“I feel that all sounds are inherently also music….When one begins to think this way, the entire world around you becomes a cacophonous symphony, and your mental attention to one sound while filtering out the rest makes you the composer and producer of a personal soundtrack that follows you through all your waking hour.”

James Colby is a recipient of a 2017 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Artist Research and Development Grants are designed to support the advancement of artistic research, aid in the development of artistic work and recognize the contributions individual artists make to Arizona’s communities. For more information about the Artist Research & Development Grant, click here.

James Colby’s “Saxorcism” is an electronic musical composition and performance project that looks to explore the sonic limits of saxophones as an instrument and musical sound source, as well as the tensions between electronic and acoustic musical performance. Using audio recordings he makes of saxophone players as the sole sound source, Colby will create a set of musical compositions to be debuted live in conjunction with improvising saxophonists. By editing the saxophone recordings down to small chunks and digitally altering their pitch, duration, decay, etc., he will be able to repurpose them as traditional musical elements such as bass lines, harmonies, rhythms, and melodies within the compositions.

The period of gathering, editing, and transmuting the audio of saxophone performance into musical compositions will take place from October 2016 to March 2017. The piece will then be performed live, alongside video projections, at a free concert to be held at Exploded View Microcinema in Tucson, AZ, in April 2017.

Segment from larger “Sonaural: Cuts On Tucson” project. Music created entirely from field recordings taken at various hiking trails in and surrounding Tucson. Video edited from footage taken at same locales.

Music by James Colby; Video by Patrick Cain


James Colby has been playing and composing music in wide variety of contexts and locations for many years, including time spent studying saxophone at a conservatory in his home state of New York. Upon moving to Tucson four years ago, James met the members of cumbia band Vox Urbana, which he joined as a keyboard player and saxophonist, helping write and record both of the band’s records, “La Churumbela” and “La Pitaya.”
In 2014, James and Enrique Castellanos of Vox Urbana were awarded a Puffin Foundation Grant by the Puffin Foundation, and a P.L.A.C.E. V grant by the Tucson Pima Arts Council for their project, “Cumbia Corridos.” The project entailed James and Enrique interviewing people within the city of Tucson whose stories are marginalized and not directly shared with the public, then transforming these stories into lyrics set to original music.

In 2015, James Colby was awarded a New Works grant by the Tucson Pima Arts Council for a project entitled “Sonoura: Cuts on Tucson.” The project consists of James collecting field recordings from specific sites within the city of Tucson, Arizona, and manipulating and arranging samples pulled from the field recordings to create musical compositions that seek to create a “remixed” version of the city. The piece has been performed at Exploded View Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, AZ.

Besides playing concerts and touring with Vox Urbana, James also currently plays guitar in punk rock group New Doubt. He has also played and written music with the improv ensemble Blood and Bone Orchestra, as well as performing and recording his own songs solo under his own name. James has toured the United States extensively, as well as playing and collaborating with musicians in Berlin, Hermosillo, Monterrey, Mexico City, Zagreb, and the Canary Islands.

Listen to Jim Colby discuss Saxorcism on the May 18, 2018 edition of ARIZONA SPOTLIGHT with Mark McLemore.