Solo : Confabulate

Carl Polke




  1. Engage in conversation; talk.
  2. A memory error defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive. Input sensitivity monitoring coupled to envelope generators and modifiers mapped to parameters within effects units and blocks allows for interplay with the effects themselves.

A conversation can be had with the machine.

Though the saxophone is the primary sound-source and performative control element, the acoustic sound of the instrument itself is not necessarily featured. Choice as to when or if the acoustic sound of the saxophone is involved is made on an improvisational basis in response to the sonic territory of the moment, and forms part of the performative outcome.

Conceptually, the work speaks to the tensions inherent in the digital/real world intersection with which we constantly contend.

Access to the digital world is via familiar objects, phone, tablet, computer, but what lies beyond is ever changing, leading to a form of cognitive dissonance and engaging the mind as it comes to terms with whatever “reality” is presented.

A familiar object/sight, the saxophone/player, creates a sound so far removed from expectation that a form of cognitive dissonance is created, the observer is engaged as the mind comes to terms with this novel form of “reality”.

Solo confabulation.

Presented are four short improvisational pieces representative of the practice as outlined:

  1. Smooth Times in Wowville: Amplitude at input (i.e. sax breath control) tied to several parameters, mostly pitch related. The acoustic sound converses with the machine pixies as they constantly try escape…. This effect is very delicately balanced (and a LOT of fun to play with) small variations in amplitude mapped to big changes allowing the possibility to play almost silently and still create much sound.
  2. Ahoy: Basically a random LFO tied to filter/s creates a harsh rhythm to battle against and play with. Based on Zappa’s guitar sound from the “Ship Ahoy” guitar solo.
  3. Diamond Flower: The speed of the “stutter” effect is reliant on amplitude at input, the graph overlay is a real-time capture of the envelope parameter reacting to amplitude of sax through the pickup. A damping factor is applied to the envelope response to allow for more precise control.
  4. Harnk: Synthesis and randomness..due to the nature of the pitch follower and how it reads the complex noise from the sax, the synth doesn’t always go where you’d think it should….


Carl Polke: A musician/sound-designer/performer living in Melbourne, Australia, whose current performative practise involves free improvisation utilising digital audio effects with alto saxophone as the primary sound source. At a conceptual level it interrogates the relationship between society/the individual and the digital realm. The work is perceived as evolving sound-design, and is presented as both solo and as part of improvisational duo The Confabulations. His project The Endless Guitar Solo received funding from The City of Melbourne Quick Response Arts grant and is currently in development, and he is collaborative/co-artist in the Audible Lockdown project awarded a 2020 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Commission. With over 30 years’ experience in the physical theatre/circus and live theatre industries, he has worked with many of Australia’s leading companies including Circus Oz, Legs on the Wall, Phunktional, The Flying Fruit Fly Circus many more. His work is known for its animated style and theatrical sensibility, and has achieved both national and international recognition, winning a Canadian Jesse award and received Helpmann nominations.