The voice is human beings’ most beautiful instrument, it is said, and its beauty is unevenly distributed. When someone speaks quietly, how often is it that you only half-listen to them? How strongly does a voice influence the message that it brings across—even elevating it, rendering it somehow more valuable—just because it’s particularly pleasant? How fond are we of listening to certain people—even just over the phone—because they have warm, beautiful voices? How easily do we allow ourselves to be seduced by soft voices? In my case, at least, the answer is: very easily.
And I love deep voices. They have something soothing, familiar, warm to them, and they feel like an embrace… or as if one were wrapped in a thick blanket that still leaves enough space for one’s own self. They don’t sound curious or searching like the bright voices in radio reports often do, nor objective like the neutral voices of news anchors; they ask no questions and seem to already know all the answers. One can simply wallow in a deep voice, closing one’s eyes and allowing oneself to be gently lulled to sleep by its soft drone. I think that’s the magic of bass. The double bass, much like a deep voice, is a mystical instrument. It’s neither nervous nor fast; it works its magic from the background, drawing one along and inconspicuously setting the tempo. The bass hits one right in the heart.
As a student, I once spent an entire summer living in a substandard apartment on the Gürtel in Vienna. Below my window was a three-lane road where long columns of large commercial vehicles and cars thundered by day and night. See that you get out of there soon, said my friends. All the exhaust fumes and the noise! Especially the noise—it’ll drive you crazy! I had to work during the day, but at night, I lay in my bed at home. Exhausted from work, tired from thinking— but I didn’t suffer. I didn’t fight it, nor did I even close the window before going to sleep. On the contrary. And I slept great. Better than I ever had before. The steady vehicular rumble lulled me to sleep. And only in the morning, when these sounds were joined by squealing tram wheels and the shrill honking of commuters’ horns—only then did I awaken with a start and close the windows. Until the next night, when my three-lane bass would once again sing me to sleep.