My love for
the Saxophone started in the middle years of my life
My love for the saxophone
started in the middle years of my life. Again, it was an experience
with people that awakened the passion in me. On one of my
bicyle trips in Southern
Europe, I visited in Spain
the concert of a young teachers' saxophone quartet. They played tunes from
Johann Sebastian Bach via Isaac Albéniz
Gillespie and others.
And like at my first encounter with the cello, I was thrilled
by the deep, resonate sound of the baritone sax. That's what I needed to learn!
I looked for a saxophone
teacher, started to play the tenor sax, soon after also the baritone,
excursions to other sax types, especially the soprano.
In a sax quartet I played the bariton sax.
We played for our own enjoyment and with friends almost everything from Evergreens
and Standards via
Gospel, Blues and Swing to Elton John, Robbie
Williams and Rainhard Fendrich. A for me new and exciting field was and remains
free improvisation, with which I - coming from classical music education - am
still struggling heavily.
As always, with this
new theme a whole new world opened
up for me. In musical terms the World of the
famous jazz giants, their styles and
recordings, today on CD easily
accessible in fine sound quality. Then the richness of jazz and contemporary harmony. But also the exciting history of the saxophone
as an instrument - and the fascination
of awesome vintage horns. I
for example own a gold plated Martin Handcraft baritone
saxophone (deep Bb), born 1925, and a Conn C-Melody from the twenties.
A live encounter with
and his virtuosic playing on a 4-string Plectrum Banjo reminded me
of the banjo playing attempts in my youth. I started to study the fascinating
history of the banjo: From its origins in West Africa and its travel with the
slaves to the USA, via the reduction of the 5-string banjo of the 19th century
to the 4-string rhythm banjo, played with a plectrum, in the early New Orleans
Jazz and in the Dixieland music, the 5-stringers in the American - especially
Appalachian - Old Time Music
(Frailing, Clawhammer styles), the development of the three-finger Scruggs-style
in the developing Bluegrass music of the late 40s, the use of the banjo in the folk revival of
the 60s (Pete Seeger), up to modern interpreters like
Béla Fleck or the
(grown up in Switzerland), who very creatively make use of the banjo
in all kinds of musical contexts and styles. I own a
Banjo with a
Jens Krüger tone ring made by Rüetschi in
Occupying myself with American Old Time Music, I came in
Orthey, a great pioneer of the diatonic Autoharp, a genuine and very special American instrument.
I also discovered the world of the closely with the Appalachian region connected
Mountain Dulcimer and the Hammered Dulcimer, a relative of our Appenzell
Hackbrett. I'm also a fan of old Cowboy Songs as collected and sung for example
by Texan Don Edwards.
Studying the banjo and its history brought me in contact with Edward Dick, a luthier in Colorado. Since the late 90s he under
developing a kind of banjo with a mandolin body, sometimes adding a 6th string.
Edward built me a gorgeous 6-string banjola with nylon strings and a spruce top
from Bergün in the Swiss mountains (Graubünden). It is a wonderful instrument with a
- despite its comparably small body - full, complex sound and a relaxing, even
meditative character. You can see me play
Thanks to the banjo and the banjola I found my
way back to the guitar. After a bicycle accident, I believed that I
would never be able to play a guitar again due to a remaining limitation in my left
ellbow and hand. But these two instruments, held quite vertically for that reason, proved
to be a kind of physiotherapy, and things improved. Changing to a classical
guitar posture, I was able to reactivate my guitar
playing to a certain extent.
