My Earle Brown Story

In the summer of 1999 I was finishing up planning the material for my senior recital in the spring of 2000. I was flipping through Jean-Marie Londiex’s 150 Years of Saxophone which is a catalogue of the vast majority of music for saxophone.

The book has a listing for a saxophone sonata by Earle Brown. I got excited. I was really getting into modern music at the time and my idea of modern music was very narrow and didn’t really include any music of the previous 20 years. Cage, Brown, and Boulez (not even late Boulez, pre-Sur Incise stuff) were my idea of modern music. I had no clue about later and crazier stuff. No clue at all.

So I began making lots of calls trying to track down a score for this alleged Earle Brown Sax Sonata.

After three weeks, I ended up leaving a message with a guy at a music store in (I think) Tampa. I don’t remember how this guy became the one on my list of people to call but he did.

A week later he returned my message and gave me a phone number to call Earle Brown.

So I mustered up the courage to call Earle Brown, but didn’t have enough damned sense to think of what I’d say if he answered.

A man answered the phone.

I told him who I was and the reason for my call. He confirmed that he was in fact Earle Brown.

I froze.

I couldn’t figure out what to say. I suddenly became star struck over the phone.

Here’s what I was finally able to blurt out:  “THE EARLE BROWN?! The composer Earle brown?! The really cool Earle Brown that hung out with John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg?!”

I really did blurt it out. More like half-yelled, half-I don’t know what, but suddenly I realized I just accosted an old man over the phone.

I was such a dumbass.

He began laughing.  Pretty much laughing his ass off.  “Yes, thats me.” He said.

It still took me a moment to calm down.  He was familiar with the Londiex “150 Years” book.

He told me that there were two composers with his name. Earle Brown and Earl Browne. Earl Browne (not the cool one) had written a sax sonata.  He told me Earl Brown was a “Hollywood composer”.

We talked for about 10 minutes and he was really kind and very patient with me.

He talked about how he had tried to write a sax quartet in the sixties or seventies and it didn’t work out.

That’s my Earle Brown story.

I was incredibly naïve. He got a great laugh out of it and I got a great story.

Now his music has become such an influence on my own work. At that time I’d yet to begin composing.

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