Bill Harrison posted this tidbit over at Jason Heath’s Double Bass Blog about frustration playing with shitty musicians, and I could not agree more with this. It really sucks to be stuck in an orchestra gig with the one guy that insists on playing too loud and too fast. It’s a testosterone thing I assume – he’s too macho to play with the rest of these fools, so he’s determined to show everyone exactly how it is done by himself.
These assholes are part of the reason I left the music business. (That, and of course the massive injuries I sustained back in Boston in an accident, coupled with the lack of good benefits and decent pay – long story, another time…) I like music too much, and as a freelancer and prospective auditioning bassist I encountered just a few too many of these to really feel like this was going to be a good career idea.
This discussion reminds me of a particular incident which I love to talk about because it was just so amazing when it happened. There are certain conductors you don’t want to piss off, lest they shove the baton straight down your gizzard. In one rehearsal with Simon Rattle whilst working on the effing difficult but amazing to hear last movement of Shostakovitch 4, he let the last stand of my bass section have it. The instigator was doing his usual finishing the sections about 2 or 3 measures earlier than the rest of the orchestra, and getting the other player (who is otherwise an incredible bassist) all stirred up with a weird air of machismo and tandem crotch-grabbing more fitting for a football huddle than for an orchestra performance with the illustrious maestro:
- Rattle (To me as principal):
- Sir, would you please yell at them?
- Me (Scared shitless):
- Uh-huh….. Guys, could you please?
- Me (After a second try – same problems – to the last stand – politely, maybe even timidly):
- Guys – could you keep it together?
- Rattle (To last stand):
- If you can’t follow me, follow the concertmistress. If you can’t follow her, follow him (pointing to me). If you can’t follow him, at least listen! Because if you can’t do any of those things, you’ll never get a job! You’ll starve!
- Rattle (After the third attempt with no improvement on the part of the problematic stand):
Obviously I was being too nice, but lesson learned. As for the performance, they still finished early – jock-cupping and all at the end of said passage. Mind-boggling.
So to this day, Shostakovitch 4 is my favorite symphony, even though our performance didn’t even come close to doing it justice. It sucks that we have to put up with these situations in our professional lives, but it is how we handle it and pick ourselves up in case we fall that defines our level of professionalism.
In Basses, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Part 2 – Trains, Jason writes:
People think that they are very funny — One of the most annoying things about carrying a bass around town is having grown people gape at you, slack-jawed like drugged cattle, as you struggle to get from point A to point B. You know how cattle all slowly turn their heads and stare at you as you walk past them on a country road? That’s just what your fellow commuters do.
After staring for a while, a light bulb goes off in the back of their commuter minds.
“Hey,” they think. ” should make a humorous remark directed toward that person carrying that strange thing! What a great idea!”
They close their gaping mouths, wet their lips, and blurt,
“Did’ja ever think of playing the piccolo? Haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw!”
this so reminds me of riding the T to gigs back in Boston. My favorite moment was when a fellow bassist and I were riding back on the Green Line from a rehearsal with our basses on one of those tiny little cars, and we received this exact same comment about how we should have picked the flute. Because the face on my friend after that one was priceless – looked like he just took a sip of 2 day old Pabst Blue Ribbon where someone dropped their coals in. I laughed out loud and our stand-up comic erroneously thought she was hilarious.
- Is that a body in there?
- Is that your canoe?
- That’s a big cello/guitar/whatever!
- How do you get that in your car/a taxi/on the train?
Every single time. Like clockwork. Try it. Walk down a busy street with a double bass in a case and see what you get. You will be running home frantically searching for the Absolut in no-time.
I get the same sorts of inane chatter from having a homophonically similar famous boxing legend.
As a bassist, I share this man’s pain:
The Pachabell (or as I refer to it: Taco Bell) Cannon in D and Bolero pretty much rank among my least favorite pieces of music. I know some people love these, but the bass lines suck. That’s my perspective. Sorry.