Marcel Mule's Last Interview, 1990
Interviewed By David J. Gibson
This never before published interview with Marcel Mule was recorded April 18, 1990, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Muleís home in Sanary, France. Marcel Mule was 89 years young. He answered my questions with energy and enthusiasm as I asked the questions in English and he answered them in French.

Saxophonist And Teacher
June 24, 1901 - December 19, 2001
Marcel Mule Scholarship Fund

The information on these Marcel Mule pages are intended to aid researchers looking for information about Marcel Mule's life. Anyone wishing to add to this Marcel Mule webpage, make suggestions or corrections, please click, and send an email to

For those who are curious: Joe Viola and I were in France attending a gathering of saxophonists in Que Bong, a town about 50 miles west of Paris. Following this we headed into Paris by train and ultimately took the bullet train from Paris to the South of France. In Marsais, France we rented a car and proceeded to Marcelís home in Sanary, France.

As we approached Marcelís home around 1 p.m. Joe and I were both excited and eager to meet him. Marcel was working in his front yard pulling up weeds when he spotted us and came to welcome his dear friend Joe Viola. Joe introduced me and we chatted and laughed as we walked into Marcelís home.

During the course of the afternoon I was struck by the fact that the only thing noticeable concerning the saxophone in Marcelís life was a large framed remembrance, all signed by fans, from the First World Saxophone Congress in Chicago. As the afternoon wore on I asked Marcel if he ever played the saxophone anymore. He spoke politely but forcefully that he did not. He hadnít touched the instrument in many years and his last saxophone was currently store under his bed.

After chatting with Marcel, and his wife Polette, Joe and I went out on Marcelís front porch and visited endlessly. He spoke English well and we conversed in English. As a side note, I had known Joe Viola for many years and considered him a good friend. I could see the pleasure Joe was experiencing by being with Marcel. Both men really hit it of and enjoyed each otherís company. Interestingly, throughout much of the taping there was a small dove cooing away on top of Marcelís porch roof.

As a final note, we ended our day by eating a wonderful meal that Polette Mule had prepared. This was around 7:30 that evening. I was struck by the copious amounts of wine sitting on the dinner table in bottles. Marcel enjoyed wine and bread, and I might add so did we. We ate, drank wine, and continued to break bread for what seemed an eternity. I was really overwhelmed by it all as the conversation and laughter continued. It was a day I will remember forever, my visit to Marcel Muleís house in Sanary, France.

Marcel, letís start with La musique de la Guarde Rťpublicaine Band experience beginning in 1923 and how it affected your career early on. You were a part of this band for thirteen years. Recruitment was always done by competitions, which means where there is one place about 20 to 25 musicians compete for this place. As a result the level of the artists is very high and it is a grouping in which one must improve and develop oneís musicality. For a saxophonist, for example, it was a chosen milieu, since saxophones do no participate in an orchestra, so this presents an excellent opportunity, a select surrounding, and so the music of the Guarde allows one to attain a higher level of achievement and to develop oneís talent. I was rather young when I joined the Guarde and I received many benefits from the artistic point of view.

Out of your experience with the Guarde Rťpublicaine Band grew a saxophone quartet as a formal medium. If not the first format saxophone quartet this was certainly one of the earliest ones. I wasnít the only one to have the idea for this quartet. The man to played baritone, Georges Chauvet, along with me, we created this quartet for there was none in existence. We wanted to create a provisionary repertoire to start an interesting group. First of all I will name Georges Chauvet, then a colleague from the Guarde whose name was Renť Chalignť who played alto, and the tenor player was Hippolyte Poimboeuf. That was the group, which was formed in 1928.

The four of us played together. We took music, which was already in existence. There was nothing written for the instrument. We took little popular pieces that the public liked and we made up programs that were interesting and had a new sound. Those pieces were known, but they sounded different with the saxophone and the public liked it. Thatís how we began and later composers began writing for the saxophone since they saw our group was successful. But at first we played only transcriptions.

Talk about the interest that composers took in the saxophone.
They heard our quartet and the new sound interested them. They wrote for our group because they wanted to write for a new group for a new sound. Glazounov wrote a great piece for us. We met him through a Russian composer who liked the saxophone. His name was Achuman but he wasnít very well known. He convinced Glazounov to write for us and to take an interest in us.