Studying various American roots music styles and
re-activating my guitars, mainly fingerstyle and Travis picking, I also discovered the various styles and instruments of
traditional Hawaiian music:
What do you do musically, when you come
back late in the evening, too tired for a concentration
demanding musical instrument or even the need for sheet music? - But
feeling inside yourself a longing for your own, healing and harmonious
For me, playing a Native American Flute is
something very different from playing other instruments. Of course,
you can interpret all kinds of compositions or traditional Native
American tunes on it. But this flute really starts to live when you
turn off the lights, shut down your thinking and
improvise, expressing your feelings. Or
when you go out into nature and start to speak with the birds and
with mother nature. The Native American flute is more than only a
means for producing sounds. Like now other instrument it has a soul of
its own. The music of the flute is seeking you, you only need to
lend her your breath. Also, her soulfull and healing tones always
express something of the beauty, the wisdom and the enormous tragedy
of the Indian peoples (read "To Make A Voice" by
This experience stimulated me to study anew and in
more depth Native Americans' lives, religion and history, deepening
the knowledge I had from intensive reading in young years and during
my University studies.
After retirement, it is a great privilege to enjoy the
fruits of professional life and the new freedom as a "privatier".
In addition to more sporting movement, this means for me ample time for
music and for my collection of diverse musical instruments. In doing so, I reconnected
with different instrumental phases of my life. Among others with the accordeon,
which has been a wallflower daze since my student years. Travelling to the
Accordeon-Mekka Castelfidardo, Italy, I discovered the fascination of diatonic instruments and their music: the Italian
Organetto and following from this the Styrian Harmonica and the very special Bandoneon. Besides literature and
audiovisual material, travel, visits, workshops, seminars and private lessons help me
to follow this path of discovery.
I also had some inspiring encounters with barrel
organs of and at the Raffin Drehorgelbau
in Überlingen, Deutschland. This small craft business builds beautiful and
exceptionally well-sounding mechanical-acoustic barrel organs and music rolls. A
quite special and musically very appealing world!
My old friend of my youth, the cello, also
received new attention. This instrument is characterized by a sound and
resonance experience that vibrates the whole body in a special way. I play with
an Arcus bow on a beautiful Montagnana
cello copy by Edgar Russ, Cremona,
On my exploration of folk musical Instruments, I
also encountered the Celtic or Folk Lever Harp. These are smaller or middle sized
diatonic harps, usually tuned in Eb, F or C. The semitones of the big pedal
harps, which are used in classical music, are operated by the feet and need
complicated mechanics. On the smaller Lever Harps, levers on the top of the single strings
increase these by a semitone. They are operated by a hand. This way chromatic
playing in several keys is possible on these harps, too.
|At the moment the Styrian Harmonica gets my full
attention. Also in this case, a whole new World opened up to me, both
regarding the playing of the instrument as well as getting acquainted
with a culture
in which this instrument has won growing popularity during the past
years: the alpine music culture as it lives in Austria, Bavaria,
Slowenia, Slovakia, Czeck Republic and is closely related with
Swiss folk culture.|
|For starting to play this instrument, I chose a didactically
and methodically very well made video distant learning course and the
related books by
Florian Michlbauer. Besides the popular TV-stars of this genre, he
with the development of a special notation, a new 5-finger playing
system and with the production of a lot of sheet music is greatly promoting this instrument.
|I also started to attend week long seminars in Austria,
e.g. in the
Stoanineum in Gasen, Styria. Living together and playing freely in
the local restaurants in addition to formal lessons by qualified
instructors guarantee a great learning environment. It also
leads to new friendships across country borders. |
|The website of the Fuchs brothers,
Ziachfuchs, is in terms of
technology and teaching methodology excellent and very helpful
especially for learning to play by heart.|
|And again, getting in contact with and visiting quite a number of smaller harmonica businesses are a wonderful complement to playing this marvellous instrument.|
What a great world of music!
A drop of sadness remains: the learning of new and
the development of existing musical skills becomes more difficult in advanced age. Higher ambitions
are out of place. But what always remains is the deep emotional joy of good and beautiful
instruments, the wonderful sounds that can be elicitted from them even on modest
musical skill levels. Plus of course the great music
which the masters of these instruments know to make with them.
One of my Native American Flutes, Cedar Mallard in E-minor, created by Ted Calavan, Oregon
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