Can you talk? Can you play a highly chromatic melody that doesn't make much sense? Can you do them both at the same time? The composer, Tom Johnson, doesn't think that you can. And, just in case you can do it, he wrote a piece to prove to you that you can't. In Failing you have to read his very humorous text aloud to the audience at the same time you play the music on your bass; music that has absolutely no relationship to the words you are speaking. In fact, the text you are reading to the audience will describe just how hard this piece of music is and that you will probably not be able to play it correctly. That's fine because, if you fail to play Failing correctly, you have succeeded in playing the piece as the composer thinks it should be played since the composer doesn't think it can be played correctly.
One of Johnson’s most often-performed pieces, written for Jon Deak; has been interpreted by Bertram Turetzky, Gary Karr, and many other performers. The piece requires the bassist to read the text outloud while playing the bass part, in a sequence of increasing complexity. The title refers to the premise that's it's so difficult to complete the piece with no mistakes that the point of the composition is for the performer to fail. 7 minutes
"Failing; a very difficult piece for solo bass" is a brain teaser, a tongue twister and a lot of fun to play all rolled up into one VERY difficult piece of music. Try it! You'll eventually like it!
Written for Jon Deak in 1978. Solo bass/narrator (to be performed by one person). 11 pages. Published by 218 Press.
Performance of 'Failing: a very difficult piece for solo string bass' by Jason Heath at the ISB convention in San Francisco: