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The Saxophone

The Saxophone

Stephen Cottrell
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Saxophone
    Book Description:

    In the first fully comprehensive study of one of the world's most iconic musical instruments, Stephen Cottrell examines the saxophone's various social, historical, and cultural trajectories, and illustrates how and why this instrument, with its idiosyncratic shape and sound, became important for so many different music-makers around the world.

    After considering what led inventor Adolphe Sax to develop this new musical wind instrument, Cottrell explores changes in saxophone design since the 1840s before examining the instrument's role in a variety of contexts: in the military bands that contributed so much to the saxophone's global dissemination during the nineteenth century; as part of the rapid expansion of American popular music around the turn of the twentieth century; in classical and contemporary art music; in world and popular music; and, of course, in jazz, a musical style with which the saxophone has become closely identified.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19095-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of illustrations, music examples and tables
    (pp. viii-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Abbreviations and conventions
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Introduction: Saxophone essentials
    (pp. 1-9)

    The saxophone is not one, but many. The generic term describes a family of related instruments, unified by their shared acoustic properties, similar designs and performance characteristics, and their collective roots in the vision of the man who invented the instrument, Adolphe Sax.

    The most common members of the family are today designated as soprano, alto, tenor and baritone, but others often encountered include sopranino and bass; contra-bass and sub-contra-bass models can also occasionally be found. Additionally, some saxophones exist in both straight and curved versions, and manufacturers also offer a range of lacquers to finish their instruments, which can...

  8. Chapter 1 The life and times of Adolphe Sax
    (pp. 10-37)

    The small Belgian town of Dinant lies some 60 miles south-east of Brussels on the banks of the River Meuse. Nestling in the foothills of the Ardennes forest it is an attractive but unremarkable town with a long history of metalwork craftsmanship, having achieved a reputation in the Middle Ages for the production of what became known asdinanderie: fire irons, candlesticks and similar, and ecclesiastical objects such as fonts and lecterns. At the peak of its manufacturing success in the fifteenth century the town’s population may have reached as many as 60,000, although today it numbers some 13,000 inhabitants....

  9. Chapter 2 The saxophone family
    (pp. 38-91)

    What led Adolphe Sax to create a new, hybrid musical wind instrument? Sax himself provided several answers to this question in the explanation he attached to the saxophone patent (see also Appendix):

    One knows that, in general, wind instruments are either too loud or too soft in sonority. It is particularly in the basses where one or the other of these faults is most appreciable. The ophicleide, for example, which reinforces the trombones, produces a sound by nature so disagreeable that one is obliged to banish it from closed rooms, for lack of being able to modify the timbre. The...

  10. Chapter 3 The saxophone in the nineteenth century
    (pp. 92-132)

    The saxophone may be said to have appeared at a time when Paris was in the throes of revolutions that were political, social, economic and aesthetic in nature. The political tides that ebbed and flowed through nineteenth-century France reflected the significant social and economic changes that gripped the country in general, and Paris in particular, at that time. As in other parts of Europe, increasing economic prosperity was founded upon colonial expansion, the rapid growth of manufacturing industries, and a developing transport infrastructure. Much of the expansion in industrial fields was driven by developments in steam engine technology. Sax himself...

  11. Chapter 4 Early twentieth-century light and popular music
    (pp. 133-182)

    It was the adoption of the saxophone in various popular genres around the turn of the twentieth century that introduced the instrument to a wider audience and gave it a more diverse profile. It became increasingly common among variety and vaudeville entertainers in the United States, and was also employed by band musicians supporting travelling circuses. In all these contexts it was often the essential novelty of the instrument, its unfamiliar sound and shape, that made it attractive. Variety entertainers were especially keen to emphasise this novelty. TheNew York Clipper, a predecessor toVarietymagazine, advertised one duo who...

  12. Chapter 5 The saxophone in jazz
    (pp. 183-227)

    The word ‘jazz’ was probably initially used in African-American oral culture of the late nineteenth century as a synonym for sexual intercourse, and various suggestions have been put forward as to its etymology. It may have evolved from the word ‘jasmine’, which was used as a perfume in the red light district (known as Storyville) of New Orleans, Louisiana, where, it is often claimed, jazz originally developed. It may have derived from the Old Testament ‘Jezebel’, used at the time to designate a prostitute.¹ Thus, when the saxophone later became closely identified with the jazz tradition and its players, these...

  13. Chapter 6 The classical saxophone
    (pp. 228-263)

    The symphony orchestra has long had an ambivalent relationship with the saxophone. Although it was clearly part of Sax’s initial expectations that the instrument should find a niche for itself in the orchestral context, such expectations have yet to be permanently fulfilled. Since the 1960s the saxophone has certainly been a more regular visitor to the symphony hall and the opera house, and prior to this there are a number of intriguing and often high-profile uses of the instrument in various works. But most composers have conceived the saxophone as offering an alternative tint within the symphonic palette, something to...

  14. Chapter 7 Modernism and postmodernism
    (pp. 264-305)

    Since the 1970s there has been a significant resurgence of interest in the saxophone. It is now one of the most frequently heard and widely recognised musical instruments, and used in an exceptionally broad range of musical contexts. In part this success may be attributed to changes in musical styles, notably a significant expansion of Western popular music, often underpinned by developments in studio technology. But the instrument has also notably benefited from globalisation and the proliferation of mass media, which have made it more widely recognised by and available to musicians around the world. It has become a quintessentially...

  15. Chapter 8 The saxophone as symbol and icon
    (pp. 306-342)

    The saxophone was developed to address specific problems that Adolphe Sax had identified among low wind instruments, and his solution to these was made possible in part because of nineteenth-century advances in engineering – particularly in the manipulation of sheet metal such as brass – and through increased understanding of acoustics and the musical possibilities such understandings afforded. From its inception, therefore, the instrument has been identified with modernity, innovation, and a sense of exploration and enquiry, and this reputation has in many ways remained with it since. These characteristics were explicitly promoted in the nineteenth century by Jullien and...

  16. Appendix: Adolphe Sax’s 1846 saxophone patent
    (pp. 343-348)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 349-372)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 373-380)
  19. Index
    (pp. 381-390)