I have a hard time falling asleep to music. It keeps my brain awake, no matter what genre, so I normally put on a podcast if I’m tossing and turning. But there are exceptions to every rule. An unfortunate side-effect of this process has been that I reveal embarrassing truths about my past. I used to play the saxophone, which was not embarrassing, and in my high school, our band won more championships than any sports teams—which was only embarrassing when we lost. Anyway, in the spring time, I was in symphonic band.
Day Ten: A Song that Makes You Fall Asleep
Richard Saucedo, “Hymn for the Cream and Crimson.”
Here’s the thing about classical saxophone: it is nearly nonexistent. There are very few solo pieces for it as it is, and not a lot of wind ensembles feature it. In fact, if I had wanted to continue to play at the college where I chose to matriculate, I could only play in jazz band. There’s not even a spot on the orchestra. (To be fair, there’s no wind ensemble at all.) In a lot of ways, it’s just as well. In virtually every piece we played, the saxophones had huge blocks of rest—especially when I played second alto.
When we played “Hymn for the Cream and Crimson,” we were going to be judged at a state-wide conference or something that was a big, big deal. Our conductor was very good friends with the composer, who wrote our marching shows in the fall virtually every year. Now, without getting into the politics of our particular marching band (which I could talk about literally all day, lo, these many years), and taking this with the grain of salt that I was a very uppity woodwind player, I felt that the parts that Mr. Saucedo wrote for our section were often way too easy. And there were many rehearsals when, together as a group, we would have to stop for ten minutes to tune the entire brass line, many of whom struggled a lot more with playing their parts.
And that’s all fine and good when you’re in marching band because it’s either August and you’re thinking about how hot and miserable you are, or it’s October and you’re thinking about how cold and miserable you are. But when you’re sitting down, on a stage, there’s nowhere to fidget.
In “Cream and Crimson,” we had 41 measures of rest at the very beginning. And it’s not like we just started to play; there was this whole process of tuning this and adjusting that and getting the brass to settle on and sustain a single note, and fine-tuning (pun!) the flugelhorn solo, and then adjusting the score. Anyway, I fell asleep in the middle of rehearsal. It was the only time I ever did. I was so bored, and that low note was just droning on and on and I just nodded off at my stand.
So, yeah, that’s a long story. Also, the Fantasia version of “Ave Maria” bored me to absolute tears as a child.