Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Inventor of Sax died in chill penury !


Sidney Bechet, Ben Webster, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Michael Brecker ~ famous names but I have not heard of them thus far !!

Cyrano de Bergerac is a Parisian poet and swashbuckler with a large nose of which he is self-conscious, but pretends to be proud. He is madly in love with his cousin, the beautiful Roxane; however, he does not believe she will requite his love because he considers himself physically unattractive, because of his overly large nose. .. … .. plot of  Cyrano de Bergerac  a 1990 French comedy-drama film directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and based on the 1897 play of the same name by Edmond Rostand, adapted by Jean-Claude Carrière and Rappeneau.

In Oct 2019, death occurred to this famous musician -  Kadri Gopalnath.  The saxophone is famous for its gruff, growling expression, and Kadri Gopalnath was among the pioneers who tamed it to play the delicate graces of Carnatic classical music.  Kadri (69), died in Mangaluru, came to the Western instrument through the traditional Indian pipe, the nadaswaram, which he had learnt from his father Taniyappa. For the young Kadri, the choice marked a shift from the booming, nasal beauty of the nadaswaram to the bright flamboyance of the saxophone. But the tone was all that changed. Kadri did not switch to any Western genre; in fact, he continued to play traditional south Indian music on an instrument he had picked up after first hearing it at the Mysore palace.

Called a mangala vadya, the nadaswaram is played in the southern states to mark auspicious occasions such as weddings and temple festivals. Thanks to Kadri and some of his illustrious predecessors, the saxophone is now part of the mangala vadya ensemble in these parts. Over the last few decades, it has made inroads into southern classical culture. The saxophone is now heard solo or alongside the nadasawaram in temples and at weddings. Kadri Gopalnath’s most popular non-film album, Raag Rang, belongs in the genre of what is loosely called fusion music. He collaborated with flautist Pravin Godkhindi for the 2009 production, and no one, including Pujar, the proprietor of Sagar Music who conceptualised it, had a clue it would be such a wild hit. It was the era of CDs, and the main piece, based on raga Malkauns, was inspired by two songs in the 1959 Hindi film Navrang (Tu chupi hain kahan and Aadha hain chandrama). While Pravin played the raga with a northern lilt, Kadri’s phrasing and improvisations represented a corresponding southern raga, Hindola.

The album featured talented Bengaluru musicians, such as Sangeeta Katti, Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma, Praveen Rao and Arun, and was played at restaurants across India and abroad, and even on Air India flights. With Raag Rang, Kadri became India’s answer to Kenny G, the best-selling American saxophonist heard across the world (critics say he only makes “elevator music”). [reproduced from an interesting article in tribute to Kadri in Deccan Herald]

The saxophone (referred to colloquially as the sax) is a family of woodwind instruments usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece. Although most saxophones are made from brass, they are categorized as woodwind instruments, because sound is produced by an oscillating reed (traditionally made out of woody cane) rather than lips vibrating in a mouthpiece cup as with the brass instrument family.  The saxophone is used in classical music.

Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax (1814 1894) was a Belgian inventor and musician who created the saxophone in the early 1840s, patenting it in 1846. He also invented the saxotromba, saxhorn and saxtuba. He played the flute and clarinet.

Adolphe  was born  Dinant, in what is now Belgium, to Charles-Joseph Sax and his wife Marie-Joseph.  Adolphe began to make his own instruments at an early age, entering two of his flutes and a clarinet into a competition at the age of 15. He subsequently studied performance on those two instruments as well as voice at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. Sax faced many brushes with death in his childhood including falling from a height of 3 floor, head hitting a stone, drinking a bowl full of acidic water, injured in gunpowder explosion and the like.   After leaving the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Sax began to experiment with new instrument designs, while his parents continued to make conventional instruments to bring in money. Adolphe's first important invention was an improvement of the bass clarinet design, which he patented at the age of 24.   Adolphe Sax also developed the saxotromba family, valved brass instruments with narrower bore than the saxhorns, in 1845, though they survived only briefly.

The use of saxhorns spread rapidly. The saxhorn valves were accepted as state-of-the-art in their time and remain largely unchanged today. The advances made by Adolphe Sax were soon followed by the British brass band movement which exclusively adopted the saxhorn family of instruments.    Saxophone was patented on 28 June 1846. The saxophone was invented for use in both orchestras and military bands. By 1846 Sax had designed (on paper at least) a full range of saxophones (from sopranino to subcontrabass). Composer Hector Berlioz wrote approvingly of the new instrument in 1842, but despite his support, saxophones never became standard orchestral instruments. However, their ability to play technical passages easily like woodwinds and also project loudly like brass instruments led them to be included in military bands in France and elsewhere. This helped secure him a job teaching at the Paris Conservatory in 1857.

Sax continued to make instruments later in life and presided over the new saxophone program at the Paris Conservatory. Rival instrument makers both attacked the legitimacy of his patents and were sued by Sax for patent infringement. The legal back-and-forth continued for over 20 years. He was driven into bankruptcy three times: in 1852, 1873, and 1877. Sax suffered from lip cancer between 1853 and 1858 but made a full recovery. In 1894, Sax died in complete poverty  and was interred   in Paris.

Sad end to a brilliant inventor, musician !

PS : Many of you would have seen  ‘ Duet ’  released in 1994   directed by K. Balachander, starring Prabhu, Ramesh Aravind, Meenakshi Seshadri, and Prakash Raj. Duet's score was  centred on the saxophone.  This movie was  inspired by the 1990 French comedy Cyrano de Bergerac

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28.6.2020

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