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Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Blow: the Saxophone as a Musical Miscreant

by Professor Stephen COTTRELL, Professor of Music and Head of the Department of Music at City University London

Date                  24 April 2014
Time                 6:00pm-7:30pm
Venue               Chiang Chen Studio Theatre, PolyU campus
The Talk will be conducted in English.

The saxophone is one of the most recognised musical instruments in the world. Loved by many, loathed by some, in the early twenty-first century it has both a musical and symbolic significance far beyond that for which its inventor, Adolphe Sax, might reasonably have hoped.

It also has a chequered history. Originally conceived in the mid-nineteenth century as a bass instrument to be included in orchestras and military bands, since then it has been found in a wide range of musical contexts, some of which have led to the instrument having at a times a very poor reputation. In the 1920s particularly, the saxophone suffered by its association with dance music and jazz, and the vilification often aimed at both. And for much of the rest of the twentieth century the instrument was often regarded with ambivalence by the musical establishment; it was enormously popular in some contexts, certainly, yet always retained something of its earlier disreputable profile.

This lecture will trace something of the saxophone's history and development, looking at the ways in which the instrument's reputation has changed over the past 170 years or so, while also demonstrating how musical instruments can reveal to us underlying social, cultural and technological precepts in the contexts in which they are found.

About the Speaker

Professor Stephen Cottrell is Professor of Music and Head of the Department of Music at City University of London.

He studied at the University of East Anglia, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Paris Conservatoire. During a freelance musical career spanning nearly two decades he earned an international reputation as a saxophonist performing contemporary music, particularly as leader of the Delta Saxophone Quartet. He later returned to academia, completing an M.Mus. in Ethnomusicology at Goldsmiths College. A British Academy scholarship facilitated doctoral studies, also at Goldsmiths, where he was subsequently awarded a PhD for ethnomusicological research into professional musicians in London. (information extracted from the website of City University of London)

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