David Box: Box on sax

An Austin musician takes Adolphe Sax's horn back to its classical roots

David Box and friend
David Box and friend

Thanks to the likes of Boots Randolph and Sonny Rollins, most folks don't think of the saxophone as an instrument for playing classical music. But David Box is doing his bit to change that. This weekend, the Austin-based musician is presenting a concert of music that helps take the instrument back to its roots, showcasing some older works from the classical saxophone repertoire and a few brand-new additions commissioned by Box from friends of his.

Adolphe Sax's new horn didn't generate much in the way of new music in the first years after its introduction in 1836, says Box, a fact that he attributes to Sax already being "hated by many of his peers for causing friction in the instrument inventor circle in Paris, France" with his other new inventions. So initially, the repertoire consisted of compositions for instruments in a similar range that could be adapted to the saxophone. Over time, however, composers began exploring the instrument's distinctive sound, and now, says Box, "modern repertoire combines traditional classical techniques with every interesting sound a conical-shaped instrument with keys and a vibrating reed on a mouthpiece can make. This makes the life of a modern classical saxophonist versatile and fresh every day."

The works that Box has commissioned are personal in origin, growing out of "Sunday musical brunches with Rob Deemer and Brad Johnston where we talked about [everything from] musical concepts, skills, theory, sports, relationships, et cetera to translating into music intimate stories of love, lust, and an ongoing struggle to wrap our minds around an ever-changing world. I wish to communicate life through music. This desire has me collaborating with individuals constantly to harness our ambition into musical statements about subject matter we are inspired by in life, whether that is a text, poem, sunset, murder, theft, war, cancer, AIDS, Sandra Bullock, or a kiss from my dog."

Box generally stayed out of his friends' business as they were composing. Still, a conversation about music with one or the other of them might lead the composer to make use of an idea that Box was inspired by at the time. "They know I have an open line of communication, and anything they need to talk to me about, or me to them, is always acceptable, even at the endless hours of the night," he says. "This makes the collaborative process fun and produces an environment of positive reinforcement for all the individuals involved."

David Box will present a classical saxophone recital Saturday, March 14, 7pm, at the Pflugerville Fine Arts Center, 1301 W. Pecan, Pflugerville. For more information, visit www.davidboxmusic.com.

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David Box, Rob Deemer, Brad Johnston

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