The other composers, like Bozza and Vellones, transcribed pieces they had written for piano, notably a suite called In The Garden of the Wild Beasts that Vellones had written for his children. He wrote this music for a saxophone quartet. It was one of the first pieces we played outside of transcriptions. It was a transcription of a piano piece but the author wanted to adapt it for a saxophone quartet. Bozza is another story.

Much later we went to Italy, in 1937, and we went to Rome. They invited us to the Villa Medici where they hold the French Prize of Rome, and Eugene Bozza and Gabriel Pierne were there. Let me think if there were many more composers who wrote for me. No, I think they were the only two and we gave a little recital at the Villa Medici. Following that they wrote some pieces for us. There might have been others but they were the principal ones. Thatís how it happened.

There was also Claude Rascal who wrote for the saxophone, but who wrote at first for the saxophone with piano, and then for the quartet. All these young composers wrote for the quartet. I am trying to think of others. There was Rene Chaland also, names like that but they were not well known composers and we did not meet them at the Villa Medici.

Gabriel Pierne was one of the composers who were very interested in the saxophone. He had written for us a variation on a popular song that was very successful. We played it all over France and Europe and it was very well received. Gabriel Pierne was a remarkable musician. We owe him a lot. He not only wrote for the quartet he also included in the composition Colone a great part for the saxophone. He was a benefactor of the instrument.

What do you think about some of the new music being written for saxophone? Particularly in recent years. I know many pieces that have been written for saxophone quartets. Some have value, others less. If we talk about modern music Iíd have to say that I donít know much about this music. First of all often in this type of music there is only one word that describes it and that is contemporary because this music is often a lot of noise for nothing. Many times the notes are not even written down. From what I have heard, there hasnít been much written for saxophone quartets these past few years. The composers have changed recently and they orient themselves towards things that are less interesting. I personally donít like them, thatís all.

Your appointment to teach saxophone at the Paris Conservatory in 1942 must have been an exciting time in your life. You stayed there for 26 years until your retirement in 1968. What inspired them to re-establish the saxophone at the Paris Conservatory? Itís very easy because this class had been suppressed since 1870. It was Adolphe Sax who had been professor until 1870 and he was the one who suppressed the class. It appears that it was lacking in credit at that time. It was reestablished in 1942 because there was a period in which the saxophone was relegated to use in military music, principally in the fanfares, in harmonies, in the provinces especially. But between 1925 or 1926 and 1942 were able to establish that the saxophone was capable of doing other things. It was capable of playing an important part in the orchestra. Since I was in the Guarde, when there was a piece that required the saxophone I was the one they called upon to play. I suppose the liked my way of playing many composers became interested in writing for the saxophone.

Since there were many pieces being written for the saxophone it was decided to begin a class at the Conservatory. I would see Mr. Claude Delvaincour, who was director of the Conservatory of Versailles, every year at juries for the students of the Versailles Conservatory. And every year we would talk about the possibility of having this class at the Conservatory; that it would be very good to have considering the development of the instrument in the symphonic domain.

The creation of this class was a culmination of everything that had happened in the previous fifteen years or so. The saxophone had made itself heard in a milieu where we werenít used to hearing it, for previously it had been considered only as an instrument for dancing and for jazz music. It has its place for jazz music, but we discovered that it could do other things. For example, there were trumpet players who played in jazz groups and who could also participate in a symphonic orchestra. It was the same for the clarinet, for the trombone; those instruments had their place in the jazz band but could also participate in a symphonic orchestra. However, we felt it was possible for the saxophone too.

Claude Delvaincour, that I mentioned earlier, came to the director of the Paris Conservatory one day, and since he had often talked about the possibility of this class, that is how the saxophone class was established. When I saw him after his talk with the director, he said that was the first thing the director would do to establish the saxophone class. That was in 1942, and he kept his word. It opened up the chance for students to develop what they were doing. There was the spirit of competition because the saxophone was treated like all other instruments at the Conservatory. Thatís how it happened. I was named professor because Claude Delvaincour knew me and the composers who were on the council knew me also. I was in a good position because I had a part in the creation of the class.

