Celebrations Book 1

9 Pieces for Unaccompanied Double Bass
Publisher: Recital Music
Product Code: RMD1030
Composed by: Michael Montgomery
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Description

Celebrations Book 1 brings together nine exciting and evocative works for unaccompanied double bass by Michael Montgomery, composed between 2018 and 2021. All were written for projects directed by David Heyes and Recital Music, many for anniversaries or commemorations, and all aimed at the intermediate bassist. Michael Montgomery exploits and explores a wealth of colours and timbres available to the contemporary double bass, within a lyrical framework, creating pieces which offer musical and technical challenges in equal measure. Syrinx and Pan – A Conversation between Innocence and Malevolence
“This short piece for unaccompanied double bass was written in response to an appeal for compositions for the “The Syrinx Project” organized by bassist and composer David Heyes, who writes, “2018 is the centenary of the death of the French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and I thought it would be great to ask composers to write a piece for unaccompanied double bass, in any style or idiom, but influenced in some way by the piece, and lasting no more than three minutes”. Feeling less than confident with the idea of mimicking Debussy’s genius musically, I decided to instead take up the story – Syrinx’s encounter with Pan. I resolved to treat it as a metaphor for the corruption malevolence brings to innocence, and so the form the composition takes is one of a conversation between the two qualities. The dialogue of Syrinx (innocence) is presented almost exclusively with the notes of the D pentatonic scale, while the contentious challenges of Pan punctuate her childlike discourse with notes well outside her simple tonal pallet. Throughout the exchange between the two Syrinx, though seeming at times uncertain, stands her ground and in the end emerges confident, her innocence preserved. Offered in appreciation for all David Heyes has done for the world of us bassists.” [Michael Montgomery]

PREMIERE: 22 April 2018 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas, USA) by Maggie Estrada (double bass) Stages – Continuity and Change (in memory of Tony Osborne)
“Developmental psychologists describe a number of stages in the life of a person, delineated and categorised according the patterns of continuity and change that person may experience as he matures. Personality theorist Erik Erikson believes each stage of development presents its own specific challenges; we achieve balance by successfully overcoming these challenges. I did not know Tony Osborne personally, but being to an extent aware of his work and grateful for his many contributions to the world of bass, would like to think my own reflections on his life, expressed in this musical essay, might have some small measure of relevance. The several sections of this piece reflect varying degrees of tonal and rhythmic tension, reminiscent of the challenges we face and balance we find at different stages of our life. As we consider Tony’s life, we can easily believe he would have faced his own challenges on his way to maturity and found his balance at the end of it all – certainly the world of bass is better for it.” [Michael Montgomery] Perspectives – a musical postcard (for François Rabbath on his 90th birthday)
It is, of course, a little humbling and even intimidating to consider writing something for double bass in honour an artist such as François Rabbath, arguably one of the most accomplished of modern day bassists in terms of understanding what our noble instrument can do, as evidenced by his virtuosity both as a performer and composer – the innovations he has gifted us have been truly remarkable. It is humbling as well to be counted among the group of bassists/composers Recital Music has gathered for this project. The title of my own contribution, ‘Perspectives’, is descriptive of the two contrasting sections of the piece and what they represent. The innocent character of the opening section, a simple hexatonic melody in F major executed in its entirety with the clear flutelike tones of harmonics (flageolet), is reflective of the childlike admonition one will often hear from François, the suggestion that we must think, when we play music, that it is love we share with those who would hear us. The much more aggressive middle section in an A Phrygian tonality reminds us François is also an individual who has challenged the boundaries and constraints of the traditional double bass world and in so doing shown us this world is not so small and comfortable as we might once have believed. The Shape of Clouds (for Bertram Turetzky on his 85th birthday)
“I’ve been aware of the work and efforts the famous Bertram Turetzky on be behalf of our noble instrument, and we who play it, since forever – what a treat it is to be asked to join in the effort to produce a tribute to this icon! There are so many stories of Mr. Turetzky’s constant lobbying of composers, begging them to consider writing for double bass. He considered extensively the instrument’s tonal palette and how it might be expanded, and his undertaking resulted in an impressive accumulation of new compositions for our instrument in the contemporary idiom. I thought it appropriate to make use of a number of these sonorities in a depiction of the endless forms clouds might take – lovely, sombre, threatening – changing from season to season, day to day, and even (as I’ve discovered up here in the mountains) minute to minute –forms that lend themselves quite naturally the expanded tonal palette I associate so much with the great Bertram Turetzky.” [Michael Montgomery]
PREMIERE: 22 April 2018 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas, USA) by William Cross (double bass) Introspectionism (Observations and Reflection) for Self-Portrait 2021
“David Heyes has shown himself to be quite the innovator, periodically coming up with composition projects for his bass playing friends. In presenting this particular project, he pointed out that “[artists often paint self-portraits … [I wonder] if composers [could] do a similar thing in music”. He proposed to a number of us that we do just that, and he would publish a volume of short (each only one page in length) self-portraits for unaccompanied double bass in the near future. We are told the philosopher Plato once asked a colleague, “…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are?” This act, the process of examining of our own mental state to know ourselves, to know our soul in you will, is sometimes referred to as introspection. My own small contribution to the project, my “self-portrait”, begins in an obscure past as diverse impressions, cryptic thoughts vaguely remembered, begin to coalesce to form a self-awareness, one whose momentum, which feels at times resolute, might still be seen to waver when beset by self-doubt.” [Michael Montgomery] Evening Walk (for 60@60)

