Chamber Music Series: A Saxophone Quartet at the UMFA


Last night I had the chance to attend the Chamber Music Series here at the UMFA. The music was provided by a saxophone quartet, and boy, it was not what I was expecting.

Maybe it’s because of my brief history of listening to jazz (by which I mean occasionally watching Treme–I admit I’m still trying to refine my jazz palate), but I was expecting blaring, bellowing harsh renditions. That’s what I think of when I think of a saxophone, and it’s not even a complaint. But instead, I was soothed through melodies such as Pachelbel’s Canon and Petit quatuor. 


Our musicians were students, graciously visiting us from the U of U music department. It was such a nice reminder of the role the UMFA plays in the campus community, not to mention evidence of the wealth of talent here at the U.


I sat for awhile with the rest of the audience, listening intently and watching the quick and skillful fingers of the quartet at work. And I confess: sometimes I spend these sorts of events checking my watch, or thinking about my grocery list, or making plans for dinner. I’m a writer who usually hates public readings, an art fan who tends to stay home.

But I am so glad I did not stay home this time.


As the music filled the air, I was moved to wander the galleries of the UMFA. I was standing in Emre Hüner‘s salt 6, to me one of the most interesting spaces in the museum right now, while a piece composed in 1938, well before Hüner’s work could have ever been imagined, played in the gallery below. The juxtaposition of looking at such exciting, contemporary art while listening to something that felt so historical was fascinating. This was a clarifying moment to me of the purpose of our Chamber Music Series: as it says in the program, “Let the music inspire you and inform your responses.” I experienced salt in a way I couldn’t have without the presence of the music.


Chamber Music Series as seen through Chakaia Booker’s “Discarded Memories” (American, 1953)

By the time I made it to our European collection, Pachelbel’s Canon was playing. I felt, especially in contrast with what I was feeling in the salt gallery, strangely oriented in time and space. I felt unified with the men and women in the portraits, who may very well have been alive when Pachelbel’s Canon was the new hit single.

Also, here’s my mom, experiencing much the same thing:


If you haven’t come up with a 2013 resolution yet, I have a good one for you:

don’t stay home. 

Come to an event at the UMFA. You may be surprised by what you encounter here.

Tell us below, or on twitter, Facebook, or anywhere we can be found: What has been your favorite experience at the UMFA?


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