Music and Vision homepage


Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH
meets the Head Chief Moose ...

Dear Alice,

I am an amateur Chinese cellist preparing to do my grade 7 exam very soon. I heard that Liebenzeller Gold Rosin (IV) and Andrea Toscanini Rosin (Tartini) are widely used by professionals. Which one would you prefer?

Moreover, I'm planning to buy a new set of strings and my peers suggested I buy Larsen A+D and Spirocore G+C strings. Any comments about my set of strings?

Last question: I am not sure about the differences between a Spirocore chromosteel string, Spirocore silver string, and Spirocore tungsten string ... have you tried any of those?

Thanks for your time,
Ken in China

Dear Ken,
So good to get a letter from a Chinese!!!!!! -- I love the Chinese. I love the way they're so friendly -- even at passport control the guy said, 'So, did you enjoy your stay in Beijing? I hope so!' (When you travel to the States -- or the UK -- you'll see why that's so cool!!!!!!)

Admittedly, there was a little computer in front of him with these on it, and a polite sign asking you to punch one of the buttons below summarising your treatment at his hands:
:-) :-\ :-\ :'(

But hey, great idea!!!!!! Everybody else in the world please copy!!!!!!! -- especially the scowling female Israeli soldier at Jerusalem Airport who swiped ONE of my harmless sandals and almost made me miss my flight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First, the rosins: I prefer the Liebenzeller to the Tartini rosin, but this is a deeply personal decision. Borrow both, from friends or teachers, and see which suits your style of cello-playing better. (Note: it's a lot cheaper to experiment with rosin than strings!)

I'm a great fan of Larsen strings, and please don't be shy about buying the Soloist variety; they just give a touch more clarity and pizzazz (and you ARE taking an advanced exam!!)

Spirocore is very good (though I prefer Helicore myself and think they sound a little richer). The Spirocore makers claim that theirs are 'hi-tech, top grade, spiral steel core strings' (whatever that means!) They also claim that this core has 'greater elasticity than that of conventional strings, which means less inertia and a higher propensity to musical vibration.' (But then, they would, wouldn't they??) The tungsten variety is supposed to help with cello wolfs, though possibly not as much as one of those wolf-stoppers inserted inside the cello ...

Hope this is helpful!!!
Your fellow cello,

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,
Just wondering if agony-aunt-ship is hierarchical in any way? I notice you have an assistant, agony aunt Kelly (not to mention Mrs Stoatgobbler, or 'Slime', whose character seems now to have been killed off by the Agony Aunt Mafia -- otherwise known as Basil and Keith), and wonder whether you yourself have an agony aunt for all those bad goldfish moments? If so, would your agony aunt then be a 'great(er) agony aunt'? In other words, does the agony increase as it goes up the food chain?

What about more complex auntly relationships ... second agony first removed, ex-agony, agony-in-law, agony sister, agony grandmother? Does the male sex take a part in this at all, and who, if anyone, is at the top of the hierarchy? Is there some kind of stinking bishop's finger in residence somewhere? This must surely be fresh and unexplored territory, especially in your areas of agony auntdom.

Yours in agony,

Dear Yodu,

Gosh, what bewitching ideas!!! -- first that there is a scale of agony-aunt-ship up which one (naming no names, of course) could climb as one's wisdom and intuition develops!! -- not to mention the equally thrilling idea of an agony aunt for agony aunts!!!!!

The answer (as I'm sure you knew) is no -- no career structure, no hierarchy, very few men ( -- ask me why not -- ) and bugger all in the way of agony aunts for agony aunts.

But what a lovely thought!!!!!

Yet I can see it now: the ceremony as Chief Moose of Agony Auntdom is conferred upon someone (just to take an example completely at random: me). The sumptuous robes, the glowing candles as the Head Chief Moose bows to me and bestows a mantle (known to insiders as The Mantle of Indecision) upon my shoulders. The hall, full of lesser Agony Aunts smile through their teeth and applaud, secretly whispering to each other, 'It's all favoritism, you know', but taking turns to queue up afterwards to clap me on my embossed and brocaded back ... Afterwards, the Head Chief Moose approaches me, almost as an equal (oh, the thrill of it!!!!) saying quietly, 'Of course, Alice, if you ever have any problems, my door is always open.'

Later, of course, we all join in singing the anthem: 'Agony is permanent; our jobs are safe' before dispersing to our various caves and hideaways, never to be seen until the next glamorous and thrilling induction ceremony ...

Yours in candlelight,

Copyright © 5 October 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

Ask Alice



 << M&V home              Alice's previous columns >>