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Super Bass: Can You Hit This Note?

Composer Paul Mealor is searching for a voice that can hit a low E --circled in this fragment from his latest piece, <em>De Profundis</em>.
Paul Mealor
Composer Paul Mealor is searching for a voice that can hit a low E --circled in this fragment from his latest piece, <em>De Profundis</em>.

Calling all basses: Decca Records is on the hunt for someone who can sing a low E, nearly three octaves below middle C. The note is featured in a new piece called De Profundis (Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord — Psalm) by the Welsh composer Paul Mealor.

"I'm really attracted to the depths of the human spectrum," Mealor tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "We're seeking to find the person that can sing the lowest note ever written in choral music — and not just that note, but the solo in this piece for bass solo and choir. So we're looking for someone very special."

Mealor is working with Decca to find that someone — they'll be accepting submissions online through February 24. Mealor says that making someone sing a dauntingly low note was always part of his thought process for the piece.

"I've been constantly been trying to write lower and lower, and the bassists I write for seem very pleased about this," fe says. "We all have friends in the singing world who will try to bedazzle you with how low they can sing at the party afterwards. So I thought, this is a chance to give the low basses a chance to shine."

The full version of this story includes a demonstration from Roger Menees, the record holder for the lowest note ever sung. To hear it, click the audio link at the top of the page.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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