OF AN INSTRUMENT
Elkhart, Indiana, United States
brass, mother-of-pearl (on the keys),
leather (keypads), cork, ebonite (mouthpiece)
cm (Le) x
9,3 cm (Diam. of the bell)
Boniface Museum, Canada
On a lovely spring afternoon, my family and I landed at the New
Orleans airport in Louisiana. At the beginning of our stay in
the land of the Cajuns, I knew that this would be an experience
to remember. The first night we spent in this enchanting city
where even the buildings echoed with jazz and blues tunes changed
my point of view about this music that comes straight from the
heart of its composers and interpreters.
day, we went to Baton Rouge where we had the impression that only
live there. It was a day filled with amazing discoveries. In the
evening, my parents decided to visit the corner bar. Because they
were a little tired from the flight, they decided that a little
diversion would be in order. My brother, my sister and I went
strolling on the brightly lit streets.
very first step, I heard the same New Orleans jazz tunes from
the previous evening. One special sound made my heart skip a beat.
It was a high-pitched sound, very clear and penetrating but so
beautiful and calm that it was the only sound that my ears could
hear. After I had spent quite some time trying to find the source
of the sound, I asked an elderly passer-by with a timeworn face
what this instrument was. He replied "That's a saxophone,
my son". I responded jokingly, "But saxophones are curved,
He explained in the tones of a teacher, "This is a soprano saxophone.
The soprano has a clarinet mouthpiece and the fingering of an
oboe like all the other saxophones but it is straight and not
curved." His wrinkled face was full of wisdom and proved to me
that he was telling me the truth. I thanked him and shook his
hand and he just left.
I sat down on the curb and began to listen. My brother and sister
returned to the hotel but I decided to stay to enjoy the melodic
sound of this bewitching brass instrument.
The musician spoke of Sidney Béchet, saying he was his hero and
one of the pioneers of the soprano saxophone. A little later,
he dedicated his musical piece to Adolphe Sax, the inventor of
the saxophone. I thought that a man who was able to create an
instrument that could produce such a sound should be recognized.
Surely, we owed him this recognition if we love music and this
instrument. It was a magical evening and after finding every constellation
in the cloudless sky, I went back to the hotel to sleep and to
day we spent in Louisiana was spent partly in the local library
to learn more about this classical aerophone. I learned that the
saxophone, its creator built it in 14 different sizes,
was originally intended for military music and wind ensembles.
Today, only four sizes of saxophones are currently used: the soprano,
the alto, the tenor and the baritone. I also discovered that the
saxophone uses keys to open and close the various holes in its
sound tube and that felt and cork are used to cushion the keys
and make sure they are airtight. I found that totally fascinating!
The last two days of our stay were devoted to visiting Louisiana
historic sites. Even if I only spent five days in the land of
the Cajuns, I discovered that everyone has a little Cajun or Cree
or Welsh or Saxon or any other culture in their spirit. The captivating
language of the music lifted our spirits and we were carried away
momentarily. This unforgettable time filled us with peace and
deeper understanding. For some, music is a way to express themselves,
for others it's a diversion, but for everyone, it is a treasure.