Pic of the Week: Birth of the Sax Edition

Portrait of Charlie Parker, Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

On this date in 1846, Belgian-born Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe”  Sax patented the family of instruments that bear his name.  The saxophone was originally developed in two categories,  an orchestral group and a band or military group, of seven instruments each.  Only a handful of these varieties are in common use today, although composer/musician Anthony Braxton, who brought his Ghost Trance Duo for Violin and Piano to the Coolidge Auditorium in 1998, has used some of the rarer instruments like the sopranino, mezzo-soprano and contrabass saxophones. But whether your tastes run from the smoothest pop music to the most challenging avant-garde jazz, the sound of the sax is ubiquitous. From the romantic warble of Sidney Bechet‘s soprano (the soundtrack to many a Woody Allen movie) ; to the classic be-bop of Charlie Parker’s alto; to the rock and roll tenor of Clarence Clemons, who passed away on June 18th; to the deep authority of Gerry Mulligan‘s baritone (Lisa Simpson’s axe of choice as well);  In the Muse doesn’t need to tell you to remember the saxophone today. Its sound is part of the fabric of our every day lives.  See more pictures of Charlie Parker and other saxophone legends in the William P. Gottlieb Collection. Visit the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog for a 1922 photo of  Tomm Brown, posing with what he claims to be the first saxophone made by Adolph Sax. And listen to George Olsen and His Music perform “Sax-o-phun,” from the National Digital Jukebox :

Sheet Music of the Week: The West Virginia Grand March

The following is a guest post from Head of Acquisitions & Processing Denise Gallo. On April 17, 1861, Virginia adopted the Ordinance of Secession, a document which rescinded its original ratification of the Constitution in 1788. This made Virginia “a free and independent State,” dissolving any ties with the Union and giving Virginians “the full […]

Pic of the Week: Les Paul Studio Electric 2011 Edition

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the birthday of guitar legend Les Paul with an interactive logo whose strings you can play with your cursor. U. S. doodlers can even record and share their performance.  Les Paul would have been 96 today. Remember his technical innovation and electric musicianship with photos from the William P. Gottlieb Collection in […]

Sheet Music of the Week: Cataloger’s Corner Edition

The following is a guest post by Senior Cataloging Specialist Sharon McKinley. The average person might think that cataloging is a dull job, but it most certainly isn’t here in the Music Division! Okay, so the umpteenth biography of Justin Bieber may get a bit old, but one of our primary jobs is making the […]

Five Questions: Laura Yust, Cataloger

We’re bringing back our Five Questions interview today with Music Cataloger Laura Yust (courtesy of Senior Music Cataloger Sharon McKinley). Enjoy! Laura, what are you working on these days? Besides the regular scores and books about music, I’m cataloging a fascinating item from the mid-16th century that contains German tracts on music and music theory […]

Pic of the Week: Riding in Style Edition

This weekend Washington hosts the 2011 Seersucker Social, an event where the city’s hipsterati don vintage threads and leisurely tour the town upon vintage bicycles. So if you’re in the Nation’s Capital tomorrow you may happen upon scenes that recall this week’s featured picture, a candid snapshot of composer Aaron Copland with harpist Djina Ostrowska. Visit […]