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5th February, 2013

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

Event Details

5th February, 2013
6.30pm - 8pm
Performance Space, St John Street, London EC1V 4PB
Free, all welcome, but booking required

Professor Stephen Cottrell, City University London: Inaugural lecture and book launch

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. The lecture will conclude with a short performance.

A small reception will follow the lecture where copies of The Saxophone, Professor Cottrell’s new monograph published by Yale University Press (pictured, above), will be available.

Stephen Cottrell was appointed as Professor of Music at City University London in 2010. He was a professional saxophonist for nearly two decades before moving into academia in the late 1990s. During his professional performing career he specialised in the performance of new music, commissioning works from many renowned composers and founding and leading the Delta Saxophone Quartet from 1984 to 2001. He has made numerous recordings and broadcasts, both as a soloist, with the Quartet, and with a wide variety of other ensembles. In 2001 he joined the staff of the Department of Music at Goldsmiths College London, later becoming Senior Lecturer and Head of Department. He was for many years Treasurer of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and remains on the editorial board of the journal twentieth-century music. He has published widely, including a 2004 monograph on Professional Music-making in London (Ashgate).

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