As a teacher of saxophone what qualities in a studentís evolution did you emphasize the most? Good tone quality is the most important thing to me. As long as I was at the Conservatory I tried to impress this on my students. I myself had evolved; had changed. I think I evolved for the better. Also, because the one mostly responsible for my playing the saxophone was my father. My father was an amateur saxophonist but he played remarkably. He played as they did at that time, but he had trained me to pay attention to the tone quality so that it would be pleasant to hear a velvety sound. Later on I modified my sound but I always strove to keep a velvety sound quality and I added an expressive element. This is what caused the ascension of this instrument. I practiced what they were practicing on the string instruments; that is expression by means of vibrato. It was a calculated vibrato, which had to be assimilated to the orchestra. It required a different sound than a jazz band. In the jazz band there was some vibrato, but it was a little exaggerated and it would not have conformed to symphonic music. So I tried to moderate my vibrato. Over the years I was able to create a sound that really gave value to this instrument. I was the one who was there but I always say it could just as well have been another, but it was me.

Afterwards, I asked my students strive for that tone and as the years passed other professors picked up on it and also worked off the cultivation of the tone; a good quality tone, an expressive tone, so that the saxophone would be one of the most expressive instruments in the entire orchestra and rival the strings. As one critic told me at the time the critic was Emile Villarose, when talking about the saxophone he described it as the violoncello of the brass. That was saying it all. He appreciated the expressiveness that could be achieved with the instrument. Thus, one must not be surprised that I strove to attain this with my students and I did attain it.

By disciplining the expression, by giving them all the elements, by listening to them assiduously, by making their fellow musicians listen to them, there was an ambiance in which one tone was formed. Thatís very important to me for thatís what the instrument should be used for. And it should continue to be used this way. When the saxophone is used nowadays it isnít always used in a happy way, it isnít always used in an expressive way, as other instruments are. It was only for a few years that composers wrote wonderful things for us. They are not composers known worldwide but they are wonderful composers. So, thatís our repertoire.

Itís too bad that with the turning of contemporary music has taken expression is no longer necessary. One doesnít need expression to make noise. But at first that was what it was to maintain expression in oneís music. That was what was known as the French School of saxophone. I have had students form all over the world. I have had Americans who play marvelously, I have had Japanese, people from all nations and it is continuing. That was my goal, for the tone to be the most important thing.

You used only the alto saxophone in your teaching at the Paris Conservatory. Why did you limit it to just the alto? It appears surprising because there are three other principal saxophones and there are seven in all from the bass to the sopranino. But it posed a problem; a certain continuity was necessary. We couldnít use pieces that were made for a sopranino, a tenor, etc., so I thought the alto was sufficient. If one can play the alto one can play the others very well too. Itís a question of practice and of specialization. I have had students who have won the first prize on alto and then have player a tenor. The soprano is a little different, and also the baritone. But if one can play alto, and has a good tone and accuracy, it only takes a couple weeks of practice to get used to the others. Itís probably easier for a saxophone player to switch saxophones than for a clarinetist to play a bass clarinet.

We used only the alto because it simplified teaching. We would have had to bring the alto saxophone on day, the tenor another day, the baritone another. Itís also expensive if the student has to buy all four instruments. Thatís a point that must be considered too. And the alto has been written for the most by composers. It is the alto that has been used the most in an orchestra. The soprano has also been used but for a long time we hesitated to use the soprano because it was played very badly. But now there is less danger of that. I think it is sufficient to practice on the alto.

When you award a first prize in saxophone to a student, what do you look for from the recipient?
What I look for in them is to make the instrument valued. As I said before, in a lot of music today expressiveness is not too important, so they are interested in teaching music. The conservatory has allowed us to have about 100 teachers who have classes that are full with about 25 students or more. When I meet a former student who teaches and I asked him how many students he has. He always answers 25, 28, a rather good number. They are people who make music with the saxophone, like itís made with other instruments. I had one student who wanted to play jazz especially. He went to one of my former students for lessons and my student converted him and he started playing symphonic saxophone music. Even those who havenít won a prize in saxophone, they are amateurs and happy to play because they like the expressive sounds they produce.

You are held in very high esteem by many of your fans and admirers around the world. What do you say to you many fans that have admired you and respected what you did for the saxophone? I hope that the students of my students attain the same tradition thanks to the vigilance and competency of my students. It perpetuates itself, this method of playing an instrument. I hear it in exams, and I am happy to hear a remarkable tone quality and the technique is prodigious. They attain sounds that are very difficult, not always musical, but they are asked to do that.

