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David Heyes

Michael Montgomery: New Heights: Five Duets for Two Double Basses

Michael Montgomery: New Heights: Five Duets for Two Double Basses

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About the Collection

New Heights is a collection of five inventive and enjoyable double bass duets by American bassist-composer Michael Montgomery. Bass 1 plays entirely in harmonics and bass 2 is in bass clef and in the lower register of the instrument, enabling them to be performed by the teacher and a student, two students or friends. 

Ideal as recital repertoire or study material, each duet offers fun and effective musical and technical challenges in equal measure, and could be repeated with each bassist changing parts. None outstay their welcome and all are colourful and engaging, offering a new style of double bass duet. 

Listen to Michael perform these works on his YouTube playlist.

A note from the Composer

“When I began studying the double bass many years ago, the harmonics on the instrument were something of a mystery to me and my fellow students. Those of us who began our double bass journey with Simandl’s “New Method” worked for quite some time in the “orchestral” register of the instrument exclusively. My own first encounter with harmonics occurred while studying the Dittersdorf Concerto, and later the Hindemith Sonata. But there has been a noticeable movement in recent decades to introduce the entire range of the bass to students early on, with some pedagogues even suggesting the youngsters should begin their studies by playing near the mid-point of the instrument’s string length rather than down in the low positions at the nut end of the string. 

Notable in this respect are the “Progressive Repertory” books of George Vance, which follow the explanation of fingerboard positions set forth by François Rabbath. In these volumes, we find that melodies which have initially been introduced in the low register of the bass are often repeated in what is labelled 4th position (at the mid-point of the string) and 6th position (using harmonics that occur near the end of the fingerboard). To be sure, the Rabbath/Vance 6th position harmonics are quite accessible, though perhaps still somewhat unfamiliar to most bass students, which points (I believe) to a need for more repertory scored in that register. 

Bass 1 part of these five short duets can be played almost entirely in the 6th position (as described by Rabbath) or 2nd position (according to Simandl nomenclature), the terrain that was so unfamiliar to me and many of my friends in our early years of study. As the title implies, they were written to help students to become familiar with the highest register. The lower voice can be played by a younger student who is not yet comfortable moving beyond 1st position. The duets may be played with multiple players on each part as well, which may work well for a studio or bass class; indeed, the premiere presentation on May 9th, 2017 worked quite well performed with a total twenty bassists of different levels on stage. We hope you will find these pieces both useful and enjoyable.” [Michael Montgomery] 

About the Composer

Double bassist Michael Montgomery, a student of Robert Rohe (Principal Bass, New Orleans Symphony) and Lucas Drew (Principal Bass, Miami Philharmonic), earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in double bass performance from the University of Miami, played full-time in the bass section of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra for two decades. 

He now lives in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, where he teaches double bass at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville and privately in his home studio. Michael has composed numerous works for young double bassists (including over five dozen short bass quartets for young students) which are published by Recital Music and two American publishers. 

His articles about bass performance, literature, and teaching have been published in American Suzuki Journal, Bass World, and Pastoral Music. 

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