Mudcat Café message #3103214 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #134838   Message #3103214
Posted By: josepp
26-Feb-11 - 04:47 PM
Thread Name: Bought a double bass today
Subject: RE: Bought a double bass today
Roman's Contrabsom

"Romance with the Double Bass" from Anton Chekhov's story Roman's Kontrabasom made into a 1974 English short film starring John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs (Booth, who is Cleese's wife, and Sachs are famous for their roles as Polly and Manuel in the hilarious series Fawlty Towers which was co-written by Cleese and Booth). In the movie, Cleese plays Smychkov, a double bassist, who shows up early for a ball at a castle in honor of the rebellious Princess Constanza (Booth) and is told to disappear for a while so he decides to haul his bass in its massive case to a nearby river and go skinny-dipping. When he comes back ashore, he unexpectedly runs into Princess Constanza who was also skinny-dipping in the river. The problem is, someone has stolen their clothes and so they are stark naked. To preserve her dignity, Smychkov transports the princess back to the castle inside his double bass case. One can imagine the hilarity that ensues. The movie was noted for its "prolonged nudity." The sculpture was unveiled in 2008 on the Pushkin Embankment in downtown Taganrog in Rostov Oblast, Russia in honor of Chekhov's 150th birth anniversary. Taganrog was Chekhov's birthplace.

The sculpture enables us to visualize what Chekhov was expressing in metaphor: A beautiful woman emerging from a double bass case likens the instrument to a woman. Its curves, size and physical beauty makes it woman-like. The way the player holds the instrument is actually a romance. My instructor, in teaching me the proper way to hold the instrument by leaning it into my hip told me, "You have to get intimate with it like you're holding a woman." At another point, he told me that if I'm serious about taking up the double bass, that "this is your woman now," he said pointing to it. Another time, I was hauling the bass out to my car and a man said, "Now, that's a big instrument!" and I unwittingly responded, "It's like hauling a big, fat woman around." Despite its low pitch and power, the double bass is more female than male. When drawing the bow across its strings, it purrs delightedly. It is complex and temperamental and when it wants to be played, it wants to be played correctly and won't stand for any sloppy technique. But when played correctly, what it gives back in pleasure cannot be stated in words but only experienced.