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unaccompanied double bass solo

Hemiolas (3 into 2 goes)     5'13"
unaccompanied double bass solo

General Information

Hemiolas (3 into 2 goes) is one huge melodic arch - beautiful, expressive, varied and symmetrical.

This unaccompanied double bass solo starts low, meditative and slow, gradually rising and getting quicker, reaching its fastest, highest, loudest and most passionate point at the exact centre, and then descends and slows, retracing its climb, ending, after a tiny coda, where it started.

The whole arch explores supple alternations of duple and triple rhythms sometimes flowing and sometimes angular.

Musical Details

The lowest note in Hemiolas (3 into 2 goes) is the open E string.

The music is built out of three elements that keep recurring:

• a smooth melodic phrase

unaccompanied double bass solo

• a figure where the bass plays two lines at once

unaccompanied double bass solo

• a fast repeated note motto

unaccompanied double bass solo

A short coda of a glissando figure in perfect fifths occurs just before the end of this unaccompanied double bass solo.

unaccompanied double bass solo

Hemiolas as inspiration

For a definition of hemiola please click here.

Each of the three musical elements in the arch explores 3:2 (a hemiola) in a different way.

• The first – the smooth melodic phrase - is a chain of hemiolas.

• The second – the figure where two lines are played at once - has one line in two against one in three.

After the symmetrical midpoint of the arch all this material that was in twos reappears in threes and all that was originally in threes is now in twos.

• The third musical element - the repeated note figure - is entirely in twos up to the midpoint of the arch and then entirely in threes for the rest of the piece.

As a result of all this the first and second halves of the arch are hemiolas of each other.

Two string lengths sounding a fifth apart are also in the ratio 3:2. This is a ratio of pitch not rhythm. A sliding figure in fifths appears in a short section just before the final phrase of the piece.

I first heard the term hemiola during lunch in my kitchen when the double bass player James Gosling said to me of a performance of a Bach suite we were listening to ‘He’s not observing the hemiolas’.

This piece seemed a natural present for a composer to give a player to express his appreciation for having been taught this bit of essentially useless information!

Score Extract

unaccompanied double bass solo

Counting Hemiolas

For advice on counting hemiolas please click here counting hemiolas.


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