zondag 30 september 2007

Saxophone, blessing or curse?

Sometimes I feel I am cursed being a saxophonist. I can never get it right. My core repertoire traditionally consists mainly of French music by composers who never quite made it to the bigger audiences. And for a reason. Although my former teacher Arno Bornkamp used to say that as a rule the a-pieces in our repertoire are often written by b-composers.

The Creston Sonata for example. Creston is a reasonably good composer but his Sonata is a diamond in our repertoire. The same goes for the Denisow Sonata, which I consider one of the best pieces for saxophone. Oddly enough, a-composers often wrote b-pieces for saxophone. Debussy wrote a great Rapsody for us, but it cannot be compared to the clarinet Rapsody or the string quartet. Although the Glazounow Concerto is interesting music for many reasons, the formal experiments he conducted when he started to write for saxophone didn’t turn out to be among his best pieces. In the end, the Desenclos’, Bozza’s, Maurice’s etcetera are not quite as fulfilling when played by itself as the more important violin sonatas by Brahms or the piano music by Ravel.
That’s why I and my musical companions are always on the look out for new repertoire, in whatever form it may come: new music, undiscovered music, infrequently played compositions and pieces that could be adapted for any formation with saxophone (in my case saxophone solo, saxophone and piano and saxophone quartet) and of course I try to find interesting composers who might be willing to write for me.
By doing this I put myself at risk. A violinist can almost never get it wrong. He/She could even play relatively unknown pieces by composers like or his sons and still play great music. I could play the same pieces, leaving out some double-stops and changing a few minor things and be subject to a lot of criticism. Although a lot of colleagues don’t mind there is of course some truth to the criticism. Instrumentation is a part of the composition and many times the instrument for which the piece was written is too important to leave out of the interpretation. But sometimes a new instrumentation can shine a new light on the notes. Furthermore, as an artist I feel the need to play more music from different style periods and moreover, to play excellent notes. Some will say that I shouldn’t have chosen the saxophone because of this. But I feel in love with the instrument hearing and playing original pieces and transcriptions and arrangements. It’s in my system. By choosing the pieces I adapt carefully by really trying to understand the notes, what they mean on saxophone and by making clever adaptations of the notes to suit the instrument I try to show respect to the music and its composer.
I like to play new music as well. I especially like to find interesting composers and ask them to write notes for me. By doing this I actually feel I am creating something myself, not only repertoire, but I am shaping the contemporary music culture by giving attention to composers who I think are or could be important. Again, this puts myself at risk. I might pick composers that do not fit in the current style of contemporary music or composers that only I like, the audience might not be used to these kinds of notes yet. Also chances are that I will not get a piece with the quality of Brahms or Bach. But that’s not what it’s about in this case. I want to play music that I feel strongly about for some reason. I have that connection with some composers around me. I don’t think about whether their music will stand the test of time. It is great to play notes that that have a direct meaning because people that I know wrote them in this time. Notes that can have a connection with the world around us.
I also try to be aware that a concert is a composition in itself, with a structure and rhythm. Compositions can comment on each other in a concert, they can have influence on each other, on how the audience experiences the music. That also changes the context of pieces, it changes them. This can give extra meaning to all music, traditional music, adaptations or new music.
I think that in many ways the fact that I play the saxophone is an artistic blessing. I have to explore, look around me, think about programs, take risks. That is the challenge that saxophonists face.

(copyright 2007, Ties Mellema)

zaterdag 29 september 2007

Yesterday we worked with Henk Schut, theatre director

Yesterday we worked with Henk Schut, theatre director. We are going to make a theatre piece with him. We are very excited about. We are not expecting concrete results anywhere soon, but the beginning has been made. Yesterday at the Dogtroep Studio's and the NDSM artists village we did exercises and played in the most weird locations and positions. We got to know more of each other in a completely different way!

donderdag 27 september 2007

Yesterday William was buried

Yesterday William was buried. I saw a lot colleagues again. Everyone was shocked of course. It was a catholic funeral. A bit impersonal to be honest. But we all had the chance to say goodbye to William.

Today I will play with the Radio Chamber Orchestra, Berio Chemins II with David Kweksilber, bass clarinet.

zondag 23 september 2007

Last week William Raaijman died of heart failure caused by an epilecti...

Last week William Raaijman died of heart failure caused by an epilectic attack. He was my friend and an extraordinary musician.
He died at age 35. Much too young.
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donderdag 20 september 2007

Sometimes you have to look for magic, or even better, you accidentily ...

Sometimes you have to look for magic, or even better, you accidentily pass it by. Today Wijnand and I went to a cocnert by his former teacher, Willem Brons. It was a magical night. He played the compelte forst book of the well tempered klavier! We had a great time. He played so many colours with so much fantasy. Mr. Brons is not really famous. He missed some notes, is not really steady in his tempi. But he's not looking for perfection. You get so much back for it. It was very expressive and adventurous. Strange that so many famous ppianists play perfect but never reach this poetic expression...

woensdag 12 september 2007

Yesterday I was in the Media building in Hilversum where Wijnand and I...

Yesterday I was in the Media building in Hilversum where Wijnand and I saw lots of old television fragments from the 40's until now! I finally say a 1984 show called 'Op Zoek naar Yolanda again'. Hilarious!

maandag 10 september 2007

Not much going on

Not much going on...
I went to the fysiotherapist this morning. After several people in my surroundings falling apart because of injuries I decided it was time to really start working on my chronic back pain. I have been having this since I was 16 at least, and probably before. It's overdeveoped muscles most likely. So nothing new for me, but I got some exercises I can do.

Tomorrow will be a fun day.
In the morning yago, then with Wijnand off to Hilversum to see the media building and visit Arno for lunch.
In the evening we'll see a movie, probably Harry Potter (Wijnand likes that!)

zaterdag 8 september 2007

A quote from an interview with Marcel Mule in 1994: &quot;The [Marcel ...

A quote from an interview with Marcel Mule in 1994:

"The [Marcel Mule] Quartet has rendered enormous service to the saxophone. When we dared to play a quartet of Mozart, for example the 'dissonances quartet' it was rather crazy but we had so little to play. And we were judged throught hat! Afterwards we obtained some repertoire but we had more succes playing Mozart.
We played everywhere in Italy. Evidently we had no repertoire, only the Glazounow, it was no fun. But we managed.  We acquired a few little pieces from Pierne, Absil, Jean Rivier, Pierre Vollones and others: there was only a limited repertoire.
In those times, there were still good compsoers, real good musicians and they wrote really well. We could play them and they were accepted by he public.. As for now..."

More on Marcel Mule here: http://www.clarinet-saxophone.asn.au/downloadabledocs/interview%20with%20Marcel%20Mule.pdf
and here:

Mule used to be one of my main inspirations. Nowadays of course I look more for my own voice. But trying to get started today with working I was browsing through the internet and found some information on Mule which made me read up on him.

New article in 'on music and saxophone'; 'Saxophone, blessing or curse?', by Ties Mellema

zondag 2 september 2007

Not much news, well actually, I am a bit tired and don't really feel l...

Not much news, well actually,
I am a bit tired and don't really feel like writing. But it's been a while since my last post.
I taught again today for the first time since the end of last season. It was great fun and everybody was full with good energy. I am teaching only one day this year which is great because two days was a bit much in the end for me, like last season.
Now I am waiting for Ailed to come home and to go to sleep.
Wijnand is injured, his hand hurts again. So tomorrow no rehearsal.