Some former students have turned to contemporary music but that doesnít stop them from playing well. I know one group in particular, not to mention names and give them publicity, but they play perhaps one contemporary work and the rest if traditional. I continue to say that contemporary music adds nothing to the playing of the saxophone, and perhaps the saxophone adds nothing to contemporary music either. If contemporary music continues this way perhaps the instruments will change, perhaps there will be other. We hear unbelievable things; noise making. We donít hear music. Are they kidding? It sounds like laughter: ha, ha, ha, ha, etc. There was another one that sounded like sneezing. For three minutes we heard ah-choo, ah-choo, etc. I heard it on a radio station that specializes in music, French music. Itís on at 11:00 at night. I think its blasphemy to present that as music. I sincerely hope there will be a turnaround someday. One must hope.

On February 4, 1958, you performed Ibertís Chamber Music for Saxophone and Orchestra, and Tomasiís Ballade for Saxophone and Orchestra, with the Boston Symphony under the baton of Charles Munch. Tell us about this experience. I like these two pieces very much. The piece by Ibert is very well constructed and very melodic. Tomasiís music is also very interesting. I had played Ibertís work often in Paris, notably with Charles Munch. Since Charles was the leader of the Boston Symphony Orchestra he asked me to play Ibertís Concertina. I like it very much also. I think the piece shows off the value of the instrument and requires a great deal of virtuosity. Itís sort of like a contemporary Mozart. Itís neat in design and very moving.

One day I was with Jacques Ibert to do music for a film. There were these first two bars of an arietta he had used to express sorrow as background music for the film. We started over many times because it didnít come out right. It wasnít close enough to the microphone. Finally, he came to the booth where they were recording and was finally satisfied. When he had written it he was thinking of something moving and he had heard that come through in the music. So, the last movement requires a lot of rhythm, equality, and a lot of fantasy. Itís a very lively happy piece. He wrote a lot of happy music, not too much sad music. Heís an excellent composer and he really knew how to write music. So this is one of the reasons I liked to play Ibertís music and it was always well received by the public.

Now, Tomasi was an excellent musician. He worked a lot and he didnít have much time to compose. If he had more time he might have composed a lot more works. One day I was with him to do some background music for a stage play and there was a saxophone in the orchestra. That happened a lot before the war in the 1930s, 1935-1936 around there. And he said to me, because he was an old friend of mine, and he spoke with southern French accent, ďI am going to write a ballad.Ē Then he called me a few months later and said he had written it. I played it and found it very seductive. I also had my studentsí play it and I found an interest in it that I hadnít found in playing it myself. You have to put yourself into the character of the piece because the music expresses the sadness of the life of a clown. Itís very descriptive. He had written notations that one must imagine the clown along the banks of the Seine, who is gesturing to amuse the public. He chose an English theme, which he described as, ďlong and phlegmatic.Ē A clown walks along the Seine at night and thinks about everything in his life that is not amusing. Itís a little drama. It takes the form of a blues, which was invented by black musicians, and itís sad music. He used that so that the clownís feelings of sadness grow and grow, and at the end it explodes. At the end the clown cries as he walks along the Seine. The legend of the piece says that this despair is shown in a sonorous mass of loud noise, but harmonious, not like we hear these days. Finally the clown resigns himself to continue to make the public laugh.

As I played it I put myself into the story and imagined it and the characters. I always liked that work for that reason. Some critics thought it was too light, but I didnít think so. I find it very descriptive, and thatís why I chose it.

You were presented with the French Chevalier de la legion díhonneur in 1958 for ďoutstanding contributions to his country.Ē How did you feel about this honor? My becoming a member of the Chevalier de la legion díhonneur (legend of honor) was rather curious because the director of the conservatory suggested my name, and also because I played in the Guarde, the director of the Guarde suggested my name. And the first one that succeeded in having me chosen was the leader of the Guarde. The leader of the Guarde decorated me, and later on when I saw the director of the Conservatory he said to me, ďI was too late, and you have already been decorated.Ē

I donít know of other saxophonists who have ever received the award. It was a sort of reward to someone who had played all over the world. I have never sought such decorations and some people refuse to be decorated, but I didnít want to refuse because it was not I that was being decorated, but all saxophonists, all my students. They continue participating in making the instrument, and the way it was played by my student and me. Other musicians have been decorated also; oboe players, violinists, etc., but I think I am the only saxophonist who every received it.

