saxophone history project Essay

Submitted By Garnetred15C
Words: 1716
Pages: 7

Smith 1
Tyler Smith
Steele Moegle
MUHS 203
May 9, 2014
The Saxophone's Great Struggle Throughout the history since the invention of the saxophone, the saxophone has seen little recognition from musicians from the classical sphere. For a while, the saxophone was received well among the musical community. However, despite its early reception and recognition, the saxophone always has difficulties when it comes to fitting in among orchestral solo or ensemble settings. Adolfe Sax was an accomplished flautist and clarinetist that lived through out the nineteenth century. He was more well renowned as an inventor and often improved upon the designs of the existing instruments of the time (Ferraro 2). He invented what is known as the saxophone (Grout 450). He used his musical training to test his inventions against rival musicians and instrument makers in order to prove that his designs were superior (Ferraro 2). In 1839, Adolphe Sax attended the Paris Exposition. There, he challenged Mr. Decosta to a “musical duel” to see whose bass clarinet design was superior (Ferraro 3). While he was staying in Paris, Sax met and befriended several renowned composers such as Hector Berlioz, Jean-George Kastner and Meyerbeer (Ferraro 3). These key figures would serve to be important in advertizing for the saxophone. Early after the invention of the saxophone, at the 1839 Brussels Exhibition, a journalist named Jobard wrote: “Mr. Sax junior has just invented a contrabass clarinet in brass. After thunder, it is by far the strongest bass that exists. Its round, full, and vibrant sounds entirely fill the ear and will satisfy the musical appetite of the greatest
Smith 2 glutton; it is no longer a brook, but a river of harmony ready to overflow. The saxophone is the Niagara of sound (Ferraro 4).”
This is one of the earliest times the saxophone is mentioned. This shows that the saxophone was well received and praised by most musicians and composers of the time. There are varying theories pertaining to which instrument is the predecessor to the saxophone. The first theory says that Sax created the saxophone by trying to create a clarinet that over blows by the octave rather than at the twelfth (Etheridge 9). The other theory references the ophicleide, which was a brass instrument that had key work similar to most woodwind instruments. It was the most popular bass wind instrument in the mid nineteenth century (Ferraro 5). Sax believed that the ophicleide “made a sound of a most disagreeable nature (Ferraro 5),” and sought to make something to replace it. This theory is supported by an article by Hector Berlioz in the Revue et gazette musicale de Paris in1842: “Due to the beauty of sound it gives to the ophicleides, M. Sax of Brussels has just created a valuable invention. It consists of replacing the ophicleide mouthpiece with a clarinet mouthpiece. The ophicleides thus become brass instruments with reed. The difference in sonority and timbre that results in those of this system is so much to their advantage, according to those that were able to judge it, that very probably the ophicleide-à-bec will come into general use in a few years (Ferraro 9).”
Berlioz, being a close friend of Adolphe Sax and major supporter, would have known how and why Sax conceived the saxophone, and for what purpose. The ophicleide was primarily used in the orchestra to reinforce the trombones (Ferraro 7). With the intention of replacing the ophicleide, the saxophone was meant to take its role within the orchestra. Hector Berlioz was the first composer to include the saxophone in a public performance. In 1844, Berlioz sought to demonstrate the abilities of the saxophone in an orchestral setting (Etheridge
Smith 3 7). He made an arrangement of a vocal piece he had written fifteen years earlier in his career. The Chant sacré was scored for three brass instruments and three woodwinds and with Adolfe Sax himself playing the Bb bass saxophone (Etheridge…