Von Cello College Cuts

Von Cello goes to college and with him goes his trusty tape recorder! On this page we follow Aaron through his year at Boston Conservatory of Music, his year at Ithaca College, and his four years at Manhattan School of Music. We also hear tapes from his years living in Manhattan after college.

You can stream or download each song individually, or stream the whole page at once. Enjoy the adventure!

BCM & Ithaca side 1
    This tape begins with classical music that Aaron taped off the radio in his childhood neighborhood, Canarsie. Classical music was the only music he allowed himself to listen to for three straight years from 12th grade through his first two years of college. He felt that he had been "brainwashed" by the mass media into listening to popular music and wanted to "clear his head". He realized that there were hundreds of years of great music to listen to, but he, like most people, was prevented from hearing that music because of the all pervading nature of the music that was pushed on the radio by the corporations. The clips that begin this tape are from Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyeries" from "Das Reingold", and the slow movement of Dvorak's, "Symphony From The New World". Aaron later became opposed to the music of Wagner because of it's anti Semitic content, but he was impressed with the way Wagner created his own musical world. His operas could go on for five hours, and his "Ring Cycle" lasted 24 hours. Aaron felt that anyone who was impressed with the Grateful Dead's 3 - 4 hour concerts should certainly be thrilled to sit through a 5 hour operatic musical fantasy. In fact, Aaron did attend this opera (and many others). He was always a fan of Dvorak, and was particularly fond of the "Symphony From The New World". He saw in that symphony a great musical mind, nurtured in Europe, but reflecting America. He was impressed with how Dvorak took melodies and rhythms from American folk music and synthesized them into classical pieces. He made mastering Dvorak's Cello Concerto, also written in America, one of his musical goals. It is interesting to hear how Aaron blended these two pieces of music on the tape so that it sounds like one flows out of the other.

    Song 1 - Away, the summer before college, at Amhearst Summer Music Festival in Maine, Aaron studied cello with Channing Robbins of Juilliard, and continued composing songs for the guitar. "We Go Onward", is one of his best. It deals with one of his favorite themes: life! It is about going through the stages of life and how "We go forward, never coming back." It also alludes to death, "And we go onward, never to return". It begins with the astute observation, "When I look at children, I always see myself. When they look at me now, they see someone else"!

    A telling episode happened at camp that summer, a situation that was to come up in different ways again and again. By this time Aaron had cut his hair very short. Gone were his jeans and any trace of any sign from his rock star days. He had a roommate that summer who had long hair and fancied himself hip. He saw Aaron as a typical short haired classical nerd and used to fight with him saying things like, "You don't know what's going on man. You, with your straight upbringing and your classical cello!" Finally, Aaron couldn't take it any more and he asked his roomate if he could borrow his guitar. The roomate was surprised and said, "Why?" Aaron said, "Don't worry, just give me the guitar". Then Aaron said, "Name a song". The roomate said, "Why?" Aaron said, "Just name a song, any rock song". So he named a song and Aaron played it and sang the words. The roomate looked surprised but he named another song and Aaron did the same. This went on through several songs, the roomate getting more and more uncomfortable. Finally, with a frightened look on his face, the roomate demanded, "Who the hell are you?!" Aaron smiled and said, "I was a guy like you. I was a rock guitar player. The difference is, a year and a half ago, I decided to study the cello and become a classical musician as well. So even though I spend all my time now playing classical cello, that doesn't change the fact that I am a rock guitarist too. My goal is to take all that I know about the guitar and use it to revolutionize the cello!" From that point on, Aaron had the respect and admiration of his roomate, who would love to "flip people out" by having Aaron play rock songs for everyone who came to the bunk!

    Aaron recently made a fine recording of "We Go Onward" that can be heard on the Von Cello Early Music History page on this site.

    Song 2 - "Oh Musician" - is a tribute to Aaron's cousin's grandfather Barney Feigenbaum. Barney was an old Russian Jew who loved to sing. He and Aaron used to spend hours together as Aaron would imitate his every vocal inflection on the cello. This song shows Aaron's ability to write Jewish music, a skill that would come back in importance when he wrote his "Judaic Concert Suite for solo cello" (published by Oxford University Press). In this song Aaron compares a musician to one who prays. The lyrics are again on the theme of life and it's transient nature. The chorus asks, "Why is it so that we come and go?". The guitar mimics that rhythm after each verse, symbolizing that the musician is saying the same thing.

