If a bass plays in the forest…

After a month of painting, deck board flipping, and more painting, I’m leaving my parents’ house in Washington. Roughly, heading east, with no timeline. Santa Fe Opera Festival was to have been my 2-month summer concert engagement, but I learned during this trip that it was cancelled.

I would’ve loved to have camped at Mt. Rainier, but all campgrounds were still closed. So, I “settled” for this:

Rimrock Lake, WA

Campground closure info was changing daily, but I took a risk. It was a weekday, and Rimrock Lake, off Highway 12, hadn’t yet gotten busy. And since the adjacent true campground was closed, it was “free”. I called the ranger office to confirm.

Rimrock Lake, WA

Sadly, its easy proximity to Yakima also meant that it had seen some hard use. I spent one morning’s walk picking up a few bags of trash and recycling from the road. When I left the next day, there were fresh beer cans on that same route.

Altho I brought my double bass with me, I hadn’t touched it all month. Watching concert after concert disintegrate was demoralizing. Santa Fe Opera’s cancellation was the last nail in that coffin, and even looking at the bass just made me sad.

The double bass is a social instrument in a now socially-distant world. Being the bottom voice means the most rewarding playing (for me, anyway) involves collaborating with others. And a key ingredient to those collaborations is an audience. Sigh…

I decided to play a little concert for the lake. That no human would hear.

To answer the age-old question:

If a bass plays in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Using the Bluetooth stereo in the Airstream to play along with the orchestra, I read the part from my iPad.

I started with repertoire that had been cancelled: Holst’s “The Planets”.

Never did this movement heading ever ring truer

Army helicopters flew overhead. Jet skis and pleasure boaters zig-zagged across the lake. Kayakers paddled by. My campsite was distanced enough from others, and the road, that I’m fairly confident no one heard a note. Just the lake.

I played a little “Vocalise”, bits of some Rachmaninov symphonies, among others. After a month without playing and my fingers hurt, but I decided to play one more thing. Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”.

Nothing fancy. An easy bass part. But playing it then, in that space, for no one in particular, felt right.

This is a snippet, with part of the ‘Simple Gifts” section.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

-Shaker Melody (text, Joseph Brackett)

6 thoughts on “If a bass plays in the forest…

  1. Thank you for everything, Dan. Beautiful photographs, your very special playing and words that mean so much right now.

  2. What a beautiful post. How in heaven’s name did you take your photo? I am sorry your Summer is different. Ours is too, four months of beautiful camping and festivals is gone along with all that goes with it. The shop opens Monday, exactly three months after I closed. I will take short 5 night trips twice a month and end with long one in ME in October. Brive and be safe, take those blue highways and enjoy a meander home. I wish I had head the concert.

    1. Trying to make the best of this situation… I took the photo with a Theta 360 cam. WordPress doesn’t support the 360-aspect, so it flattens the picture into a big, wide photo.

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