When it comes to classical music, one of my earliest memories goes back to when I was a young boy of ten or eleven going for a drive with my older brother. It was an early morning, on a gravel road on top of a mountain. There was mist everywhere, and bands of sunlight streamed through the tall trees that lined the road. As we drove through this surreal scene, we listened to one of Mozart’s symphonies. I couldn’t have asked for a better accompaniment!
Classical music is emotive. It is expressive, portraying deep emotions and imaginative scenes with its aural sighs and triumphs. Ever since that morning drive I have loved listening to classical music. But, listening to classical music, and playing it – I have discovered they are two very different things!
Just over 6 months ago I was given the opportunity to borrow a double bass and play with a local amateur orchestral group, the Derwent Strings.
A steep learning curve
It has been a very steep learning curve, but a very rewarding experience. My first lesson mainly involved just how to hold the double bass properly – it gets heavy very quickly! So I spent an hour learning how to hold it, and then when I had that down I looked at the bow and thought, ok I can hold this thing, but how on earth do I play it?
Learning how to use a bow is, simply put, difficult. All the instruments I’ve played in the past, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, ukulele, are using your fingers; they are very tactile. But with the double bass I suddenly found between me and the instrument is a big stick with magical horse hair that is supposed to somehow connect and make a sweet, heavenly sound.
I’ve certainly made a lot of sounds with the bow and the double bass over the last six months. I’ve practiced a lot, got many blisters and I think several of my neighbours have come and gone.
Slowly it has all come together and recently I had my first ever performance of a classical repertoire with a real live orchestra. It was a proud moment, and very satisfying to be a part of a group of people producing the stirring sounds of the classics.
An attitude of excellence
Playing classical music has certainly given me a whole new appreciation of the talent and work of the composers. The nuts and bolts at times seem completely incoherent and yet when it all comes together it is majestic. Many times I would practice the bass line on its own at home and wonder how this could ever sound good, but when offset by the cellos, with a soaring violin melody over the top, it became truly awesome.
In classical music it’s all about community. Each part bounces and shimmies off the other, incomplete and unfinished on its own. The most complicated melodies and parts are nothing without the grounding of the other instruments.
My part might not always make sense on its own, but I need to strive to play it with excellence, because the greater picture is incomplete without it. Seems like that is an attitude I can apply to all of life.
Thomas Devenish lives in Hobart, Tasmania with his wife and daughter. He works as a motion designer and enjoys the diverse experiences life has to offer, from wake-boarding to curling up with a good book on a rainy day. Thomas Devenish’s previous articles may be viewed atwww.pressserviceinternational.org/thomas-devenish.html