    Song 3 - Aaron is now at Boston Conservatory of Music. He notices that one of his dorm mates is drunk, so he grabs his tape recorder and turns it on to see what will happen. What happens is what you might expect from a group of college freshmen away from home for the first time. The highlight of this exchange is when Aaron spoofs on the kind of strange modern classical "music" they were being exposed to in college. Aaron jokingly pretends he's a radio announcer, calling a bawdy verbal exchange between his two buddies, a piece of music by the 20th century composer, Heinrich Von Snichelhoffer, called "Dialogues II". This was just the kind of name that these weird pieces would be called. However this arouses a chorus of derision from his two friends! (Apparently they did not like those pieces either.)

    Song 4 - "Laura Was Dancing", is a chilling, sinister folk tune that is a study in contrasts. Boston Conservatory (BCM) did not just have music students, but actors and dancers as well. There was one dancer who was very attractive but acted in a snobby manner. Laura would walk through the school in leotards and tights, with her nose up in the air, never deigning to smile at any man. She inspired this song about a dancer who "thought she could soar like the wind", but in the end "will never dance again". We don't know exactly why she will never dance again, but a dark deed is hinted.

    Song 5 - "Fool Out Or Me". Aaron dated one of the actresses at school. She broke up with him, saying he was "boring". Aaron found that ironic because she was one of the most boring people he had ever met! Upon the break up he wrote this satirical country western tune about not letting a woman "make a fool" out of him. It's the kind of song a tough cowboy might write. The words are not politically correct, but this was clearly meant as a joke.

    Song 6 - "Francis, You Came Into My Life". A few weeks after Becky disappeared, Aaron came into his dorm room only to find a girl hiding behind a curtain! Francis, a cute flutest, convinced someone to let her into Aaron's dorm room when he wasn't home. Just before entering his room Aaron was approached by his "dorm father" who told him about what had happened and asked if he needed help to deal with the situation. Aaron smiled and said, "I think I can handle it". He went in, ripped away the curtain, threw Francis on the bed, and the rest is history! But a few weeks later Francis decided to move on, so she became the next victim of a satirical song. In this case Aaron decided to write a really bad pop song about her. It's funny how, on the tape, he gets mixed up in the lyrics. Instead of saying, "I looked at your face, your lips so red, your eyes so blue", he says, "I looked at your face, your eyes so red, your lips so blue". After this, Aaron would sing it that way on purpose. He put every cliche in the book into this song, from the words, to the exaggerated way he sings, to the taking of the chorus at the end up a 1/2 step! It was through these satirical songs that Aaron healed his broken heart as his college dating life began.

    We next hear a section from a Bach cantata. It was at BCM that Aaron started to really expand his knowledge of classical music in depth. He listened to hundreds of pieces of music, he played in the orchestra, in chamber groups, took lessons with a teacher from the Boston Symphony, and went to see the symphony almost every week. He also went to see Bach cantatas and solo recitals. The rock guitarist from Canarsie was starting to become a well rounded classical musician. He would discuss composers and their works with his classmates as well as string playing technique and interpretations. Usually after dinner, he would take walks through Fenway Park with a pipe in hand and a scowl upon his face. He would feel as though he were an angry Beethoven walking through the Viennese woods. There he would think about ideas for songs and ideas about how to interpret the classical works he was studying daily.
BCM & Ithaca side 2
    Once again Wagner opens this tape but is soon interrupted in a disrespectful manner. From the speech Aaron gives it seems that this part of the tape was recorded back home in Canarsie during the summer after school. Yet it contains other songs that he wrote that year.

    Song 1 - "She Said I Was Boring", was another song that Aaron wrote in response to his breakup with Becky. This song evolved over the years and seemed to get more laughs than anything else he ever wrote. There is a great version of Von Cello performing this song at the first New Directions Cello Festival at the Knitting Factory in New York City, on the Von Cello Early Musical History page.

    Song 2 - Having written a song about being 16 and 17, Aaron also wrote a song about being 18, called, "Back Again". Full of life and positivity, the song says, "Back again, back again, back again, gonna go around the circle another time. I'm 18 now. 18 wow!" It expresses exactly where Aaron's head was at at that time. He had come to terms with his life in many ways and was ready to move ahead.

    Song 3 - "For My Lady", was a love song that Aaron wrote to a dark eyed latin choreographer at school named Lisa. It is his first experiment with latin music. The words speak of a secret midnight rendezvous that leads to eternal love. Unfortunately, Lisa would have none of it! Nevertheless she remained a friend and confidant throughout the year.

