Making up your own history …

I just came across a book about playing the bass in fifths C-G-D-A … ok, if you want to make your life unnecessarily difficult, on purpose, go right ahead. What really got me going, though, was a phrase in a letter enclosed with the book. The author gave a copy of the book, with the letter, to a famous early-music conductor (who in turn passed it on to me). If you want to know what the book is and who the author and the conductor in question are, send me a message.

Here’s the phrase that I find upsetting, to say the least:

“As a musicologist and conductor immersed in historical performance practice, you may be aware that the adoption of a standardized fourths-interval tuning for the double bass [E-A-D-G] did not transpire until the latter 19th century.”

Wait … what?

You can have your own opinions – you don’t get to make up your own facts. So let’s get out of Fantasyland, shall we?

Here is an excerpt from the first edition of Wenzl Hause’s Complete Bass Method, published not in “the latter 19th century,” but¬†in 1809.

 

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Here’s the translation, for those who don’t read and/or understand German:

“About tuning”.

“The contrabass is tuned in fourths, namely the first string to G, the second to D, the third to A and the fourth to E.
Although there are bassists that tune the low string either to G or to F, I find it to be more advantageous when it is tuned in E, because that way several low notes that are necessary can be played.”

As previously noted, the first version of Hause’s method was published in 1809, but it was written even earlier, most likely between 1795 and 1807. Last time I checked, that was not “the latter 19th century.” So can we just stop with the¬†tendentious nonsense and stick with the facts?

Thank you.

 

Written and added on November 1, 2014

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