The Saxophone Changed The World Film Studies Essay
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Whether you listen to rock, metal, rap, jazz, classical or opera, the music all has one connecting element, instruments. Without instruments the world and music would be a much more calm and boring place. Leo Tolstoy described Music as "the shorthand of emotion" ("Brainy quotes," 1/11). Music can convey feelings and expressions that people can universally understand and feel not just listen to. A very powerful way to convey a feeling is through the playing of an instrument, and the best out of such, the Saxophone. The Saxophone is a newer instrument but with its beautiful range and tone quality it brings life and feeling to the music art form. "The Saxophone has become one of those so well loved instruments, in large part because of the beauty of its Tone." (Anonymous, 2011). The sax and its famous players have changed the shape and sound of music forever.
The saxophone was created by a Belgium man named Adolphe Sax, the son of a chief instrument maker. Adolphe learned his father’s skill and even surpassed his father in the trade. Adolphe being smart in the field, fixed the technical awkwardness of several instruments and also created several instruments in different materials and ways that others previously could not.
"Being the visionary he was, Adolphe had an idea to create a completely new instrument. This Instrument would combine the power of a brass instrument with the subtleties of a woodwind instrument and the facility of a stringed instrument. After much experimentation, he had his first working model in 1841, which he called the bass horn. It wasn’t until a review of his new instrument in the French paper Journal des Debats, however, that the name le saxophon or saxophone came about. In 1846, Adolphe Sax won two patents for his designs: One for a set of saxophones intended for the orchestra and the other for a set of saxophones intended for military bands. Each set consisted of a range of sizes from the small sopranino saxophone to the huge subcontrabass saxophone. These two patents represented Adolph’s two dreams for the saxophone" (DeJesus).
"He put a clarinet-like mouthpiece onto a metal body with a conical shape similar to an oboe and came up with an instrument louder than traditional woodwinds and suitable for military music" ("jazz-music-history.com," 2010). Adolphe’s invention changed military and classical music. Adolphe also wanted to include the saxophone in the orchestra setting but there came about some problems with this idea. Adolphe was a very proud man and wanted to always improve the string instruments, which the players and conductors found extremely annoying. The sax at the time had several problems so it never became an important piece in the orchestral world. Adolphe also wanted the sax to become an important piece in the military band, which did become true. Adolphe showed the French military band the sax, and while reluctant at first, adopted the piece and was a huge success. Because of this, military bands all over the world wanted a sax in their band. With the sax’s prevalence in the military band setting, the sax made it to New Orleans and started the creation of jazz, and its form that it is today (DeJesus). At first the sax was not hugely popular but, "In the nineteen-twenties there were as many as one million saxophones sold, based solely on the sound of the recordings" (Anonymous, 2011).
The saxophone changed the world of music greatly with its sharp and smooth sound. "The history of Jazz music origins is attributed to the turn of the 20th century New Orleans, although this unique, artistic medium occurred almost simultaneously in other North American areas like Saint Louis, Kansas City and Chicago. Traits carried from West African black folk music developed in the Americas, joined with European popular and light classical music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, became the syncopated rhythms of Ragtime and minor chord voicing’s characteristic of the Blues" (Johnson, 2011). When Big Band and swing music was coming around in the 1930’s the clarinet was the most greatly used instrument. But as the 1940s rolled around and Bop music became more popular clarinets as a solo instrument started to dwindle and they were replaced by the sax. Ever since then the jazz industry has been forever changed with two leading instruments, trumpet and sax ("jazz-music-history.com," 2010). "Throughout the Saxophone History, the saxophone has enjoyed success in military bands, and then graduated to an increased solo repertoire in the classical world. Meanwhile, it has become part of many popular music genres, such as pop, big band, blues, rock and roll, ska, and jazz. The saxophone’s relatively easy learning curve has made it popular in public school music programs for children and adults alike (Anonymous, 2011)."
There have been many great saxophone players that have changed the face of the music industry, not just jazz. Charlie Parker is said to be one of the most influential and important saxophonists in the jazz community. Parker started off his music career in school where he played the baritone horn. His love of music and his interest moved him over to the alto saxophone. Pretty shortly after starting the alto, Parker quit school and started playing with local bands. While playing with different bands he went to New York, which greatly influenced his style of music. After touring some Parker decided to move to New York. Parker got a job washing dishes and met Biddy Fleet a guitarist. Biddy taught parker about instrumental harmony. Several years later Parker made his own group that made some of his most famous music. In 1955 at the height of his career he died in a friend’s apartment (Louck, 2012). "Charles "Yardbird" Parker was an amazing saxophonist who gained wide recognition for his brilliant solos and innovative improvisations. He was, without a doubt, one of the most influential and talented musicians in jazz history" (Louck, 2012).
Another one person to greatly influence jazz is John Coltrane. John Coltrane was always surrounded with music in his family and this is what started him off on the clarinet and the E-flat horn. As Coltrane got older and his tastes in music changed he switched over to the alto saxophone. After world war two where he served in the Navy Band, Coltrane began playing the tenor saxophone as well. During this period he played with many different bands and became known for using a technique known as the "sheets of sound" where he would play at one time, multiple notes. Coltrane in 1960 created his own quartet and "created some of the most innovative and expressive music in Jazz history including the hit albums: "My Favorite Things," "Africa Brass," " Impressions," " Giant Steps," and his monumental work "A Love Supreme" which attests to the power, glory, love, and greatness of God. Coltrane felt we must all make a conscious effort to effect positive change in the world, and that his music was an instrument to create positive thought patterns in the minds of people" ("John coltrane -," 2008). Later in 1967 John Coltrane died of liver disease. Coltrane’s music lives on today and he has been commemorated many times over. His music has been played in television shows such as "Day’s of Our Lives", "The Cosby Show", "ER", and many more. Coltrane’s music has changed jazz into the expressive art form that it is today ("John coltrane -," 2008).
Another huge saxophone superstar and legend is Coleman "Hawk" Hawkins. "From the Classic Jazz period to the Swing Era one player had a virtual monopoly on the tenor sax, that man being Coleman Hawkins, a.k.a., the Hawk or the Bean. Hawkins (born 1904, St. Joseph, Mo.) was not the first Jazzman to play the tenor but he was the leader in transforming it into a fully expressive, hard driving Jazz instrument. Following a ten year period of getting the hang of that confounded contraption, the Hawk went on to a fifty year career filled with near flawless playing as leader of his own groups as well as with an amazing variety of other combos. He was an inspiration to dozens of top notch Jazz tenor men" (Weinstock Len). Coleman Hawkins was great because he mastered the sax in two forms, the hard riffs of playing many notes very quickly, and the slow ballads, this put him at the top of his class. He like the many other musicians bounced around from band to band playing whenever and wherever possible. Hawkins style was different from Charlie Parkers and his made Hawkins look old fashioned. Hawkins changed his style and played with other famous people, even John Coltrane. He also recorded with Duke Ellington. Hawkins had several different times where he was a band leader or accompanied others. He also was featured in the movie "Stormy Weather" in 1943("www.redhotjazz.com,").
In the saxophone family there are many different kinds, each a different size. The most commonly played and seen saxophones are the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. There are stranger more rare types of saxophone such as the F Mezzo Soprano, C Soprano and F Baritone, but these are rarely seen in concert format. The soprano saxophone is the highest of the saxophones and is played in the key of B flat. This sax can either be found in a curved form, looking like a baby alto, or in a straight for, looking like a brass clarinet. This saxophone is not recommended for a beginner because of how strong of an embouchure is needed. Embouchure is the mouth position needed to play an instrument. The alto sax is usually the most commonly seen sax and is the next step lower in pitch. When one thinks of a saxophone one usually pictures the alto sax. This medium sized, curved with a smaller mouthpiece, instrument is the usual sax that a new player is started on. The alto sax is played in the key of E flat. The tenor sax, which is the next step lower in range, is a larger form of the alto sax and is played in the key of B flat. This type of sax is commonly used in jazz music but can be found in a concert setting also. The largest of all the saxophones commonly seen in music is the Baritone sax, which is also the lowest sound ("About.com," 2001). If you saw this saxophone you would know it because it is huge compared to the alto. It takes a lot of lung power to play this horn but if played right, it sounds just as beautiful as the other horns.
The saxophone is played in a different way than most instruments even though it closely resembles the embouchure of a clarinet. "To play a saxophone, a saxophonist holds the saxophone so that the mouthpiece, which is attached to the crook, gently swings into the mouth for placement by adjusting the neck strap. (Smaller saxophones, such as the sopranino and soprillo, may be played without using a neck strap as it suits the player, but it is essential for the larger saxophones.) The mouthpiece is a shaped piece of rubber, plastic, metal, or glass that allows a reed, held in place by a ligature, to vibrate. These vibrations are the birthplace of sound within a saxophone. By placing the mouthpiece gently in one’s mouth and blowing across the reed, vibrations travel through the body and out the tone holes that are uncovered. Pressing and opening specific keys allows different tone hole combinations, which gives the saxophonist the freedom to play over two octaves of pitches. (Some saxophonists can play many more octaves by using new fingerings and breath techniques in the upper range, which is known as altissimo)" (Anonymous, 2011). When the mouthpiece is in the mouth the player bites with his top teeth straight down on the mouthpiece. Some players opt to getting a sticker type guard for the top of the mouthpiece so it will not wear as fast. The bottom teeth are masked by the bottom lip so as not to bite the reed causing squeaking. A player then tightens the corners of the mouth as to frown and blows with a steady stream of air. The player breathes through the mouth in quick burst because breathing the nose does not get such a deep breath and it is slower. After many hours of practicing with hand placement, learning how to read music and playing one can have a new hobby that can be beneficial to the soul or even to the wallet!
Charlie Parker once said "Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you" (Parker, 12/0). The Saxophone is deeply rooted in music and the players’ life. It is not just an instrument to some people, but a way of life. Music is very influential, almost as prominent as religion in some people’s lives. The clarinet may have been popular at one point but now the saxophone is one of the most prominent instruments in jazz to date. The saxophone is one of the most popular instruments to play and listen to as well. Adolphe Sax changed the music scene with his new instrument causing enjoyment for generations. Even with the saxophone never becoming a prominent part in the orchestra Adolphe Sax would be proud of how much the sax has influenced the music industry now and forever.