Was your father present at the presentation? He was still living, but I didnít have him come because he was very emotional, and he had an accident at another concert when he has seen his grandson conduct the orchestra and he had an attack. I would have like him to be there and see me receive the decoration, but I was afraid he would have another attack, so I told him not to come. But he knew about it.

Tell us about soloing on the saxophone. I think the first thing is for the public to realize the possibilities of the instrument. Thatís why I deplore the fact that it is used in performances that are not at all artistic. I think it is more difficult to play a concerto of Mozartís than a caprice by Paganini. Itís not the same degree of difficulty. I think a violinist who plays Mozart has much more difficulty than one who plays Paganini. There isnít as much perfection demanded than for a piece by Mozart.

For we saxophone players, I think we have to convince the public that itís an instrument that can create an emotion. I donít have a lot of solo concerts and people have told me that they didnít know the saxophone could sound like that. Itís because they are used to hearing the saxophone in a dance orchestra.

The quartet had also done a lot of tours and they have played for a lot of young people, and they are surprised too. They asked us after each concert how we could express so much emotion with this instrument that they were not used to hearing played in this way. That was my goal, our goal, to have the instrument known for its artistic possibilities.

The day when the saxophone class was re-established at the Paris Conservatory there were important composers such Honneiller who said, ďthe saxophone finally had its title of nobility, that it had arrived at the same level as the other instrument, that it was accepted at the house of music, the conservatory.Ē The conservatory must conserve the magnificent traditions that have been created throughout the centuries, the succession of genius composers that will never disappear. Unfortunately, today we have no composers equal to them, but we have honorable works, and if they were played more often they would be well received. Every time they have been played, if the works were agreeable to hear, they have been well received and we have been asked why.

Could you talk about vibrato? Itís no secret that from when the instrument was created, until the advent of jazz, it was played without vibrato. There were some saxophonists who played admirably, as did my father, which I mentioned before. I tried to play as he did. I arrived in Paris and I heard people playing with vibrato, but it was a vibrato I found to be atrocious. It was ugly. I thought it sounded like a goat. I was playing jazz, also. I had been trained in a military band, but in order to make money I also played some jazz. I had to sound like that too, but I tried to play jazz with sounds that pleased me. At that time it wasnít like it is now. People danced to jazz, waltzes, etc., and I played in dance bands.

I was employed by a black man at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and he hired me for my sonority; a black man hired me for my sonority, thatís rather curious. When he hired me for a party outside the Ritz he insisted that I play with him. I evolved in that way, but one day when I was playing at the comic opera, I was playing Vertel. Thatís about all there was. One day, I think it was in 1929, there was a modern ballet; they had a fox trot, a waltz, a blues, and in that blues there was a part for a saxophone and it was written on the music ďvery expressive, with vibrato.Ē Since I was at the rehearsal, the director said to me, ďitís written it should be played expressively, with vibrato, but here I donít think it should be played the same way as in jazz.Ē I said I agree, so I did it moderately because I was afraid the others would say, ďWhat does he think he is doing?Ē But when I played it the other musicians raised their heads looking to see who was playing like that, and since then I saw that it was very well received and I continued to play that with even with a classical orchestra. I even played that way in the Guarde, and it was this manner of playing with vibrato, that brought me success.

They considered me a master because I had that vibrato sound. However, vibrato cannot be improvised. I taught it to my students in a very disciplined manner. They had to keep a certain tempo, a certain speed, and after awhile it becomes a habit. If one has a habit of a certain speed, it lasts. Thatís the story of how vibrato started in the instrument when I was at the comic opera. If someone else had been there things might have gone differently, but it was me and I wanted the saxophone to be known as an instrument. I left jazz to others and I wanted to be known as a classical saxophonist.

The quartet was another innovation. During the years I was at the Conservatory I had remarkable students, and for twenty years after that I have heard the students of my successor Daniel Deffayet, who has also trained excellent musicians. Hereís an anecdote: Daniel Deffayet and I were received one day at the town hall of Nuremberg and the burgomaster, the one who acts as mayor said, ďI was the father of the saxophone.Ē I said that no, I was rather the grandfather because now it is the students of my students who are playing and they play very well.

