I think that basses, like people, have different personalities. They come in different shapes and sizes, with different background stories and their own unique sound.
Some may be soft, cuddly, reliable, some sound harsh and loud and metallic, some sound sad and others quite happy; there are tall…
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Randall Fawcett residence (1955), Los Banos, California
I would like to play my bass in the living room of this house. I think it would have nice resonance.
It is very important to have control of the bow for a variety of timbres, even for the most traditional classical gig. The more contemporary the music, the more important it becomes.
One of the great pleasures of my life was in discovering that playing sul ponticello, if done with care, can duplicate that wonderful distorted sound Jimi Hendrix used for his version of the Star Spangled Banner. I try to keep that sound at my fingertips for sharing with my students.
The timbre that is most ignored by classical players, though, is pizzicato. Until a few years ago I really had two pizzicato timbres, not really very different from each other. During work with Bert Turetzky I started to think more about timbres and to extend that thought to my own pizzicato technique.
Like most teachers of beginning strings in classes, I usually spend several weeks playing melodies pizzicato. Most of my students, especially the youngest ones, are resistant to playing pizzicato. They think it is a beginner thing, an UN-authentic way of playing the instrument. WHY? Because when you see video of people playing violin, viola, cello or bass, they are bowing 95% of the time.
So I began including some listening (and video when possible) in the early classes to four particular pieces: the scherzo movement of Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony; the 4th movement of Bartok’s 4th string quartet, Strauss’s “pizzicato polka” and Leroy Anderson’s “plink plank plunk.” These pieces have the strings putting down their bows and plating pizzicato throughout. This helps students change the way they think about playing. I get to tell them that they are in reality starting with some really advanced techniques, pizzicato and special effects.
What I want to find next is video (or audio) of Nicholas Walker. I heard him perform at ISB convention last year, a truly awesome unaccompanied version of “Come Together”—most if not all of it was pizzicato.
I would welcome other suggestions of pizzicato pieces for just bass or string orchestra.
Der Fledermaus Bass
Built by Lajos Kovacs 1943 for the double bass virtuoso Lajos Montag
Rebranding America’s Schools — One Tumblr Post at a Time
In the heart of East Los Angeles, in an office building turned magnet school, Jonathan Araiza speaks into a camera. “My dream is to get out of high school,” the former gang member says. “I will be the first one to graduate in my family.” The man behind the lens, Jason Pollock, would say that Araiza is “undroppable” — he has persevered, against trying circumstances, to graduate this year. For the past two months, Pollock has interviewed hundreds of students like him, in some of the poorest districts in the country, to find out what keeps them from dropping out. The result — a documentary film project and vast social media campaign that launches today on Tumblr — is called Undroppable.
Good health is a prerequisite to the enjoyment of ‘pursuit of happiness.’ Whenever the miracles of modern medicine are beyond the reach of any group of Americans, for whatever reason - economic, geographic, occupational or other - we must find a way to meet their needs and fulfill their hopes.
For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation.