Edgar Meyer

Monday, 18 November 2013

The double bassist and composer gives some words of advice based on his long career

I wish most composers played more and that most performers wrote more

I’ve learnt more from the musical examples set by others than from anything they’ve said.

My father has had the biggest impact on my musical career. He shared with me his love of music.

My performing habits have not changed that much, but maybe the preparation for specific tasks is more efficient now than before.

I have always thought of performing not so much as an end in itself, than as a vital link in a continuum of musical thought and activity.

If I could play my first professional concert again, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently.

I tell most bass students to make sure that they engage with the larger musical world and to see outside of the customary job description.

I would tell an inexperienced teacher not to feel like they have to answer every question, but to establish a dialogue with the student where you are both looking for the same thing.

In general I wish most composers played more and that most performers wrote more.  I would tell a young composer to make sure that they develop their knowledge and skills in as broad a way as they are able, once again not settling for preordained concepts of what a composer is supposed to be.

The biggest difficulty for most classical musicians looking outside of the established repertoire is to understand the primacy of rhythm in most music.

Classical string players are used to being able to identify different players by their ‘sound’, usually implying a set of characteristics including vibrato, ways of dealing with pitch, ways of using the bow, and so on.  Sam Bush’s mandolin playing can be identified in one measure of accompaniment simply by the rhythmic placement of his part.

The use of the word ‘non-classical’ can give rise to unrecognised assumptions, for example that there are two kinds of music, classical and non-classical. I find it helpful to see music as a language and different styles as dialects, and probably nothing beats immersion when it comes to learning other ways of playing music.

From the start I have always written for myself and close friends, so there is always someone to play the piece.

Standard preconceptions of the double bass are not a curse. Many of these preconceptions arise from the fact that it is more natural to accompany on the instrument than it is to play the melody in a group of other instruments.  At best the pre-existing roles of the instrument can be used as a jumping-off point, helping to give the listener a reference point. Since the voice of the instrument is generally underexposed, it can be a pleasant surprise to find out that it can be quite attractive.


Originally published in The Strad, December 2010. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.

Photo: Michael Wilson

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