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MY BLOG: Every day for a year.
Day 210 ‘Monday Meanies’
Big bad bullies!
Have you ever stopped to consider why the Saxophone is not part of the symphony orchestra? Why yes, Stevie! I hear you say. We think about that every morning before chugging down some coffee and toast as we head out the door. Raised eyebrows duly noted, but on I go!
I must confess that I have given it little thought, even as orchestral ensembles surrounded me at college. I’d subscribed to the general theory that it just didn’t blend all that well. On a side note, it’s not hard to see why the classical school and the jazz school didn’t get along. If we bumped shoulders in the corridor, a frosty remark of, “damn reader, couldn’t play anything if it wasn’t written down in front of your face.” To which the usual reply was, “damn fly by the seat of your pants, at least I can read correctly, you nong.” On a personal note, I think the students should be made to cross-pollinate, you can never know too much music stuff. Okay, back to the topic. The theory that the Saxophone did not blend well was such nonsense. It’s one of its key features. Sure it growls, but so does a bassoon and you don’t see it in exile. The real reason is mainly historical. It was to do with the cartel-like world of Parisian instrument manufacturers in the 19th Century, and their enormous impact on the instrument’s perception over the next 100 years. Belgian inventor, Adolphe Sax, created the Saxophone in the 1840s. He was searching for a better bridge between the brass and woodwind section, feeling that the bassoon wasn’t entirely cutting it. (I’m not sure I am in agreeance with that theory, but that was his motivation.) A gifted inventor, he was also rather arrogant and rubbed the influential nerves of many people the wrong way. In 1845 Sax moved to Paris, aiming to become a key supplier to the French Military. Entering a battle of the bands’ type contest with rival local manufactures, he found himself in front of an audience of 20 thousand people. Despite some members of Sax’s band succumbing to intimidation and retreating from the contest, Sax’s instruments were still judged to be the best. Instead of this victory stamping the Saxaphone’s arrival, it started a war between Sax and the closed shop of french manufacturers who set out to destroy him at all costs. They brought immense pressure upon musicians not to use any of Sax’s instruments. Composers who had planned to use the Saxophone in their scores were forced to abandon the idea when musicians threated to boycott the work. The Saxophone, which should have easily integrated into the orchestra, was effectively blocked from being included. In one of the great injustices of the music world, time did not right this imbalance. You can undoubtedly find compositions now that do include Saxophone, but it never gained the foothold as one of the family like it should have. The next time you’re feeling a tad excluded or picked on, spare a thought for poor old Adolphe Sax.
Thanks for listening!.