Hybrid Double Bass
As a professional double bass player for over 40 years, my research on the Hybrid Double Bass is a culmination of my history as a player with diverse experiences in varying musical contexts. In 1975, after winning the Laren Jazz Festival, I started my Conservatory with an eclectic approach towards musical practice.
I was principal bass of the Residentie Orchestra for 20 years, a member of the ASKO | Schönberg Ensemble for 25 years and a teacher at the Royal Conservatory since 1984.
However, a common thread throughout my career has always been the desire to experiment with electronic additions to my instrument. From a very young age I was interested in pop music. My first electronic acquisition at age 11, was a Hohner portable electric organ.
In 2012, I started working on the development of a ‘so-called’ Hybrid Double Bass. This has led to my decision to do my master research on this topic. However, my research departs from the traditional by not focusing on well-documented historical subjects, with endless amounts of material.
My challenge is to combine a traditional double bass with electronics in order to expand the possibilities of the instrument. My research is an expedition through uncharted territories where new digital technologies can be developed and implemented as quickly as you can say ‘Google Maps’.
Rationale and concept. The need for the development of a midi-compatible acoustic double bass resulted from years of using the ZETA Crossover midi Bass. This is a unique instrument, a ‘stick-bass’ without a body, that has four strings independently generating midi. The musical results of this configuration have fascinated me from my first encounter with the instrument in 2003. However, the limitation of using a bass without a corpus and its attendant acoustic power, was a challenge that gradually led me to begin this research
Wherever and whenever music started, there always was a source. The voice was probably the first source and percussion and melodic instruments followed. Musical traditions where transmitted through the generations without being written down. It is only in relatively recent times that there is a musical notation and that there is something as a non-playing composer.
Nowadays, in 2019, most composers use the computer as means to construct their work and as a result, the traditional player of a musical instrument is confronted with an outlook towards music that deviates from the traditional practice of composers being players themselves: the separation between the two worlds of composers and players. Composers are enjoying the innovations of the new digital world while the performer does not feel involved in any of the new technical possibilities being organically added to the language that has been in use up until the time that the makers actually ‘disappeared behind their screen’.
The hybrid double bass might be an initiative that can ‘seduce’ the composer back to the daily life of the instrumentalist. Composer and double bassist are reconnected through a common language. Partner in the digital world of music, this bass gives access to improvisation with new sounds and software that can instantly compose.
What is the influence of technology in the collaboration between composer and player?
Proposed work and progress
My goal was to develop an acoustic bass with the ability to connect to the unlimited world of digital sound. This bass not only would incorporate both acoustic and electronic aspects but would add an entirely new dimension to the instrument: the ability to instantly add chords while playing a single note. Simply stated: any scale can be instantly harmonized and accompanied by any chosen sample or sound.
Meanwhile, after an interesting and demanding exploration, I have succeeded to equip one of my instruments, a 19th-century French bass, with a pickup and interface that generates midi from each individual string.
The next challenge was to get the software to work smoothly, seamlessly and invisibly while playing this new instrument: my First Hybrid Bass. Even though one might think that new developments in the digital music industry would make it easier for me as a traditional musician with a classical background not technically skilled or trained, there was still a long way to go before all the kinks were out of the system.
On October 18, 2018, I successfully launched the bass at a concert with our duo ZEQ-Attack (Ernst Oosterveld + Quirijn Altena). We improvised while incorporating the possibilities of ‘instant composing’ using software that has been developed by Oosterveld. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rCXg-GlbV4&t=896s
My original intention was to play my Hybrid Bass wireless. Although wireless midi is the ‘holy grail’ in this area of research worldwide, at this stage of my project I have made this a secondary priority. However, eventually my plan will be to incorporate this feature into the hardware
Ultimately, I would like to make the invention accessible to a wider public. In order to do so, it will be necessary to develop hardware that is simple to install and operates easily with included software that is intuitive, flexible and accessible both to technophiles and to those whose only interest is in creativity and the musical products they wish to generate.