This short piece was composed in 2019 as an early 60th birthday present for David Heyes, the owner and driving force behind the publishing company Recital Music. There are syncopations throughout, adding drive and energy, alongside effective double stops which create dramatic tension, with a brief but energetic mini-codas which brings the piece to positive and resounding conclusion. The Last Supper (Da Vinci 500)
“Leonardo da Vinci’s mural painting known as ‘The Last Supper’ was painted on a wall of the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, between 1495 and 1498. In it Leonardo has captured the widely varied reactions of the twelve apostles as Jesus told them one of the twelve would betray him. Leonardo was famously aware of ratios and their effect on balance and perspective, and it has been noted that one can in this painting find references to numbers that occur in what is known as the “Fibonacci Series”: there is 1 table, 1 central figure, 2 side walls, 3 windows behind Jesus, 5 groups of figures, 8 panels on the walls and 8 table legs, and 13 individual figures (the twelve apostles and Jesus). (Susan D. White) In the Fibonacci sequence, each number (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and 13) is generated by adding the two numbers that precede it in the sequence. In a bow to da Vinci, this composition makes use of the Fibonacci sequence of numbers – they are superimposed on the overtone series of G (G1, G2, D3, G3, B3, D4, F4, G4, A4, B4, C#5, D5, Eb5), as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 13th partials (inclusive of any lower partials) are introduced, each in turn, as the sections of the composition progress. The single measure of silence that opens the piece (0, the void) is followed by a short section built on the single tone G1 (1, the central figure, Jesus). This is followed by sections that make use of two tones (G1 and G2), three (G1, G2, D3), five (G1, G2, D3, G3, B3), and so on. The initial sparsity of tones is intentional, and meant to be reflective of the resolute calmness of Jesus in the face of the suffering he must soon endure. As the composition progresses new partials are added in sequence, and the pitches (used in their initial octave only) of any lower partials remain in the ever growing tonal palette. For example, when the 5th partial “B3” is introduced, pitches of the partials lower than B3 (partials 1 thru 4, G1, G2, D3, G3) remain in or are added to the mix. With the introduction of the 8th and 13th partials all notes used up to this point are transposed freely to any octave. Notes now accumulated include G, A, B, C#, D, Eb, F, G, making possible a musical representation of the cacophony produced (and painted by Leonardo) as the twelve apostles react variously to the news of their teacher’s betrayal. As a final short section recaps the calm of the opening measures we might envision Jesus praying alone in the Garden of Gethsemane.” [Michael Montgomery] PREMIERE: Thursday 2 May 2019 at the Silk Mill West, Frome (Somerset, UK) by David Heyes. Eight for 80 (for Gary Karr’s 80th birthday)
“Double Bass virtuoso Gary Karr celebrated his eightieth birthday on November 20th, 2021. Recital Music, publisher of an extensive body of music for bass, has organized a project to mark this occasion and to honour Gary’s significant contribution to the world of double bass over the past 60 years of a very impressive performing career. This piece, composed for the collection, is built on a sequence of eight tones (originally generated from the letters of Gary Karr’s name): G, A, C, F, C, A#, B, C#. While the eight tones must occur in this sequence (or reversed, retrograde), they can be used in any octave, may be freely repeated, and may also be played together with the note that occurs before or after (i.e., as a double stop). A number of bassist-composers are writing new pieces for the Karr @ 80Project, and it is truly a privilege to be able to offer this humble contribution as a small part of the collection.” [Michael Montgomery] Milestones (for the 80th birthdays of Teppo Hauta-aho and Frank Proto) “It is, obviously, quite an honour and privilege to be included in a tribute to these two bassist legends on the occasion of their 80 birthdays. My composition, as I understand it, will be one of twelve two minute compositions for solo double bass relating in some way to these gentlemen. I chose to use the letters of their full names (Teppo Hauta-aho and Frank Proto) to generate several series of notes. I began by separating the first twenty-one letters of the alphabet into three groups of seven letters each and numbering them (1 through 7) to indicate a relation to an arbitrarily assigned “tonic” note (I chose A for the first group, C for the second, and Eb for the third group). After marking every letter used in the two names the three series generated were 1-5-6 (of A), 1-4-7 (of C), and 1-2-4-6-7 (of Eb), and these became the tonal palette of each of the three sections of the piece. The opening section of the piece is quite tranquil and firmly anchored on the pitch of the open A string, but with the introduction of each section that follows the tonal centre becomes progressively more ambiguous, rhythmic movement more complex, and tempo accelerates, reflective, we might imagine, of options presented to one at various milestones of life. The opening section (and the settled ambience it conjures) returns appropriately to close the piece, indicative perhaps of a time one might finally look back peacefully on the many accomplishments of a long life well lived.” [Michael Montgomery]

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