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Holst's Planets: Mars

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by travatron4000, Feb 18, 2004.


  1. travatron4000

    travatron4000

    Dec 27, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I'm playing bass in the Mars movement from Holst's The Planets. The begining is marked col legno. That seems really wrong. I've never heard it where it sounded col legno. It isn't marked arco later either. Is this just a typo, or has anyone ever heard of the begining of the movement starting col legno?

    Travis
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I have a large (full-size) facsimile copy of Holst's original score - in his own handwriting - normally incredibly expensive, but I spotted a copy in a London book sale - the dust cover was torn and it looked a bit dirty but the contents were fine!! :)

    Anyway - it does say "col legno" over all the strings at the beginning of Mars - it then says "naturale" at bar 25.

    I have a couple of Hi-Fi demonstration-quality recordings and this sounds right to me...?
     
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    PS - I also have a more modern and managable-sized version of the score, which has an introduction by Imogen Holst, which says that previous editions of the score have contained misprints as compared with Holst's original...as it was only in 1979 that publishers had access to this,along with the notes for Sir Adtrian Boult who conducted the first performance.
     
  4. travatron4000

    travatron4000

    Dec 27, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Ok that helps. Any tips on how to get the triplet figure cleanly. It's hard to tap the strings that fast. Also, Any tips on how to get the tubas to play softer so I'll actually be heard playing col legno.

    Travis
     

  5. I find that a large beach towel stuffed securely in the bell does the trick.
     
  6. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    In the event a beach towel is unavailable, a ripened cantaloupe will do nicely, or perhaps a poorly groomed poodle.

    If subtlety is more your style, I think a few drags of their mouthpieces across a cake of Pops would slow them down a bit.
     
  7. Ethel Merker, a French horn legend in Chicago, told me about her first day with the NBC Radio orchestra (this would be back in the mid-1940s). While her attention was averted, someone coated her mute corks with bass rosin.

    The muted passage went great, but when it came time to remove the mute, it was stuck like Superglue.

    I don't think Ethel found it very funny at the time, but she laughs now (five decades later).
     
  8. travatron4000

    travatron4000

    Dec 27, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    LOL Thats great. I see the headlines "Bass Player Sabotages Symphonic Band".
     
  9. Probably the closer to the string the bow is, the more control one has over it. We might be tempted to approach this effect from far away, striving for volume, but I've always heard that the cleaner, and the more precise a bass section is, the louder. So, although it may sound tiny and frail behind the bass, it is probably louder to the audience if all of the fellow comrades are playing accurately along with you.
    Another reason to not strike the bow from a far distance is that you might damage the precious bow!
     
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I like this effect - it is very ominous - a sort of creepy premonition of what's to come - so it sounds like insects or strange beings, rustling their legs, far off - maybe in a cave...

    You can hear it - so there are bars where nothing else is playing apart from the strings and the tubas don't come in until bar 25.
     
  11. travatron4000

    travatron4000

    Dec 27, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    There are no other strings. It's a The Northern Michigan University Symphonic Band. It's 5 tuba's, 8 t-bones, 5 Euphs, and god know's how many trumpets. The fff passages are so loud it hurts.

    travis
     
  12. It's so sad. You're perpetuating a total misconception. Clearly, you don't know the meaning of col legno.
    Musicologists agree, the proper translation of col legno is "with a 1/4" dowel from Home Depot." For those who cannot afford such highly priced equipment, you can produce the equivalent tone with a scrap piece of window moulding which, in fact, was my choice for performing "Mars." Fetique my a$$. Our conductor is a cellist and completely understands this approach.
     
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    I may have to hunt down the sheets to this piece myself. After all the pain and frustration it has caused me, I'm quite excited about the idea of having a legitimate reason to beat on my bass with a stick. :)
     
  14. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    actually my bow is a 1/4" dowel from homw depot...
     
  15. travatron4000

    travatron4000

    Dec 27, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    lol
     
  16. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
     
  17. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    On the back of the stick. We just played it last month, the entire Planets, all the movements...... Tiring.....
    1/3 down page one or so it says 'naturale 1/2' for one section and half the Basses stay Col Legno and then next section, 'tutti naturale'... or something like that, and all go the the 'Hair'....Help guys... correct me here with the spelling and terms......
    I just woke up into the Orchestra after a 15 year sleep from playing and a 30 year sleep from playing in an 'Orchestra' . Talk about Rip Van Pizz Winkle.........
     
  18. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    it is playing with the wood. I use a fibergalss bow when I have to play col legno. I'm not going to reck my bow for some lunitic composer. There are other terms for using diffrent bowing tehniques but they are not used often and I have to look them up when I come across them. The best way to look a term up is to do a google search with the term in quote marks.
    Joe
     
  19. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    Another good stick to Col Legno with is an old wooden clothes hanger. You can use the metal hook to hang it on the stand and then use it- and hang it back up. ( or hang it on the rung of your stool.)

    :D

    Brian
     
  20. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    interesting; I've never seen anyone use anything other than the bow for this marking...