Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

This is my box

Sometimes I wonder if we bassists surround ourselves with all sorts of specialized equipment as an antidote to the general dreariness of playing the instrument. Could all of the special chairs, oversized cases, endpin rests, bass bibs, bow quivers, grinding wheels, etc. etc., signify some desperate search for fulfillment? I have no idea, and that isn’t really even the subject of this post.

When a question came in about our ‘bass boxes’, visible in one of the tour photos, I realized my negligence in not bringing them up sooner.

The CSO did a few small east coast tours in the 90s. On one of them we played in Boston and there the bassists were surprised to find little boxes set beside each of our bass stools. Normally we each had a regular chair on which to rest the bass during breaks. The chairs also were a good place to put rosin, the ubiquitous filthy bass rag, watches, wallets, or whatever the player might wish to unencumber himself of before playing. But those chairs took up a lot of room and tended to get in the way. The boxes were a clever solution.

Not to be outdone, our stagehands built their own version and presented them to us later in the season. The boxes have gone through a couple of redesigns over the years – better handles, Velcro latch, more durable padding – so that now I would venture to say they are darn near perfect.

Here is a photo showing the boxes. (Sorry for the railing in the foreground)

This is the latest design, showing the carpet-material padding. (Box courtesy of Rob Kassinger)

This is my box. I certainly hope the six-inch deep compartment is the untidiest one in the section. It is stuffed with: grimy bass rags, rosin, pencils, cough drops, earplugs, the empty wrappers from the previous two items, practice mute, tuner, Prince CD (don’t ask), CD titled ‘Welcome Sir Simon’ presented to CSO musicians by the Berlin Philharmonic (never opened), various memos to CSO musicians, Japanese phrase book, long ‘E’ string (to be used as a garotte for unruly stand partners), serrated red dowel (used in some modern piece and never returned), cow moo-er (one of those cylindrical things you flip over that make a cow mooing sound – indispensable for late Mahler symphonies with cowbells), and a green glow-in-the-dark skull on a handle with a little trigger that makes the eyes roll and the teeth chatter (often used during ‘bass solo’ passages).


gottagopractice said...

Ingenious. A cellist is jealous.

Michael Hovnanian said...

There's a first time for everything, I suppose.

Phil said...

Thanks for answering my question about this! I had never heard of such a thing, although being a euphonium players means I don't know much about orchestral musicians in the first place.