    Song 4 - Away at the Ithaca Summer Cello Institute, we hear some ideas that Von Cello had for another classical composition, a cello trio. That is quickly followed by an idea for a song. The song was going to be about a girl Aaron met that summer. The song, "Kelly", never did become a reality, but it did eventually form the basis for Cello Etude #4, "Laid Back Devil", from Minsky's "Ten American Cello Etudes". This strange title was taken from a phrase that Aaron heard uttered by a cellist girlfriend who, described herself as "laid back, but a bit of a devil". This title seemed to fit this etude which was slow and easy in sound but difficult to play.

    Song 6 - "Beth, I Don't Know Why", was written during Aaron's school year at Ithaca College for another cellist girlfriend. In the middle of the song the musical mood becomes dark and the words speak of Aaron's desire to reach inside of her and "grab her and pull her out". Then the loving dreamlike mood returns. The words in the middle section were words he spoke into his tape recorder just before falling asleep one night. Part of that speech appears at the end of the tape. Aaron added it to this song to give it a unique Beethoven-like sense of contrast. It makes an otherwise sensitive love song into a tale about the two sides of love, one dreamy the other desirous. The chords to the song are a beautiful example of a jazz/classical harmonic mix. Aaron also uses a chord made up of the open strings of the guitar at the end of each verse.

    This next section of the tape finds us back with the cello trio ideas. Notice the joy and passion that Von Cello expresses, as his ideas come streaming out! This is a wonderful moment capturing the joy of musical creation from a budding composer.

    Interupting the excited dialogue comes the late night conversation Von Cello had with his tape recorder. He discusses the concept of expressing oneself through one note, as opposed to composing a whole piece of music. This shows how he was starting to look at performing on the cello as his main means of expression. He then compares notes to lives. Just as a note cannot die, neither can the human soul. He then speaks about heaven, Christ, being "saved", and other biblical concepts, and he questions whether or not they are really meaningful. He compares life to blindness, asking, "What do you know?" He concludes that no one really knows anything!
Ta Hoo!
    The "Ta hoo!" tape finds Aaron in Manhattan living in his own apartment near the Manhattan School of Music (MSM), 431 W. 121 St. to be exact. It turned out that another Manhattan School student moved into the apartment next door and took another MSM student as a roomate. The three guys had the same sight singing teacher at school, though they had him at different times during the day. His initials were DR.

    DR looked a little like WC Fields and acted a bit like him as well. Clearly a great musician in his way, he never seemed to teach, but would go off on these long convoluted tangents about his days as a music arranger in the army, or other odd things. One day Aaron was talking to his buddies and they started comparing notes about this strange teacher. They became hysterical, laughing about the funny things he discussed in class. It got to the point that every Tuesday they would meet to talk about what DR said or did in class that day.

    Little by little, they started making up stories that they pretended DR had said, that became more and more crazy. One of the stories, as told by the mythical DR went as follows: "Well, ta hoo, I wrote a piece of music and well, this fella by the name of Schubert came along and signed his name down to my piece. What could I do? I was young and foolish at the time and I a !#%$@^#@!" Even these few sentences require a lot of explanation. "Ta hoo" came about as an expression when one day DR actually was teaching some sight singing; having the students read rhythms with the syllable "ta". DR demonstrated how to do it, but at one point he said ta at the wrong time, so he said, "Ta hoo", hoo, being a sound he often made anyway. When the ta was added to the hoo it sounded very funny, and Ta hoo became the biggest expression used during college. If anyone did something stupid, they would imitate DR's voice and go, "Ta hoo!" It then started to be used in many different ways, like if you didn't like something someone said or did, you would look at them with a very straight face and dryly say, Ta Hoo! So, of course, in their mythical stories they would always have DR saying Ta hoo as a manner of speach.

    The real DR would also go into long stories, saying things like, "Well I had to do 101 arrangements of Jingle Bells for the army band, and let me tell you, when you have 10 tubas, 5 trumpets and 3 harps, you start to run out of things to do..." So they made up stories about how he actually wrote all the major works of the classical repertoire, but the composers signed their names down to his pieces, because he was "young and foolish at the time" and wanted to have sex with them! For some reason Schubert became the main participant, and they always had DR refer to him as that "fella by the name of Schubert". After a time, they didn't need to repeat the whole story, but would just say, "He signed his name down", and the whole story would be implied. In fact, that also became one of their expressions, as did "What could I do?", usually accompianied by the raising of both arms and the bending forward at the waist. The accent and gestures became more and more exaggerated. Very often these expressions were followed by inane screams, until they created this totally bizarre portrait of a crazy man that had virtually nothing to do with the actual DR, but became even more real to them than the real DR! As the news of their imitations spread, they started to develop a DR cult. In fact, they had dozens of people imitating DR who never even met him! All of this is a necessary introduction to the famous Ta hoo tape.

    Said Aaron, "One day I overheard my neighbors, Barry and Max, imitating DR, so I ran into my apartment, grabbed my tape recorder, hid it, and knocked on their door. I wanted to capture this remarkable alternative universe that was being created. Who would believe it if I didn't have evidence to prove it? Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the tape I grabbed already had Sonny Rollins playing sax on it, and it didn't erase as the new stuff was recorded. What resulted was a bizarre mix of DR imitations with Sonny Rollins in the background. At some point I play a section of Bach on Barry's stereo, so then we hear a mix of all three! It's sad in a way that the sax makes the talking hard to hear, but in another way, it's good, because jazz was the background music of our scene in those days, so the sax playing gives the tape a jazzy feel. It's almost like a bizarre jazz, poetry mixture.

    As the tape begins we hear Barry doing his DR imitation, saying, "Well I a", another famous DR expression. Then he starts in with, "He signed his name down". Next you hear Max saying, "I met a young man by the name of Schubert and he signed his name down. What could I do?" etc. Next the boys start to sing, "He signed his name down", making it into a weird classical vocal composition. Then Barry and Max start doing these totally bizarre imitations of DR moving their arms up and down and screaming, and Aaron says, "I never met DR. What is he like?" Then Max imitates John Wayne saying "He signed his name down". And again a weird vocal improvisation breaks out, a variation on a theme, if you will. Max then sings, "Did I ever tell you the time, I played the Debussy Rhapsody thirteen times". That was a sentence that his clarinet teacher used to say to him at almost every lesson. That will come back later in the tape. For now, "He signed his name down" reigns supreme, even becoming "He signeth his name down". Then Aaron puts on a Bach Cantata and the boys sing "He signeth his name down" as if it were the words to the piece. Aaron then gets a little carried away with this concept and the other guys start to make derisive comments. At one point Aaron says, "Tell me about trinomes". This was another real DR event. DR brought into class a metronome that could keep three beats at once, called the trinome. He then proceeded to spend the rest of the class demonstrating all the weird beats that you could come up with, while the class was left scratching their heads as to what any of this had to do with site singing. At this point in the tape we have the very interesting convergence of Bach, Rollins and three college music students freaking out!

    Suddenly Max notices Aaron's tape recorder and says, "This isn't running is it?" Suprised and now self conscious the tone of the comments changes. The boys decide that they will have a serious conversation. Aaron immediately asks Max, "Do you believe in God?" But it soon becomes apparent that they cannot have a serious conversation no matter how hard they try. It is hilarious to hear them make attempt after attempt, but to no avail. Instead, Barry's DR imitations become even more strange, now mixing with burps. Barry then "blasphemes" speaking about the holy inward parts of the "blessed virgin". Max, finally getting frustrated says that he will say anything anyone wants in a serious way. Barry asks him to say, "My mother sucks donkey meat". Max does it, but the laughing returns, as do the bizarre DR imitations. The boys then make fun of the song, "They're Coming To Take Me Away".

    Finally agreeing to sing something, the dialogue moves forward. Max keeps attempting to get them to sing, "Did I ever tell you the time". Instead they sing a Bach 3 part invention, "as we think Bach would have written it". The three budding musical geniuses bring in all kinds of quotes from other music from Charlie Parker, to brass trumpet calls. They also use funny made up scat singing syllables like "vredont". Then suddenly they break into a cannon version of "Did I ever tell you the time I played the Debussy Rhapsody 13 times". Then they immediately start to talk with each person adding the next word. Then Max says in his John Wayne voice, "We should make up a story and one guy starts it and you make up a story". Then they try to do it but it quickly becomes totally ridiculous. This eventually leads to them saying, "He signed his name down". Finally they settle on saying, "Well I a" with each guy taking one word. It speeds up into an incredibly fast tempo, leaving them hysterically laughing. Barry then gets the final word before the tape runs out, saying, "That was a good trick. Now kids let's play pin the tail on the Pope!" Ouch!

    This is but one example of the kind of thing that went on for years between the apartments of Barry and Aaron (Max was only there the first year). On the one hand you could say they were a bunch of out of control youths. On the other hand you could say they were sharpening their musical skills. In fact, Manhattan was the place where Von Cello really began to emerge. In school Aaron was studying Mozart and Bartok, back home he was listening to Zappa and Coltrane. Through this thick haze of musical influence, eventually he started finding his own voice. A voice that is now heard around the world!
Famous Minsky Tapes 1
    One of Aaron's passions was taping. He would constantly listen to the radio when he wasn't practicing himself. Whenever he would hear something interesting, whether it was a section of a classical piece, or a rock song, or a jazz tune, or a recording of tribal music from Africa or elsewhere, he would tape it. Often he would just tape a few measures, the part that he thought was inspired. What resulted was a set of tapes that go from one type of music to another without any sense of boundaries. Aaron would listen to these tapes as though they were perfectly normal, but his friends found them irritating. Nevertheless, if you wanted to hang out with Von Cello in his apartment, chances are you would hear these tapes playing in the background. They came to be known as "The Famous Minsky Tapes"!

    Famous Minsky Tape 1 - Starting with a totally bizarre sax piece, this tape goes on to be a music appreciation lesson from Professor Minsky. We hear a modern atonal classical cello piece, but Aaron soon makes fun of it and compares it to the Brahms Violin Concerto which we hear next. Aaron then compares the Brahms to some cheesy muzak. He then pretends to be a typical "working class Joe" who thinks that muzak is better than "that deep stuff". Then we are brought back to a wonderful moment in the Brahms. Keeping with the muzak comparison, next the working class Joe plays a muzak version of "When I Fall In Love". Suddenly we are assaulted by an 80's rap about a "bag lady". Aaron then expresses his contempt for this music in which one doesn't even have to know how to sing, but that was putting many instrumentalists and trained musicians out of business. Then he imitates Rausher doing a technical analysis of the musical selection as though it were a classical composition. Next we hear Edgar Winter's "Keep Playing That Rock N' Roll". Aaron expresses his appreciation. The tape ends with a section of the jam from the Grateful Dead's "Cumberland Blues". Through this method Aaron, in a very entertaining and intelligent way, expresses in no uncertain terms what he considered at that time to be good music and bad music.
Famous Minsky Tapes 2
    Famous Minsky Tapes 2 - This tape begins with the warning croaks of frogs and goes on with an entertaining dialogue between radio DJ's. It ends with some African tribal music. Aaron was always amazed and entertained by the bizarre things that would end up on record albums. He used to buy albums off of peddlers on the street. If they looked really weird he would buy them without any idea of what they would sound like. Sometimes they were just terrible. But many of those albums brought him hours of laughter! They also influenced him. One comedy album was called, "I Used To Be A Bus Driver". That title led to his writing a song called, "I Used To Be An Orchestra Player".
Famous Minsky Tapes 3
    Famous Minsky Tapes 3 - Beginning with the coke snort and the opening notes of the Dead's "Casey Jones", this tape suddenly brings us into an African tribal musical performance. It keeps getting interupted by "Casey Jones" at funny moments in the song that seem to comment on the African music. It presents a very interesting cross cultural examination. The guitar solo from "Casey Jones" is kept in full, because it was one of Aaron's favorite Dead moments. But the Africans burst in again! Then the Dead return, "high on cocaine". But the Africans, who seem to be high on something much better than cocaine, get the final word!
Famous Minsky Tapes 4
    Famous Minsky Tapes 4 - begins with the Dead again. This time it is the end of "I Know You Rider". Then Professor Minsky compares this to 20th century classical music, "the real music of our century that expresses our century and how we feel about it". Then he compares it to corny jazz, and finally "something I hope you'll really like" (a quote from Bullwinkle). This turns out to be some cool modern afro jazz.
Famous Minsky Tapes 5
    Famous Minsky Tapes 5 - We begin in the middle of a Dead Jam from "The Other One". The music builds to a grand crescendo and suddenly we find ourselves in the climax of a movement of a Mahler symphony. It seems as if the Dead jam leads right into the Mahler. This was Aaron's way of showing how the emotions of music cross all genres.
Famous Minsky Tapes 6
    Famous Minsky Tapes 6 - continues with this concept. First we hear the mournful strains of the Barber "Adagio". The beautiful calm is interupted by the agitated last movement which suddenly breaks into the guitar solo from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", which in turn breaks into one of the high points of Beethoven's 9th, which then gives way to the most mysterious part of the symphony...and Aaron ends this segment keeping us hanging in space.
Famous Minsky Tapes 7
    Famous Minsky Tapes 7 - Aaron became friends with many of Barry's musician friends from Westchester. This tape has Aaron hanging out with a group of these "Westchester types". It begins with Andy Zimmerman playing his amazing song, "Son of Sam". The song is about the famous serial killer by the same name. Then Andy decides to play the old standard, "Side By Side". After the initial "shock", the guys get into the spirit and improvise a lovely barbershop quartet accompaniment.

