In the course of doing this project, it has become apparent that there is a wealth of musical styles and periods that becomes available for transcription when approached through the medium of double bass duo. Piano literature in particular is a treasure trove of pieces by great composers. Many Handel and Scarlatti sonatas can be readily transcribed for two basses, and since our range includes both the bass and the treble voices, we become, in effect, the right and left hands of the piano. Satie’s simple, elegant piano music and many of Chopin’s powerfully lyrical piano works also can be transcribed. There are certainly more, but we are starting with just a few favorites.
We’ve been creative in parsing out the fun parts so that there is more of a sense of dialogue between the two basses, as opposed to a solo and accompaniment texture. Diana is currently experimenting with a different tuning, A, D, G, C from low to high, while Volkan is using E, A, D, G (standard orchestra tuning.) This actually increases our range by a fourth, thus avoiding the “strangled cat” tessitura. The high C tuning also enhances the rolled C chords in some of Sainte-Colombe’s music.
Saint-Colombe’s works are originally for two bass viols, and there is already equality written into the parts. Since they are intended for two instruments of the same sonority and they are often in our range, it seems that this opportunity would have been targeted long ago, but locating Sainte-Colombe in manuscript and transcribing the score from C clef can be a barrier. Occasionally, we change a key to fit our range better – as in the Boccherini, which is originally for cello and continuo. By leaving out much of the filler voice, the support and dialogue between the two lines becomes more apparent.
The simple monodies of “Come to me. . . “ and the Scottish Woe are attractive melodies that just seemed to invite a simple intertwining of support and counter- melody. I wrote the second part as an equal voice.