring programs in Spring 2016. Currently planned to be 16-minutes long, “Babbling” will be a substantial feature on each of our concert programs. Live recordings will be made available for worldwide consumption via Splinter Reeds’ website and Soundcloud, and Splinter Reeds will plan to create a studio recording of “Babbling,” for release on Splinter Reeds’ debut album.

As a new chamber music genre, reed quintets are emerging worldwide and perpetually seeking new music and arrangements. “Babbling” will offer a fresh approach to the existing reed quintet repertoire by expanding the genre to include American experimental music.


Several years ago, when I was composing my vocal concerto (for throat-singing soloist), I rediscovered cassette tapes I made as a child. It turns out that I was singing multiphonics! Reflecting on that later, I thought of linguistic research on childhood language acquisition, such as babbling. It’s a way for babies to develop physical dexterity to perform adult phonetic structures, as well as aiding in its phonological development. I am interested in that period of babbling when the child’s repertoire of sounds includes sounds that are later filtered out by adult language.

Metaphorically, my musical practice is about reclaiming that personal repertoire of sounds that adult language filters out. When composing, I often acquire an instrument for which I am composing and learn to play it by “babbling.” I have two examples on video of my babbling for woodwind instruments. The first shows me playing a hacked saxophone with a 7-ft tube, and in the second, I vocalize through the instrument.

Hooka Sax – tended techniques on a hacked alto saxophone

Demonstrating “ssh” vocalized through a clarinet

With this background in mind, the new composition project for Splinter Reeds is one of the most exciting and ideal projects for me at this time.  There is a whole world of possibilities extending my babbling practice beyond the woodwind instruments that I know every well (clarinets and saxophones) to include the oboe and bassoon (for which I have heretofore only composed in orchestral contexts), as well as the weird and wonderful prospect of the combination of sounds that all five instruments hacked and babbling would be.

Project Media

Composing (X)igágáí
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Features: Ken Ueno

(X)igágáí (2011) 18min (fl, ob., 2 cl, bsn, Bb trpt, hrn, trmb, 2 perc, piano, vln, 2 vla, cello, bs) Premiere: April 11, 2011. Le Poisson Rouge, NY, NY. Alarm Will Sound. This piece was commissioned by Meet The Composer for premiere performance by Alarm Will Sound.

Line and Length (2007) – Matthew Shlomowitz
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Features: Splinter Reeds

Splinter Reeds – www.splinterreeds.com
Matthew Shlomowitz – www.shlom.com
Recorded live at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
January 13, 2014

North American Premiere

Wind Skein, Mvt. 1 by Dai Fujikura
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Features: Splinter Reeds

Performed live at Trinity Chamber Concerts (Berkeley, CA), June 2, 2014
North American Premiere

Start and End Dates



San Francisco, California

3 updates
Last update on November 10, 2016

Project Created By

Oakland, California
Splinter Reeds is the West Coast’s first professional reed quintet, comprising five virtuosic musicians with a shared passion for new music. The ensemble is committed to presenting top tier performances of today’s best contemporary composition, showcasing the vast possibilities of the reed quintet, and commissioning new works through collaboration with fellow musicians and artists. Splinter Reeds’…

In Collaboration With

Berkeley, California
Columbia, Missouri
Oberlin, Ohio
Oakland, California
Bass Clarinetist
Oakland, California
Oakland, California


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