Adolphe Sax, musician, musical instrument designer and most of all, inventor of the saxophone, was born on the 6th of November 1814 in Dinant, a city on the Meuse, at the time no longer French, barely Dutch and on the brink of becoming Belgian.
Sax was a designer, a creator, an innovator. A man who liked to experiment, a man whose life read like a book, who was forgotten and then finally revived by the American jazz world, albeit without personal recognition.
Now, 200 years later, this has changed.
Approaching the eve of his birthday, the City of Bolzano paid homage to Sax by staging a unique event in the town main square, starring Urban Sax, the teeming musical ensemble, directed by Gilbert Altman.
Full of anticipation I step into the chilly autumn evening to join my friends, Piazza Walther. As I close my front door behind me, a man on the other side of the street turns towards me, stops in his tracks and shouts “che bella ragazza” in my direction, followed by something about the planned concerto.
He is an old man of the upright variety, well dressed, with a good-natured smile. Clearly unthreatening. Old. Elderly.
And I am no spring chicken.
I walk along, unfazed. Still, for a moment my mind dwells on the recent Hollaback! video, recently shot in New York. The girl in the video was young, the men intimidating, the shouts crude and vulgar. An ominous example of urban sexual impropriety.
Street harassment is an expression of gender-based intimidation and violence; an ongoing, persistent phenomenon, ubiquitous, rife. Ugly.
It is always good to know that there are people, groups and movements who have your back, who create awareness and support, develop tools and strategies, empowering targets and victims against unwanted acts and conduct. Hollaback! is such a movement and despite recent criticism, not in the least regarding the racial politics of said video, the long overdue debate has gathered momentum. Still,
‘che bella ragazza’ is not a violation, it is not an obscenity.
At most the words form an unwelcome invasion of my anonymity, of my space. Uncalled for, in view of our age even slightly pathetic, a sad need for attention, an urge to play and flirt regardless of age? Whatever it was, it was not a catcall. A compliment? Maybe.
Arriving at the Piazza, the concert has just started. Crowded, colorful, a burst of energy. Altman meets Daft Punk meets Cirque du Soleil meets the saxophone. Not merely a concert, rather a large-scale street performance of performance art.
A happening, a joy, an ode.
Compliments are never wasted, so, to Mr. Altman and his performers and to the city of Bolzano, “Complimenti!”
I have this thing about saxophone players, especially tenor sax. I don’t know what it is but they just curdle me.
Sugar Kane Kowlczyk