Thursday, November 08, 2007

a small post, but a Gran step for bassist-kind

Discussions of music on this blog usually range from works I really, really like to stuff I'm deliriously fanatic about. I'm going to make an exception today and talk about a certain composer of virtuoso double bass music, an Italian whose name rhymes with the phrase "What a weenie!" We shall refer to this composer as He Who Shall Not Be Named (HWSNBN) for reasons which may soon become clear.

A search of past hella frisch posts reveals that HWSNBN has been named in 3 previous posts, or 0.68% of the 436 total. I'd like to get that down to 0.67 or 0.66% if possible. If only I could say that less than 1% of my life has been spent playing and studying HWSNBN's music - sadly, this is probably not the case.

I won't say he never wrote a good piece - I like his Elegy in D somewhat, and last summer I read a string quintet which was rather pleasing, if only because it did not use the bass as a solo instrument. Please don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the double bass' soloistic properties - somehow though, just about every performance of HWSNBN's works ends up sounding like a circus for retarded animals. Even the very best performers end up sounding a little bit foolish and awkward. It's like a person who, having nothing to say, goes on chattering away as high and quickly as possible, in hopes of not being discovered.

Even people who talk about HWSNBN sound rather ridiculous, in my opinion - one of the reasons I'm being so cautious in taking up the subject (please, no hate mail!) Look at this recent comment thread on Jason Heath's blog if you want an example of the level of discourse regarding HWSNBN.

Well, I think bass players are a pretty sophisticated group of musicians in general, and hope we will eventually cast off the scourge of HWSNBN. We'll stop programming him on recitals (three worst words in the English language: All-B******* Program), stop requiring his pieces on auditions and competitions, stop teaching them to our students. Perhaps with this blog post, I can begin to do my own small part.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I thought I was the only one...

Glad to see that you're posting more regularly.

Andy Giller said...

Wow! I never knew you harbored such resentment! Not that I'm a big fan. I think I have only performed one of HWSNBN's works once and very badly at that I admit. Maybe after you are able to work through all of your emotional baggage you might be able to name him. Maybe even scream his name at the top of your lungs like some comical villain in a bad movie.

Anonymous said...

It's not really fair to want to exclude him from our repertoire, since he was one of the most prolific composers in the history of our instrument, and took the technical requirements to a whole new level.

That being said, I hate his music, and absolutely vomited after Mark Morton's recital at the ISB.

Anonymous said...

Oh whatever it's not all bad. It's not like his music brings down the "musical integrity" of an otherwise "serious" double bass recital.
Maybe some people should try to appreciate his music for what it is- light, fluffy, entertaining music written for an awkward instrument.

Matt Heller said...

I suppose that post was a cheap shot at our reigning kitchen composer. I was a bit upset after working my Sonnambula variations to a point of minimal squirreliness, only to listen to an Ovidiu Badila recording and discover I'd been playing most of it an octave too low.

It's always nice to get a rise out of my blog readership, though! Maybe the bizarre, indefensible rants are the way to go.

Joe Lewis said...

I for one welcome our HWSNBN overlord.