Friday, January 16, 2009

Saxaphon* (for Saxophon*)

The saxophone was invented by Belgian instrument-maker Adolphe Sax around 1840, and patented in 1846. The sax provided a link between the high and weaker instrument voices in the orchestra, by combining elements of several brass and woodwind instruments: keys inspired by the flute and clarinet, a mouthpiece like a bass clarinet’s, and the body of a bass ophicleide (try spelling that one 3 times fast).

Today we associate the saxophone with popular music, particularly jazz (as seen in the photo of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker). However, it was originally intended for use in the orchestra and military band; in fact, the composer Hector Berlioz stated that the sax was “‘the finest voice we have’ for works of a solemn nature” (Grove Music online).

The versatile saxophone is not, however, versatile in its spelling, and the substitution of an a for the second o should be avoided. The typo Saxaphon* comes in at a high probability on the Ballard List. Keep in mine that Saxophon, without an e on the end, is not always an error--this is the German word for the instrument.

Leanne Olson

(Photo of Charlie Parker from his official website)

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