Belgium is a country located in the centre of Europe and is famous for many tourism delights such as waffles covered in strawberries and cream, Belgian beer (Leffe, Zinne Bir, Trappist beer Chimay, Duval), Belgian chocolate, mussels and fries (The National Dish), Frites in a cone and original comic books heroes like the adventures of Tin-Tin created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé.
Belgium is also the founding member of the European Union with Brussels being the capital of the EU. Brussels has a fantastic stunning central square known as La Grand-Place or Grote Markt recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The square features a towering town hall, guildhalls heightened with gold and other various buildings displaying various baroque and gothic architectural style. Let’s not forget the wee manneken pis close by.
Click here to view the the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Belgium is also responsible for producing an Instrument known as the Saxophone. Adolphe Sax was born on November 6th, 1814 in a little Belgian town named Dinant. From a young age Adolphe had studied the clarinet and the flute. He was influenced by his father and followed in his footsteps by making musical instruments. He began constructing plans of how to improve the tone of the Bass Clarinet. What he came up with was a single-reed instrument constructed from metal that has a conical bore and overblows at the octave.
When we talk of the early origins of the saxophone we must mention the great composer Hector Berlioz. Adolphe Sax first showed his creation, a C bass saxophone to the great composer. Berlioz was impressed by it’s versatility and unique quality. Sax moved to Paris in 1842 to gain exposure with his instrument and in June, Hector Berlioz published an article in the Paris magazine “Journal des Debats” describing the new instrument. In 1844, the new creation was revealed to the public through the Paris Industrial Exhibition. That same year Hector Berlioz conducted a concert featuring his choral work arrangement, Chante Sacre. The saxophone was featured in that concert.
The Saxophone was patent in 1846 and since it’s arrival it has shocked, seduced and delighted the world. It is one of the most important musical instruments of recent history. The sound of the Saxophone holds a rebellious, non-conformity and freedom tone. It’s an instrument that stands out on it’s own, can stand the test of time in any decade, looks like something from another planet and at times has been labeled “the Devil’s Horn“.
Adolphe Sax had a brass vision to create something bold and unique for the world. His invention was not just the Saxophone but an entire Saxophone Family – The Saxophone, Saxhorn, Saxtuba, Saxotromba and even a “Saxocannon” (his neglected contribution to the Crimean War) which was an organ powered by a steam locomotive engine that could be heard 12 miles away.
Although Adolphe was from Belgium he had a soft place in his heart for French military bands. Military bands are suppose to give off a sense of power and confidence but France’s military bands in the 1800s sounded weak and were basically the subject of much laughter. Adolphe believed his Saxophone could change the image of the French military. At first the French were not convinced but they soon adopted the Instrument. The result was so effective that military bands from all over the world were knocking on his door. It didn’t take long for the Saxophone to be seen and heard around the world.
The Instrument has never been short of controversy. In 1903, Pope Pius X banned certain instruments – one of them being the Saxophone. Officially, this ban has not actually been lifted to this day.
The Saxophone also had an estrange relationship with the Third Reich and the Nazis Party. They claimed the instrument to be associated with “Negro music” and created propaganda posters titled “Degenerate Music“. It was a label applied in the 1930s by Nazi Germany to certain forms of music that they considered to be ‘harmful’. Certain works of art and music were discredited and even banned. The propaganda poster (shown below) was created by Reich Minister of Propoganda Joseph Goebbels which shows a monkey playing a Saxophone with the Star of David visible.
The Saxophone became a popular instrument at the turn of the century as it was used in Rag-time Music and also became very popular in the circus in the 1920s. The Six Brown Brothers were a Canadian sextet group of virtuoso saxophone players who delighted theatres across America and also toured across England, Scotland and Australia. In the 1930s the Swing Orchestra took over and the saxophone was introduced as a Jazz Instrument by musicians like Glen Miller who used the instrument to develop a new and unique sound for the big band era. Around this time the Instrument became very popular within the New Orleans Jazz music scene.
In the 1940s Saxophone players like Charlie Parker started to develop new and interesting techniques of performing the instrument, this was known as Bebop – a new style of Jazz music. This music was characterised by fast tempos, virtuoes solo performance and advanced harmonies. The 1950s saw the Instrument popularised by many talented saxophonists like Paul Desmond (Dave Brubeck Quartet), Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane (played with Composer Miles Davis) and Dexter Gordon.
The 1960s saw an emerging Saxophonist named Stan Getz come to light. He was known for his rich tone, cool jazz style and collaborations with Brazilian Musicians. He also helped popularise Brazilian Bossa Nova music into the United States of America. In 1965, Stan Getz won a grammy award for his hit record titled ‘The Girl from Ipanema‘ which he created with Brazilian Guitarist João Gilberto.
From the 1970s to the present day there has been a fusion of musical styles, genres and collaborations which has seen the Saxophone contribute to all. Originally an Instrument designed for military, concert and orchestral music the Saxophone has seen itself blend into most musical styles like a chameleon changes colour in the jungle. Adolphe Sax’s invention has found it’s way into the following music genres: Alternative, Boss Nova, Chamber, Dance, Electronic, Funk, Jazz, Industrial Rock, Orchestra, Pop, Rhythm and Blues, Rock, Rock’n’Roll, Ska, Ska Punk and Soul Music. Although the Saxophone really made it’s biggest impression on the Jazz music genre.
The Saxophone has also formed relationships with film and played a part in many Film Scores. On screen the instrument has been able to adapt it’s versatile musical style and sound to suit the personality of a main character or a particular movie scene. One of the most famous film characters would be no other than ‘the Pink Panther‘. The Jazzy film score for the ‘the Pink Panther‘ was composed by ‘Henri Mancini‘. The lead Saxophone was played by tenor saxophone Plas Johnson. The film theme revolves around the Saxophone which is played in a manner to suit the mischievous personality of ‘the Pink Panther’ who constantly plays pranks on the Janitor.
‘Architect of Sound‘ has picked 40 Saxophone Compositions to demonstrate the following:
- The many different music genres the Saxophone has played a part in since it’s beginning.
- Different playing styles and techniques ranging from Bebop, raunchy edge, sensual on screen romance, a melancholy solo line over an orchestra to cool smooth jazz. Take your pick!
- A wide variety of musicians from different nations around the world (American, English, French, Italian, Jamaican, Northern Irish and Japanese) adopting the Instrument for their own deep sense of musical creativity.
- Excerpts from Film Scores which feature the Saxophone. These excerpts demonstrate the profound effect the instrument has had on screen for our cinematic pleasure.
- The ever changing colour, timbre and mood of the Instrument.
- Various music compositions demonstrating different key roles for the Saxophone (Either as a Soloist or part of a horn section).
- Finally, The Influence the Belgian Instrument maker Adolphe Sax has had on different Countries, Cultures, Cinematic Experiences, Entertainment, Establishments, Governments, Military bands, Music, Musicians, Regimes, Religion and so forth.
Enjoy the Top 40+ Saxophone Compositions playlist below!
~ End ~
~ Adolphe Sax ~
6th November 1814 - 7th February 1894
~ Thank you ~