Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Saxy Alright

The Asian instrument is the piano.

Or better yet, the piano -- with Grade 8 ABRSM certificates to boot.

The year I moved over to Melbourne as a 9-year-old kid was the year my eyes and ears were opened to the whole spectrum of orchestric instruments and beyond. Back in Malaysia, I'd learnt lots and lots of theory about the instruments in an orchestra. And if you'd asked me then, I would've been able to tell you a lot: about the wind, percussion, string and brass sections; about exactly how many reeds there were in various types of brass instruments; about all sorts of instruments like the trombone, the flute, the saxophone.

But the trombone, the flute, the saxophone -- they weren't instruments to me. They were words. Reeds were also words to me. And so were orchestra conductors, illustrious composers, famous performers, and many other aspects of music theory. All these were nothing more than words that I needed to know in order to score a distinction in my theory paper. I knew so much about music and instruments; yet I'd never seen most types of instruments before. I didn't play any of them. None of my friends did, either. We all played the piano.

Things were different at Australia.

There was a large sheet of paper taped to the door of my class, indicating music class schedules for every kid who took lessons. And nearly every kid took lessons! Georgia played the flute. Seb played the drums. Bas played the bass (no, I kid you not, I was not trying to make a pun here). Kristian played the saxophone. And each time any of my friends left the classroom for their music lessons, I curiously wondered what an instrument-other-than-the-piano would be like. What it would sound like. What it would feel like.

I remember sitting in the Elwood hall one day to watch a performance by our third-place-winning school orchestra. We had, I believe, all four sections of the orchestra. And the melancholic whine of the strings, the rhythmic thumping of the percussion, the bright jazzy riffs of the brass and the gentle trills of the woodwind -- all these melded together in perfect unison. I was mesmerized.

And of all the instruments that lined the stage alongside their proud owners that day, the one that captured my imagination was the saxophone. I can't quite describe why it caught my eye; suffice to say that I've always been a sucker for fun music. And I found that sax solos were nothing less than pure, unadulterated, spontaneous fun.

Nine years later -- I'm eighteen now -- I still haven't been released from the brassy, gold-lacquer-finished hypnosis of the saxophone.

Recently I expressed my wish to fulfill my childhood dream, and so the parents bought me an absolutely gorgeous, stunning alto sax, a Yamaha YAS-62. Opening the box and unwrapping the plastic and seeing the glint of chrome emerge was breathtaking. Assembling the neck, mouthpiece and body together was like watching a lifetime dream taking shape in real time. And huffing and puffing and tightening abs and exploding the diaphragm and drawing out every last reserve of air, just to make one fart-like grunt -- that was magical.

It's time for Asians to go saxy.

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