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Marcel Mule

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Marcel Mule (24 June 1901 18 December 2001) was a French classical saxophonist.
Marcel Mule was known worldwide as one of the great classical saxophonists, and many
pieces were written for him, premiered by him, and arranged by him. Many of these pieces
have become staples in the classical saxophone repertoire. He is considered to be the
founder of the French Saxophone School and the most representative saxophone soloist of
his time, being a fundamental figure in the development of the instrument. Yet, his
beginnings were very humble.

Early life[edit]
Marcel Mule was born in a village in Aube, France, to a father who learned the saxophone
while doing his military service and became director of the brass band of Beaumont-leRoger. In a time when Paris lacked saxophone teachers, having contact with brass bands
was the only way to learn to play the saxophone. His father introduced him to the
saxophone at the age of eight, in addition to violin and piano. He also taught him to play
with a "straight" tone (no vibrato), which was the custom of the day.
Though Marcel exhibited the talent necessary to pursue a musical career, at a time when a
musician's life was not easy, Mule's father recommended that he choose a teaching career
instead. Thus, he enrolled in the cole Normale at vreux and received his diploma after
three years. He taught for only six months in a school in town before he was called up for
military service.

Mule in the Garde rpublicaine[edit]

The First World War brought Marcel to Paris to serve with the Fifth Infantry. It was there
that he returned to music, playing in the regiment's military band in 1921. It was also during
his time in Paris that he continued his music studies in harmony, piano and violin.
It wasn't until he concluded his military service that Marcel's musical career took off. In
1923, he completed an exam to become a member of the Garde rpublicaine's band, La

Musique de la Garde Rpublicaine. It provided a regular income for him. He became known
for his beautiful sound, and became the saxophone soloist in the Garde, which caused him
to be asked to play in concerts with orchestras and also in the orchestra of the OpraComique (although almost exclusively for Massenet's Werther, as this was the only opera
in the repertoire that called for an orchestral saxophone). As Mule admits, in that time
people liked his sound, though he played as other people did at that time, with a straight
interiorised sound. It was during this period that he played frequently with modern dance
bands, and where his exposure to American jazz bands, with their treatment of vibrato,
inspired him to experiment with and develop his trademark classical saxophone vibrato.
In 1927, Mule formed a saxophone quartet along with members of the Garde, under the
name of Quatuor de la Garde Rpublicaine. In its earliest stage (it was to last for some 40
years) there was no music for such groups. Mule transcribed the music of classical
composers such as Albniz (Sevilla from the Suite Espaola Op. 47) and Mozart. His new
ensemble achieved critical acclaim early on. As a consequence, important composers of
the day, including Gabriel Piern, Florent Schmitt and Alexander Glazunov, contributed
their own works to an ever-expanding repertoire for the instrument group. This influx of
exciting new material proved essential for the establishment of the saxophone quartet as a
viable, sustainable ensemble type.

The Golden Age[edit]

In 1936, facing concerts abroad, Mule left the Garde and dedicated himself to performing
and composing. The quartet changed its name to Quatuor de Saxophones de Paris, but
later became referred to as simply the Quatuor Marcel Mule. The ensemble was heard in
concerts and recitals throughout France, Belgium, Holland, England, Switzerland,
Germany, Italy and North Africa. It was a period of intense effort, which enabled him to
reveal the true nobility and musical potential of the saxophone.
In 1944, Claude Delvincourt, director of the Paris Conservatoire, allowed for the
reestablishment of a saxophone class, an offering which had been abandoned with the
departure of Adolphe Sax in 1870. Delvincourt entrusted the post to Marcel Mule, who was
by then 43 years of age and highly respected in France and abroad. During his years at the
Conservatoire, Mule taught over 300 students, many of whom went on to become famous
saxophone performers and teachers in their own right.
In 1958, Mule's career culminated as he embarked on a twelve concert tour of the United
States with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Charles Mnch. His
program choice for the tour was Jacques Ibert's Concertino da Camera for alto saxophone,
and Henri Tomasi's Ballade.

Writing about Mule's tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York journalist Louis
Leopold Biancolli (19071992) called Mule the "Rubinstein of the saxophone". A few years
earlier, a French journalist had dubbed Mule as the "Paganini of the saxophone". In
1939, Alfred Frankenstein (19061981), music critic for the San Francisco Chroniclewrote,
"Marcel Mule is the Jascha Heifetz of the Saxophone".[1]

Mule as a teacher[edit]
According to Mule, the quality of sound depends on four conditions:

A firm but light embouchure.

