Editor, McLerran Journal
Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX
Introducing the offspring of a saxophone and technology, the infinitone. This new take on the traditional saxophone comes from American composer-inventor Subhraag Singh, who won the first prize for his invention at the 2017 Margaret Guthman New Musical Instrument Contest hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology (USA).
Who is Subhraag Singh?
Subhraag Singh is an American composer-inventor (living in Germany) with an immense imagination and a passion for innovation. Singh began studying music in his early childhood with unofficial piano lessons and the opportunity to learn the saxophone for beginning band in the fifth grade. Immediately, he was drawn to western styles of music like jazz and found a great appreciation for “timeless” artists like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington. As a university music student, Singh felt himself artistically stifled in the classroom setting and decided instead to pursue his jazz studies through human interactions and live performances. “I think life itself is the best music education,” he shares, “oftentimes I have learned the most from organic relationships” and collaborations with other musicians.
In addition to performing and inventing, Singh has also contributed to the advancement of tonality in contemporary music. His belief is that, in order to create “the music of the future,” composers must be able to access all possible pitches and experiment with the unlimited number of sound combinations. “Just as painters can paint with a palate of infinite shades,” he states, “so can musicians make music with infinite varieties of musical intervals.” Because both sound and light are measured through wave frequencies, Singh believes that it is only logical to use the two in tandem. Each available pitch is assigned to (and organized by) a unique color as seen here on his website. To accommodate this modernized concept of intonation, he has developed an avant-garde method of musical notation which discards the traditional five-lined staff and instead uses a series of colored dots along a sort of timeline.
About his decision to dedicate his life to music and innovation, Singh shares, “I find every day to be filled with exciting new discoveries and experiences.” He is immensely grateful to his supportive parents who never pushed him to conform to any particular standard and to his wife who “helps [him] to be a much more authentic human being.” His son, who is nearly three, and “his ability to make music in a totally free, unrestrained way,” has provided much of the inspiration for Singh’s work. Currently, Singh is designing a new software "to give musicians access to these new sonic realms." This project, which he hopes to launch next year, is meant to "give musicians easy access to infinite new harmonic and melodic possibilities."
What is the Infinitone?
The infinitone is an original invention by Subhraag Singh which was developed over the course of several years and premiered at the Margaret Gutham New Musical Instrument Contest in 2017. It is a brass instrument that consists of a mouthpiece, reed, ligature, five motorized slides, and electrical connection to an Ipad, “which displays 256 notes per octave (Schwab).” The infinitone is approximately two feet long and takes the shape of a thin square pyramid. It makes a sound very similar to that of the rest of the saxophone family, but with the added ability to play any pitch imaginable. This is possible with the implementation of the slides (instead of the traditional set of keys) which give it the flexibility of a string instrument or trombone. Singh has referred to his invention as the “saxophone of the future,” stating that it provides the composer with the ability to manipulate intervals as freely as an artist might manipulate colors of paint or light.
Currently, the infinitone in Singh’s possession is the only one of its kind worldwide, but soon the instrument will be in production for others to purchase. In the near future, he hopes to develop “a full range of infinitones (bass through soprano),” to simulate the variety of sizes of traditional saxophone. Once the instrument is widely available to the public, Singh plans to develop a beginner technique book and also is working on “releasing some microtonal music software” in order to allow other composers to experiment with tonality. Eventually, he plans to extend this fusion of “cyborg technologies” with other traditional wind instruments and would like to continue composing new music for the new technology-based orchestra.
Bazaario (2017) is an original composition by Subhraag Singh “that shows the potential of just intonation” and showcases the abilities of the infinitone. It employs a a tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, percussion, and infinitone in a captivating jazz melody. Sing shares that he “wanted to write something that was both fresh sounding and at the same time very listenable.” Sheet music to this work, and future works featuring the infinitone, will be available once the instrument is in production.
Learn more about the Infinitone at http://infinitonic.com
Book Suggestions from Singh
Recording Suggestions from Singh
Ben Johnston "String Quartet #7” (recorded by the Kepler Quartet)
Brendan Byrnes Micropangea
Email correspondence with Subhraag Singh. July 2018.
Singh, Subhraag. (2017). About the Infinitone. Infinitonic. N.p. Web. 1 July, 2018.
Schwab, Katherine. (2017). The Infinitone: An Entirely New Musical Interface. Co Design. Fast
Company. Mansueto Ventures LLC. <https://www.fastcodesign.com/3068956/the-