There are many young people being trained now who are very good and when they come to Paris they have a great sound. What I deplore is the music that is being written now. It isnít useful and thatís too bad.

What pieces in the repertoire stand out in your mind? Itís difficult to give a preference to a work among all that has been written. Before, I mentioned Ibert and Tomasi. Tomasi also wrote a very good concerto. Those were very good! They had a lot of talent. I also heard good work by Eugene Bozza, and Gabriel Pierne who wrote for the quartet. And Glazounov, who was an incontestable master who wrote a piece for quartet that lasts a quarter of an hour. He said he wanted to try something different, to express different things with the instrument, and he wrote a very nice work. Itís a little bit too long but he looked for different sounds.

Other composers, like Paul Bonneau who played saxophone himself a little, and others like those saw at the Villa Medici, which I mentioned earlier. I have forgotten all the names, and some who wrote pieces for films like Marice Perrier arenít very well known. But they used the saxophone for their music in films. Jacque Ibert used it in an opera ballet called the Errant Knight, Don Quiote, and he included some parts for saxophone that were very nice to play and hear. Honeager also used the saxophone in his music in Joan of Arc for example. And we mustnít forget Daris Milaud who did the Creation of the World back in the 1920s. Thatís one of the first things I played with him. Florence Mit also wrote a remarkable piece for the quartet. I mentioned Delonne before, who was an excellent composer. It was a different genre of music, but excellent all the same.

At the conservatory there were many successes. For example Janine Ruef, who is an excellent musician, wrote for competitions and she wrote a concerto. Claude Pascal wrote a remarkable sonatina. There has been a long line of musicians who have done a lot for the instrument. I forget them all but Glazounov was perhaps the master, but others also have their value. There is one, maybe two that we regret. There was Debussy who wrote a rhapsody, but it didnít like the instrument very much, Iím afraid. He didnít like the way it was played then. Maybe if he heard they way it is played now he would have made a quartet himself. Who knows? He may have made a quartet that would have been as well known as the one he created for strings. Anyway, thereís Debussy and thereís Ravel. Ravel created a few solos for us in Bolero. At the end of his life he became ill, seriously ill, but to years before his death he had promised to write something for us for the quartet. I knew him well as I had seen him a lot for Bolero performances but he became ill and that was it. I regret it because he probably would have succeeded in doing something for us.

Can we talk about the Mark VI Selmer saxophone, which you were helpful in creating? It was the result of many years of research. I worked at the Selmer factory and I was always trying to improve the instruments. When I started there the instruments were good, but we were always trying to improve them. Those who succeeded me have also improved them and the fabrication has improved a lot. We can always make improvements.

The Mark VI was the result of a lot of research. It can be discouraging at times because we think we have made an improvement in one part of the instrument, but it changes another part. But a respectable house like Selmer continues to try and not to become discouraged. They continued to search with me the top, the bottom, and the middle. We worked for a long time and we made progress. It appears that they are still making progress. So, thatís what happened.

What is the French School of saxophone playing? Yes, it exists for the reasons I gave you. I had heard American saxophonists, and there were good saxophonists before me. But they werenít oriented towards true classical music. So, in that way we could say there is a French School because we had the instrument compete for a place in the orchestra along with the other instruments. Itís different than people who play popular light music. We try to play more serious works. It was a bold attempt to permit an instrument that was rather neglected to attain its title of nobility. That is the French School.

One could say, since I was the one at the conservatory, that it is my school. Not to be pretentious, but the students that I have had also try to defend a good cause and what I consider to be a good cause. The French School? Itís curious. In 1970 there was a competition in Geneva, and at the second contest I was no longer at the conservatory. It was my successor (Daniel Deffayet) who attended and it was found that the students who came from the Paris Conservatory, some had been my students, werenít very outstanding that year. They played well, but they werenít brilliant. There were some students from the United States who played better. So, the next day in the newspaper they were talking about a French School and an American School. That was rather amusing because the American School consisted of two or three saxophonists that I had as students. They were calling that the American School. It wasnít an American school really. It was an artistic school.

In the United States you have some very good players. I have been lucky enough to have some as students. They perhaps played in a slightly different way. Itís like another language. Itís true. There are some American songs that are great and when they are sung in French they donít sound the same. Each country has itís own pronunciation; itís own school. Itís not really a school, but it comes from what is sung or played there. So, the French School, I am in part responsible for it. I think they talk about it in America, but I donít think they should be catalogued that way by country. There are some very good players in the United States. I know a lot of them. I have listened to a lot of them.

