How Saxophones Are Made: Two Short Films (Including One by Sesame Street) Take You Inside Saxophone Factories

Many of us, hand­ed a sax­o­phone, would­n’t have the first clue about how to play it prop­er­ly, and almost none of us would have any idea at all about how to make one. Then again, those of us of a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion might feel an old mem­o­ry com­ing back to the sur­face: had­n’t we once wit­nessed the inner work­ings of a sax­o­phone fac­to­ry? We did if we ever hap­pened to catch the clas­sic 1980 Sesame Street short above which shows the sax­o­phone-mak­ing process in its entire­ty, begin­ning with flat sheets of met­al and end­ing up, two min­utes lat­er, with jazz­i­ly playable instru­ments — just like the one we’ve heard impro­vis­ing to the action onscreen the whole time.

Gold­en-age Sesame Street always did well with reveal­ing how things were made in a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly mes­mer­iz­ing way, as also seen around the same time in an even more wide­ly remem­bered two min­utes in a cray­on fac­to­ry. Both it and the sax­o­phone work­shop, though they use plen­ty of tech­nol­o­gy, look like quaint­ly, even charm­ing­ly labor-inten­sive oper­a­tions today: in almost every step shown, we see not just a machine or tool but the human (or at least a part of the human) oper­at­ing it.

And it turns out, on the evi­dence of the 2012 video from the Musi­cal Instru­ment Muse­um just below, that the art of sax­o­phone-mak­ing has­n’t changed as much in the sub­se­quent decades as we might imag­ine.

With its more than ten min­utes of run­time, the MIM’s video shows in a bit more detail what actu­al­ly hap­pens inside a mod­ern sax­o­phone fac­to­ry, name­ly that of wood­wind and brass instru­ment mak­er Hen­ri Selmer Paris, whose sax­o­phones have been played by Char­lie Park­er, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, Son­ny Rollins and Cole­man HawkinsAnd while some of the equip­ment clear­ly grew more advanced in the 32 years since the Sesame Street short, the over­all process remains clear­ly rec­og­niz­able, as does the con­cen­tra­tion evi­dent in the actions and on the faces of all the skilled work­ers involved, albeit on a much larg­er scale. The day when we can 3D-print our own sax­o­phones at home — the cul­mi­na­tion of the indus­tri­al evo­lu­tion­ary process glimpsed in two dif­fer­ent stages in these videos — will come, but it cer­tain­ly has­n’t come yet.

via Laugh­ingsquid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Nina Simone Sing the Black Pride Anthem, “To Be Young, Gift­ed and Black,” on Sesame Street (1972)

Watch Her­bie Han­cock Rock Out on an Ear­ly Syn­the­siz­er on Sesame Street (1983)

Watch Jazzy Spies: 1969 Psy­che­del­ic Sesame Street Ani­ma­tion, Fea­tur­ing Grace Slick, Teach­es Kids to Count

Learn How Crayons Are Made, Cour­tesy of 1980s Videos by Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers

Glass: The Oscar-Win­ning “Per­fect Short Doc­u­men­tary” on Dutch Glass­mak­ing (1958)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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