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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Thirty-six cellos, crazy musical terms,
guilty pleasures and musical choices,
with deputy agony aunt KELLY FERJUTZ

To the young people who read and come to Agony Aunt Alice for help with goldfish, tamagotchi and/or other young person problems, I'm so sorry to have to say, I'm no help at all! I realize that by the time Alice returns from her holiday, it may be too late to help some of you, but I'm just simply not capable of helping you at all. You have my sincere best wishes in the meantime. And sympathy, too, if such is required.


Ask Alice

Hi all

Why not get together with 36 of your closest cello-playing friends to have a go at this?

Best wishes

Dear John (or whoever sent this) -- Thank you, I think. This is a very addictive video. It takes about 6½ minutes, and you won't regret one second of it. Promise. It is hard to watch/listen only once, however. I suspect you'll find yourself going back to it again and again.

The site says:

This is a pretty amazing video of Ethan Winer playing 37 separate cello parts to create one song. He even plays the percussion parts on his cello. It was recorded on 23 tracks using 37 plug-in effects. He spent hundreds of hours on this project so it's worth a listen.

Wanting to know more, I went to his website: -- more addiction! Mr Winer is a seriously gifted writer of either words or music, as well as an audio and computer hardware geek/tech. You will spend hours nosing around this very enjoyable site, which lists his articles on various topics as well as clips of his music, and humorous collections of names (check out the band personnel list -- hysterical!) and oxymorons. We need more laughter in the world, and I'm delighted to recommend Mr Winer's most entertaining site.

Speaking of entertainment, a friend sent me a list of musical terms that somehow missed inclusion in the last Harvard Dictionary of Music. For lack of space I'll just list a few here with maybe more next week. There is no credit given for the creation of these, which is sad. If the genius who produced them will let me know, I'll be only too happy to amend this column.


Referring to the prohibition of cell phones in the concert hall


A composition that you regret playing


A musical entrance that is somewhere in the vicinity of the correct pitch


A composition incorporating many people with chest colds


A sensible and inexpensive brass instrument


The title bestowed upon the monk who can hold a note the longest


A faux tenor


A person who, standing in front of the orchestra and/or chorus, is able to follow them precisely


A musical stage production performed by nudists


A cross between a rhubarb and a tomato

Ask Alice

Okay, back to serious music. From another reader:

I recently heard a piece on the radio about 'guilty pleasures': pop music that people play in secret but wouldn't admit to owning for fear of appearing uncool. Pop has mostly passed me by simply because it's never appealed; but I can't help wondering if there are so-called 'classical' pieces that come into the same catgory.

For my part, I love Borodin's Second String Quartet and I think that there are all sorts of good, sound musical reasons from which one can argue that it is a very fine work -- but every time I listen to it, I'm reminded of 'Kismet'. Similarly, Strauss's wind-music is wonderful -- but I'm pretty doubtful about his associations with the Third Reich. And then there's a long list of slightly slushy choral pieces, starting with The Day Thou Gavest ...

Is there anything in any of this, or is music just music and completely value-free?

Frank Cranmer

Dear Frank -- Excellent statement/question! I think that some music is just music (or not, as the case may be) while other music is anything but value-free. Each of us brings our own baggage with us when listening to whatever music we choose to listen to. Do we listen for entertainment, as background music, seriously -- as in a concert hall, semi-seriously -- an outdoor concert by a symphony orchestra? Do we choose different music (different type or instrumentation) depending on the mood we're in? Do we wish to be lifted up or calmed down? There are so many reasons for listening at all, the variables are endless. As are the reasons for the choices.

As an example, through my teens and younger adult years, for some reason I absolutely could not tolerate Rite of Spring. It was the only piece of music that would prompt me to change the station on the radio, and when I began to usher for the Cleveland Orchestra, I twice left the hall before that scheduled piece was performed. Imagine my astonishment to discover at the age of 42 why I didn't like it, and immediately turn the other way -- to outright adoration! The problem? I'd seen the original Fantasia of Walt Disney as a child, and the Stravinsky music accompanied the deaths of the dinosaurs! Strauss' Ein Heldenleben holds special memories for me, as does much of Wagner, as that's the music I grew up with. (My Dad is from Germany.) I love boogie-woogie because my Mom played it by ear on our piano, making me green with envy!

Personally, I think school-age children could learn more about classical music in a shorter period of time by using the great classics that were given the 'pop' treatment -- all on the same program, with suitable explanations. Example: Beethoven's Fifth and Walter Murphy's A Fifth of Beethoven. Kids could easily see that classical -- as a concept -- isn't scary! But that's just my two cents.

I'd love to hear from other readers, about how life has influenced their musical choices, or vice versa!

Until next week, cheers -

Copyright © 4 August 2006 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA

Ask Alice



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