B1 Intermediate US 24 Folder Collection
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Translator: Nadine Hennig Reviewer: Denise RQ
Show of hands -
how many of you in the audience today know what a double bass is?
Of those people, how many of you can actually describe one
without saying "that big thing"?
(Laughter)
Already a smaller percentage of the general population.
Let's make that level of refinement our goal for today.
To do so, we'll start with the violin.
Everybody knows what a violin is
even if you live in a little cave, you come out now and again,
and most likely, you've bumped into a violin some way or another.
You probably also know what a cello is.
Maybe you even know the instrument between a violin and a cello
called a viola.
If you don't, however, you really shouldn't beat yourself up.
Those able to differentiate a violin
from either viola or a stick mixer for that matter
is already a rather small percentage of the general population.
The double bass is the lowest of the orchestral string instruments:
that being violin, viola, cello, double bass respectively.
Outside of the orchestra, basses can also be found
in jazz bands, blues ensembles, combos, Klezmer bands
and various other musical constellations.
Within the orchestra,
the bass is played bowed,
either overhand or the French hold,
or underhand or the German hold,
or as the Germans themselves like to call it "the correct hold."
(Laughter)
Why those of us outside of France and Germany play the bow holds we do
has more often than not to do with what our teachers played
and what their teachers played and so on and so on.
By the way, in case you're wondering
why the instrument is called the double bass,
it is not because it is twice as big as a normal bass,
which, if you hang out with bass players,
you know there is no such thing as a normal bass,
but it is rather to signify
that it plays twice as low as the cello or that it doubles the cello line.
What does this instrument sound like?
At first glance, the sound we expect from a bass
is something along the lines of...
(Double bass music)
That's fine and interesting,
but then, maybe you've also known a bass in other contexts.
Maybe you've, I don't know, watched a few shark movies now and again,
and known ...
(Double bass notes from the "Jaws" theme song)
Trivia for today:
a former teacher of mine actually was the bass player for "Jaws."
He had come back from a recording session in New York and said,
"You wouldn't believe it. I got paid today to play two notes."
(Laughter)
Both of those contexts aren't really much more
than we would expect to hear from a tuba.
If there are any tubists in the audience,
please, I'm sorry, if you take exception to this,
but let's be honest;
when preparing this talk,
Microsoft Word didn't even recognize "tubist" as an actual word.
(Laughter)
But I'm thankful for the tuba because if it weren't for the tuba,
I actually wouldn't be standing here today.
The biggest distinction of my youth
was that of being one of the two fattest kids
in my elementary school and high school.
So the question is: what do you do with the fat kid
to keep him from watching "Knight Rider" reruns all day?
Well, you hand him a trombone,
and if he gets any fatter, which I unfortunately did,
then you hand him a tuba.
I played both, but unfortunately, practiced neither.
It wasn't until I discovered the double bass at the late age of 17
that actually interested me enough to practice it,
and eventually attend the conservatory in New York, and then eventually decide,
"Well, the classical music isn't narrow enough.
The bass isn't narrow enough.
I need to study the historic bass," which is what this instrument is,
and I came here in Basel in 2004 to do so.
If there are any expats in the audience, you know that after New York,
the move was a bit of a gastronomic masochism.
(Laughter)
The upside is that I now get to live
in one of the most culturally rich and beautiful European cities
which, let's face it, is really not such a bad fate
for a fat kid from the Catskills and Long Island.
(Laughter)
I do believe the sound on this instrument
is much more interesting than the sound of my own voice.
So I'd like to share with you one of my favorite pieces
which is from the classical period,
which is from the composer Johann Baptist Wanhal.
Both, the piece and this instrument,
were created just about the year 1770.
(Double bass music notes)
(Double bass music from the "Double Bass Concerto in D Major" starts)
(Double bass music ends)
(Applause)
Thank you.
(Applause)
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A humorous introduction to the double bass | Bret Simner | TEDxBasel

24 Folder Collection
ally.chang published on February 17, 2020
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