Here are some paintings and drawings by significant artists that feature woodwind instruments. Click the images to buy posters from Art.com!
Know of another work that should be included here? Email me.
The information on this page is intended for beginning and intermediate players, including woodwind doublers who already play another instrument. Here are some rules of thumb:
Hindemith’s father, Robert, was a manual laborer and amateur zither player, who, despite a necessarily tight budget, saw that Paul and his siblings received musical training. Robert Hindemith raised his children with strict discipline, especially in terms of their music education. He took them to the local opera house, often on foot, and quizzed them on the way home, rewarding unsatisfactory answers with spankings. Later, Herr Hindemith organized his children into the Frankfurt Children’s Trio. Guy Rickards suggests that it was “despite” this “exploitative” upbringing that Paul and his brother Rudolf both went on to successful musical careers.
Roland Kirk was born in 1935. As an infant, he was blinded, possibly by negligent medical care. He attended the Ohio State School for the blind, where he played in the school band. At the age of sixteen, he led a dance band that performed around the Midwest. It was also at age sixteen that he got the idea to play more than one instrument at once, an innovation he claimed to have received in a dream. He acquired a battery of instruments, including such oddities as the stritch and manzello (obsolete cousins of the saxophone), and set about mastering them individually and in combination.
Kirk recorded as early as 1956, but got little attention until 1960, when critics began to accuse him of gimmickry. Kirk maintained that his unorthodox techniques were born of musical expression rather than cheap showmanship, and his following began to increase.
In 1970, he added “Rahsaan” to his name, having been prompted to do so by another dream.
Once the favorite son of his native New Orleans, as well as his many adopted European hometowns, Bechet’s recordings are now too often overlooked. Bechet, born in 1897, was a true virtuoso of the clarinet, and played a major part in establishing the instrument’s role in Dixieland and early jazz. His pioneering use of the soprano saxophone set a precedent that would come to fruition in a later generation of saxophonists. Bechet’s penchant for unusual instruments is documented in a few surviving recordings on the bass saxophone and the sarrusophone, instruments as nearly obsolete in Bechet’s day as in our own.
But Bechet’s genius transcended his choice of instrument. His abilities may even have rivaled his contemporary, and sometime bandmate, Louis Armstrong. The eminent Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet upheld Bechet as “the highway the whole world will swing along tomorrow.” Ansermet would no doubt be disappointed to find his prediction has been disproved.
Marcel Mule: Le Patron of the Saxophone (Clarinet Classics, compilation 1996)
Marcel Mule: Le Patron of the Saxophone: Encore! (Clarinet Classics, compilation 2000)
These compilations also feature recordings by the Mule Saxophone Quartet.
Kreisler of the Saxophone (Clarinet Classics, compilation [year?])
Regrettably, recorded performances by Sigurd Rascher and Cecil Leeson are not currently in print. Important out-of-print recordings include Sigurd Rascher Plays the Saxophone, volumes I and II, formerly published by Grand Award, and The Art of Cecil Leeson, volumes I-VII, formerly available on the Enchante label.
Despite the saxophone’s widespread acceptance in jazz and popular music styles, its acknowledgment as a viable solo instrument in classical music has been slow. Few composers have included it in orchestral scores. Only in recent years have conservatories and university music departments begun to recognize the saxophone on a somewhat equal footing with, say, the flute, the piano, or the violin.
Perhaps this neglect was a lingering byproduct of the instrument’s chronology. After all, by the time of its invention by Adolphe Sax in the 1840’s, the instrumentation of the modern orchestra was already becoming somewhat standardized. Maybe the inattention had something to do with the saxophone’s longstanding reputation as a “jazzy horn” and association with burlesque1. Or maybe the upsurge in amateur interest since the 1920’s had spawned too many inferior saxophonists for anyone to take the instrument seriously2.
Carl Seashore, in his In Search of Beauty in Music, defines “good” vibrato as “a pulsation of pitch usually accompanied by synchronous pulsations of loudness and timbre, of such extent and rate as to give a pleasing flexibility, tenderness, and richness to the tone.”
Saxophone vibrato is a controversial topic for several reasons. In fact, some have questioned whether vibrato should be used at all. Paul Berler, in a 1996 Saxophone Journal article, notes that wind instrumentalists have only made serious study of vibrato in the last century. Robert Luckey points out in a 1983 article in Woodwind, Brass, & Percussion that “prominent saxophone teachers have equated their instrument with the human voice,” and that, since vibrato is accepted as a natural embellishment of the human voice, it should be accepted as a natural part of the saxophone tone.
Choosing the right method books and materials—or choosing not to use them—can be a deciding factor in a beginning saxophone student’s success. A student assigned page after page of boring finger exercises will lose interest quickly, but a student given only “fun” assignments may fall behind in development of sound technique.
Anton von Webern was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1883. (The predicate von identified those of aristocratic heritage until a 1918 revolution outlawed its use; the composer’s works were published under the name Anton Webern.) His father’s career in mining engineering caused the von Webern family to move several times during Anton’s youth; in Klagenfurt at the turn of the century he studied piano and music theory under Edwin Komauer. He also learned to play the cello and participated in community orchestras. His earliest compositions, for piano and cello, date from this period. In 1902 he was deeply impressed by performances of several Wagner operas, and entered the University of Vienna to study musicology and composition. Before receiving a doctoral degree in 1906, he began studying privately with Arnold Schoenberg.