Yesterday’s post, musing about the whereabouts of all the bass saxophones of days gone by, rattled around my pharmaceutical-altered & regulated brain for the remainder of the day. So, in between bouts of severe breakthrough pain (the weather yesterday was the kind that brings out the worst in my eye and ear pain), I saw some very strange possibilities for where these old basses may have ended up.
What we do know is that when schools went to set up their band programs, they often went to instrument companies like Conn, who supplied them with a “band full” of instruments. (Think of the musical The Music Man.) I’ve never seen an old catalog, but a bit of snooping around the Internet would likely turn one up. I’m thinking the instrumentation would have looked something like this (with a certain number of instruments of each type in each “band kit”): flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, baritone horn, tuba, & percussion. (Did I leave any out? Probably, and I apologize, but you get the idea.) Naturally, each group of instruments would then include subgroups. For example, in clarinets you might have: Eb, Bb, alto, & bass. In saxophones you would most likely see the alto, tenor, bari, and of course a bass would have been either included automatically, or at least an option in whatever “band kit” the school ordered.
Let’s say SOTSDO was correct in his pet theory that the war saw many of the bass saxophones that were part of the school systems turned over to the war effort. Since they were no longer being used, they were recycled into shell casings. This would indeed open the door to an intriguing possibility.
Years ago an urban myth made it way around the sax-playing world via the Internet that one of the reasons that Selmer Mark VIs sounded the way they did, and arguably no other horn in the world sounded like them, is because Selmer made them out of the reclaimed WWII artillery shell casings that littered post-war Europe. Now I’m not a metallurgist, but I believe the reason the myth had legs is that it was grounded in the theory that if you expose metals to particular types of stresses, the properties of the metal changes. Therefore, the old shell casings that had been exposed to not only the manufacturing processes, but also to the explosive processes of being fired from guns, would have unique properties to them when melted down and turned into saxophones, as compared to regular metals that would not have gone through the additional stresses of gun fire. (The naysayers say that the melting down of the casings negates any change in the properties that “might” have occurred during the explosive process BTW.)
Now let’s just for a minute say that this urban myth is not a myth, (and that the naysayers are incorrect) can you see where I’m going with this
It’s WWII. The Americans need metal to continue the war effort. Metal drives are held. It’s the patriotic thing to do to turn over unused metal. Bass saxophones are obsolete: parts are no longer being written for them. So, schools turn over their unused bass saxes and in SOTSDO’s word’s “presto! – 75 mm shell casings”….After all, Rosie needed something to rivet…
Fast forward a number of years…..
Here we are in post-war France. Selmer in someway comes into possession of tons and tons and tons of artillery shells (remember we’re talking more than 20 years of saxophone production here). They decide to use them to manufacture their saxophones and melt the casing down themselves…Or perhaps Selmer buys the metal that already has been melted down from the recycled artillery shells, but then this story is not nearly as 8) …Among the tons of metal shell casings acquired by Selmer are the casings that contain the remnants of the old Buescher and Conn bass saxophones. So therefore, not only does the metal have the altered properties of the explosive process, but it also has the properties of having been vibrated at certain frequencies when played as a bass saxophone. Wow!!!!
So the fanatical Selmer worshiper who thinks that the 5 digit VI is better than any other Mark VI, might be on to something. The shell casings made from reclaimed American bass saxophones, turned into French-made Selmer Paris horns, were clearly used during the production run that resulted in the 5 digit Mark VIs!
That’s it The mystery of Mark VIs, especially the 5 digit ones, is solved This is truly amazing And my neurologist said I’d mostly likely become “stupid” on this drug cocktail. Wow Did I prove her wrong or what