Reviews - Books and Music
A NEW HISTORY OF THE DOUBLE BASS, Paul Brun
This new edition, an update of the author's A History of the Double Bass, is a welcome addition to the still meager literature devoted to the instrument. Brun's observations are supported by voluminous footnotes from a variety of sources. The most contentious issue addressed revolves around the question of whether the lineage of the double bass derives more from the viol or violin family. While most modern bassists have assumed that the former is the case, Brun argues for the latter. Though he perhaps overstates the importance of this argument by suggesting that this realization will somehow positively affect our approach to playing the double bass, his case for the historical accuracy of this position seems convincing.
Brun also wades into the immensely complicated issue of the various tunings of the double bass and related instruments though the ages. He presents the opinions of a few prominent contemporary bassists for alternatives to our current tuning in fourths, but surprisingly neglects to mention the views of Joel Quarrington, the most prominent voice in the debate.
There are other notable omissions, especially in his discussion of repertoire. In his list of major twentieth-century chamber works for the bass, he fails to mention Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat, arguably the greatest of the lot. And while the book is strewn with the names of well over a hundred prominent bassists, he doesn't mention Stefano Scodanibbio, Corrado Canonici, or Robert Black, who (along with Bertram Turetzky) have commissioned more works from major composers than any other bassists in the history of the instrument. The most stunning omission is that of the role of the double bass in jazz. Never in its history has the instrument been featured more prominently than in the jazz clubs of the last century, as it has been considered indispensable in small and large groups alike. Brun makes no mention of this illustrious heritage.
Despite these lapses, this is an important new volume, one that deserves a place in every bassist's library.
: M. C. apparently skipped a section of my book (pp.151-54) entitled 'Re-introduction of the system of Tuning in Fifths' about Joel Quarrington's current experiment. Quarrington himself is quoted in full on p.153. Besides, I have contributed a History of Tuning in Fifths based on excerpts of my book which Quarrington considers as one of the main features of his web site.