The precision and quality of emission.

The mastery of breathing, necessary for the maintenance of the air column.

The mastery of vibrato, the novelty of which depends on the quality of the

Mule's methodic teachings follow these guidelines:

Breathing: The breath must be relaxed and through the mouth, using the
diaphragm. This will allow the player to have a more confident and serene attitude
when performing.

The embouchure: An embouchure subjecting the mouthpiece with the lower lip on
top of the lower teeth and the upper teeth. The embouchure must be firm but relaxed.
The different registers of the saxophone must be produced with little variations of the
oral cavity and throat.

The tonguing: The tonguing must be produced using the syllable DA.

The intonation: The saxophone is not a perfectly tuned instrument; this forces the
instrumentalist to develop a very good ear for tuning. To vary the tuning, the player
must use the throat and the tongue (positioning the tongue with different vowels), vary
the pressure from the lower lip, vary the air pressure, and use corrective fingerings. [citation

The vibrato: Mule had a clear idea from the beginning how the vibrato should be
done, giving clear exercises and the right speed. The right speed is at 300 undulations
per minute (i.e. 5 per second), which gives four undulations per crotchet at M.M. 80.
The vibrato is accomplished with a movement of the jaw, which creates a variation of
the pressure of the lower lip on the reed.

Technique, based on scales and arpeggios, including articulation.

All these methods are widely explained in his books. Mule gave to the saxophone history a
very extensive amount of teaching material, incomparable to anything that existed

Study books produced by Mule[edit]

The books produced by Marcel Mule focused on the points mentioned above: technique
(scales, arpeggios), articulation and tone production. Some of the study books created by
Marcel Mule are:

24 Easy Studies for All Saxophones after A. Samie, Leduc. Alphonse Leduc, 1946,
SS, 19 pages. Based on works by the French violinist A. Samie, and suitable for
second and third year students with keys ranging to 3 sharps and 3 flats.

30 Great Exercises or Studies (Trente Grands Exercices ou tudes) for All

Saxophones after Soussmann Book 1 and 2 by Marcel Mule. Alphonse Leduc, 1944,
SS, 31 pages. These advanced pieces based on studies by the flautist Henri
Soussmann are more exercises than etudes (many feature short phrases repeating
through the range of the instruments and in different keys). Book 1 has 15 exercises
starting in C and moving through the circle of fifths in major and minor sharp keys.

48 Studies by Ferling for All Saxophones by Marcel Mule. Alphonse Leduc, 1946,
SS, 30 pages. In addition to editing the 48 studies by Franz Wilhelm Ferling for oboe,
Professor Mule has written an additional 12 studies in major and minor keys. (Ferling
did not include the enharmonic keys of C flat major, A flat minor, etc. in his work.)

53 Studies for All Saxophones Book 1, 2 and 3 by Marcel Mule. Alphonse Leduc,
SS, 1946, 27 pages. After Theobald Boehm, Adolf Terschak and Anton Bernhard

Daily Exercises (Exercices Journaliers) for All Saxophones after Terschak by

Marcel Mule. Alphonse Leduc, 1944, SS, 37 pages. Twenty-six technical exercises
based on the works of the flautist Adolf Terschak for better intermediate and advanced
students. Keys range from 7 sharps to 5 flats.

Scales and Arpeggios, Fundamental Exercises for the Saxophone Book 1, 2 and 3
by Marcel Mule. Alphonse Leduc, SS, 1948, 30 pages. This book includes scales,
scales in thirds, arpeggios, arpeggios on the dominant seventh chord in all major and
minor keys. Instructions are in French, English, German, Spanish and Japanese.

Varied Studies (tudes Varies) in All Keys adapted by Marcel Mule. Alphonse
Leduc, 1950, SS, 31 pages. Thirty etudes by the usual suspects (Jakob
Dont, Rodolphe Kreutzer, Jacques Mazas, Niccol Paganini, Pierre Rode, etc.) at the
advanced intermediate level.

18 Exercices ou tudes d'aprs Berbiguier, by M. Mule, Leduc (based on studies

by the French flautist Benoit Tranquille Berbiguier)

Pices Clbres Volume 1, 2 and 3, by M. Mule, Leduc

Tablature de la gamme chromatique, by M. Mule, Leduc