In 2021, in the depths of the global pandemic, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra invited me to compose a piece for four members of their double bass section. I felt compelled to craft a poignant piece that gradually unfolds to embrace the performer and listener.
The lowest double bass part captures the sense of monotony and apprehension of lockdowns. Its plucked pizzicato bassline, similar to Bach’s Air (on the G string), takes the ensemble and listener forwards, one step at a time.
The second and third bassists’ complex harmonic changes lilt through our gamut of emotions and their varying shades as we distanced ourselves from others, including our loved ones. The shadow and light in the harmony is akin to Poulenc’s moodier works.
The first bassist’s lyrical melody becomes our nourishment and hope. It eventually ascends, right up into its uppermost register, with the final note reaching far beyond the end of the fingerboard.
Double basses are infinitely expressive instruments, best known for their punctuating power and strong foundation (for example, in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony). But what you might not expect is that they have the ability to produce exquisite, lyrical, almost celestial sounds that can rival an oboe.
I hope that the piece helps to reassure you that even when you are swept up in life’s tumultuous events, if you gaze up to the vastness of the blue sky by day, or the stars that adorn the night, The Sky is Also Yours.
© Sally Greenaway, 2021/2023