In music, it can sometimes happen that we concentrate all too much on virtuosic melodies and brilliant high notes—thereby paying far too little attention to the bass. When it comes to ensuring a great choral or orchestral sound, however, the bass part has a crucial role to play. Oftentimes, the bass assumes the role of a facilitator, allowing the other parts use it as a foundation upon which to present themselves in the best possible manner.
And one particular kind of bass can show us how its function is relevant to other contexts, as well: the baroque form of the passacaglia features a bass line that constantly repeats. Its regularity gives rise to great latitude for composed or (frequently) improvised realisation of the upper parts, thus providing the necessary soil from which magical melodic moments can sprout.
University life is likewise built upon a cyclical foundation: the on-going teaching and research activities of the academic year. And our current calendar year of 2017, full of highlights and shining climaxes thanks to the numerous celebrations marking the mdw’s bicentennial, is made possible by a solid foundation. This foundation consists in the daily activities of the university’s students, instructors, and administrative employees, all of whom—working in their own areas—give rise to the basis for great artistic moments.
Just like musicians often first sound a bass note before piling on all of a chord’s other notes in order to perfect its intonation and sound, we should also make caring for the foundation of our doings at the mdw a priority. Only this makes possible the realisation of great art and superlative performances. But in doing so, we should also never forget that the foundation on which all other things stand—be it artistic, scholarly, or administrative—also has a value all its own, one that should be perceived and appreciated independent of high-profile achievements. Just like a well-played bass line.