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Thread: "Hum" created by lower strings

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    Senior Member 13hm13's Avatar
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    Default "Hum" created by lower strings

    If a single instrument (e.g., double bass) plays a note, there is an audible interruption when the bow reverses direction. So you lose continuity. However, when several string instruments play that same notes, not all players will reverse bowing simultaneously -- hence the "hum".

    What's the technical term for a "hum" created by lower strings?

    My favorite example is the end of Barber's Symph. 2 (Mvt 3) ... have a listen:
    https://youtu.be/q8haCn5IvFg?t=1610

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    I listened to the passage more than once and to me, it simply sounds like the bass section playing very softly at a pianissimo for a sustained period of time. I wouldn’t exactly consider it rare or try to label it with a technical name, though “hum” is certainly the sound of it. The collective strings are simply being bowed normally in unison and it’s not a tremolo or other such effect, as far as I know... What a dark depressing worK! And it sounded false to me and caused a reaction of anger. I don’t think I could have made it through its entire length. Barber withdrew it 20 years later in 1964 and considered it a work of war-time propaganda and not very good. I would guess that he didn’t like the works of Shostakovich either, perhaps because what Barber wrote was too close to what Shostakovich had done, only what Shostakovich had written was real, at least to me.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Nov-30-2018 at 05:07. Reason: X
    ”Art is how we decorate space; Music is how we decorate time.”

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    Senior Member 13hm13's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    I listened to the passage more than once and to me it simply sounds like the bass section playng very softly at a pianissimo for a sustained period of time. I wouldn’t exactly consider it as rare or try to label it with the technical name, though “hum” is certainly the sound of it. The string is simply being bowed normally, and it’s not a tremolo or other such effect, as far as I know... What a dark depressive worK. I don’t think I could have made it through its entire length. Barber withdrew it 20 years later in 1964 and consider it a work of war propaganda. I would guess that you didn’t like the works of Shostakovich.
    With that segment, note that the upper strings are playing a different line than the humming of the lowers. Yes, it is a dark, complex work. I like it as much as anything by Barber. And he is my favorite classical composer.

    I wish Zinman/Baltimore tackled had Symph. 2 when that combo were working on some Barber comps in the 1990s -- they really nailed it with everything they did, IMO.

    Thus far, the best rendition of Symph 2--while not perfect--is on Naxos, Marin Alsop/RSNO (2000). A superb recording and fairly even (tho slow) performance:

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