What about young saxophonists just starting out?
Well, that will depend on the type of chances they will have to play. If they are interested like some are in contemporary music (even though I think it doesnít give enough value to the instrument), thatís what they like to play. If they donít play that they donít play anything. There is a small repertoire they can play. If that is what they like, and we have contrary ideas when we discuss something, I tell them that isnít the best use of the instrument. And if they continue along those lines there will no longer be any students in the classes. There are at least 100 teachers in France, there are many in the United States, in Spain, in Italy, in Switzerland, in Belgium, in England; there are a lot of qualified teachers all over the world who teach good music. So once in a while if they choose to play a contemporary piece thatís all right. But I donít like it when they play only that. I canít understand it.

What have you thought about the saxophone in your retirement years? You must have developed a new perspective. When I see former students we discuss contemporary music, and when I see them really involved in it we discuss it. I ask them not to forget what they learned. There was one who became involved in it and he sent me a compact disk and asked me to listen to it. But he knew I wouldnít like it. I donít approve of it. The composers who write this music are talented, and they know what they are doing. Thatís the kind of music they like. When I see a former student we talk it over and say what we think. A few days ago I saw Daniel Deffayet, my successor, and he tried and succeeded in having his students play this music because that is what is requested in the competitions. They were asked to play such things. They have to play them. Itís the same for all the instruments. For the flute, for example, to be able to teach the person must have a certificate of aptitude and there is a piece of contemporary music to be played, whether you play the flute, clarinet, any instrument. Perhaps only the piano is exempt from it. They are lucky.

There are very few who like to play this music. Right now it is the men of contemporary music who are in command. At the ministry there are people who subsidize this type of music. The radio station paid for the scherzo of sneezing and the rondo of laughter, for example. They are paid for by people who donít hear what they are requesting. If they heard it I donít know if they would like. Perhaps itís possible. Especially in contemporary music, we have the impression of something that is falling or is dripping, or that is being hammered. Thatís the new thing now. Itís no longer cymbals but hammers and water dripping. Thatís the new music. But I donít accept it. Itís not for me. Iím sure nobody cares that I donít like it, but thatís my opinion. So the one I was talking about I think he likes it. The young people like it. I guess I canít understand it. They are trying to please certain people, but Iím not sure of their taste. ß

Editorís Note
There arenít enough words in the English language to adequately thank Eugene Rousseau for allowing us to utilize photos from his book titled Marcel Mule: His Life And The Saxophone. Rousseau's book helped guide many of the finer points of historical information in my interview text, such as dates, people, and places.
I also thank Eugene Rousseau, Fred Hemke, Paul Brodie, and Marshall Taylor for recently emailing me me their thoughts on Marcel Mule. It was our intention to include these essays on Marcel in this issue of Saxophone Journal. Then suddenly, and quite unexpected, I discovered one printed copy of an English translation from my interview with Marcel Mule done at his home in 1990. After several days of trying to make up my mind I opted to publish this exclusive, and final interview with Marcel Mule.
There are no resources available on the internet covering the life of this major figure of the saxophone world from the 20th century. In view of this, Iíve decided to put the writings from Eugene Rousseau, Fred Hemke, Paul Brodie, and Marshall Taylor in a webpage devoted solely to Marcel Mule. There are many other interesting aspects of Marcel's life.
It is my intent to add materials this website and make it available to everyone wanting to do research on Marcel Mule. If you have things to add please email me at: To view our webpage dedicated to Marcel Mule, and see additional resources about him, go to:

Finally, Iíd like to thank the dove on Marcelís porch roof for touching the day Marcel Mule and I spoke. We both laughed when we heard the dove.

Marcel Mule
published in MayJune 2002 Saxophone Journal
Vol. 26, No. 5

© 2002, all rights reserved, international copyright secured

Anyone wishing to use excerpts from this interview, permission must be acquired from Dorn Publications, Inc. to do so. For permission email permissiontouse.

[back to top of page]

[back to top of page]
Marcel Mule Scholarship

Information about the Marcel Mule Scholarship Fund can be obtained by clicking here to visit the Marcel Mule Scholarship webpage at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
[back to top of page]