Three Episodes from Ghost in Machine
Three Episodes comprises American bassist and composer Frank Proto's recent arrangement of sections of his epic music drama, Ghost in Machine. Written in collaboration with writer John Chenault, the larger work, premiered in Cincinnati in 1995, calls upon symphony orchestra, singer and actor in confronting the racism and religions intolerance still plaguing American society.
The work requires reduced forces: piano and bass, with oboe doubling cor anglais echoing the gorgeous voice of the premiere's Cleo Laine. Introduction, a mournful, expressive blues, presents the oboe as principal lyrical voice. In the first movement, Garden Party, it meanders persuasively over frantic accompaniment. A central section, Dreamy appears calm despite the oboe remaining sinuously independent of the piano and bass rhythms. The Evening Blues begins on cor anglais, again contrasting flowing lines with increasingly frenetic accompaniment. Eventually chaos reigns, with a swith to oboe heightening the sense of hysteria. It's Too Late for Love closes with a poignant jazz ballad, allowing the bass to alternate between support and soloist.
Despite the dark conclusion, Proto's eloquent belief in the blues as a symbol of freedom confers upon this smaller work the hope of the original.
The Creatures in Room 642
The Creatures in Room 642 presents a humorous look into the goings on in the after-school room reserved for naughty kids. For trumpet, percussion and bass, Creatures' text may be acted out by the players or by a separate performer (narrator). Movement one, The Room, opens the door on the zoo-like ambience of one particular day. Miss Slick describes the biggest, baddest, most-feared teacher in the school. Lindsey, movement three, peeks into the sad heart of the school's prettiest girl, before Bugs and Things allows the musicians to stretch their musical legs in a largely narration-free depiction of the room's insect inhabitants. Carlo, appropriately, has the coolest music. An improvised funk blues fleshes out the phattest guy in school, baggy shirt and all.
Entertaining and fun for players and audience, The Creatures in Room 642 is an ideal musical introduction for young people.
The Creatures in Room 642
Composed in 1998, this unusual work for trio (who also narrate) is in five movements with coda and has been recorded on Frank Proto: Chamber Works 4 (reviewed in Bass News 39). The composer also states that a separate narrator can be employed. A short score and three parts are included, with plenty of cues to help the other players, and the double bass acts as both soloist and accompanist in a number of music styles. There is nothing too challenging here and much to enjoy with various pizzicato and arco effects throughout the range of the double bass.
For double bass in orchestral tuning, this could be tackled by any college or conservatoire bassist and the player is an equal member of the ensemble. The text is very approachable and American, very conversational and could be adapted for each specific audience.
Frank Proto is one of the leading American composers writing for the double bass today and this is 'classic Proto' with its many stylistic influences and moods. It is very player and audience friendly and should easily find a place in the repertoire.
The British and International Bass Forum