    Later that night Aaron starts another one of his famous weird atonal vocal improvisations. Two of the guys are talking about Jew's Harps and are caught off guard by the strange sounds in the room. One guy says, "Oh no", as he realizes that it is too late too stop the impending insanity. Suddenly Von Cello breaks out into a version of Gershwin's "Summer Time". (In fact, it was the summer time.) The other guys soon join in. What at first sounds like someone singing the word shadu, starts to sound like shut up. Soon it becomes clear that Andy is saying shut up to Aaron! Aaron then sings, "Why don't you be quiet". A musical battle develops, but soon passes and Aaron prevails in keeping the song going.

    Someone starts singing "Barbara Anne" by the Beach Boys, and others start to whistle and play the knee drums. Aaron then starts a very "white" a Capella version of "Purple Haze". Then another variation of "Summer Time" returns. Then Tom starts in with a television show melody. This leads to the whistling of the "Andy Griffith Show" theme song, while Dale says, "rock it steady" in the background. Aaron then does a vocal variation on that song. Andy responds by making toilet sounds. Someone starts whistling "Yankee Doodle" and someone else the "Marseille". Aaron then sings a take off on the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love". This one is called, "All You Need Is Shit".

    The jam seems to be faltering when suddenly Andy starts repeating, "I'm gonna take a shit fit". Aaron then joins in singing the "Arkansas Traveler". A percussion jam with toilet sounds ensues. And then Aaron sings, "I don't want to work. I just want to bang on the drum all day." That leads to more percussion and whistling. Then Andy crys out, "The hills are alive with the sound of music". Aaron responds, "somewhere over the rainbow". Then Andy begins the song, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" while Aaron sings, "ooh ee ooh ee ooh ah ah".

    Then he speeds up the ahs and starts making hysterical screaming sounds. Then all hell breaks loose as everyone joins in. Aaron tries to keep it going and then Tom starts to cry like a baby. Aaron then breaks into James Brown's "Hot Pants" as the other guys start to cry and make siren sounds. Finally Andy seems to have a psychotic fit, Aaron starts singing the melody from "The Twilight Zone". and everyone looses it. Aaron and Tom break out in uncontrolable laughter and Dale, who by now seems very uncomfortable, says, "come on, come on" and he forces Aaron to shut off the tape recorder. Aaron, goofing, says, "This has gone far enough" and the tape is shut.

    A few seconds later Aaron secretly puts the tape recorder back on and you hear the boys talking about rewinding and listening to the tape. Tom, laughing, says, "We can make another one". Andy asks to hear, "Selective parts". Dale gets the last word when he asks to hear "the tone row", alluding to the atonal jam that started this amazing moment of collective group improvisation. One can only wonder what other improvisations were created in Minsky's apartment that were lost to the ether. A short selection of a country tune follows which just happened to be the next song recorded on this most famous of the Famous Minsky Tapes!
Famous Minsky Tapes 8
    Famous Minsky Tapes 8 - We begin with a brief section from the African musicians but are soon transported to a jam in Aaron's apartment with his roomate Dave Ambaras and Dave's French guest (who later became Aaron's roomate) Xavier Rosensweig. The guys jam with conga drums and chants, sounding very native themselves. Then Aaron comes in smoothly with his cello playing along in perfect sync with the vibe. The song is in French but the words are about having your bicycle stolen and having no place to go! Of course this was the "crazy" Frenchman's idea. This is just one more example of the kind of jamming that happened all the time when Von Cello was developing his musicianship in his wild apartment on the edge of Harlem. If you listen closely you can even hear the traffic passing on the street below.

    Around the mid point of the tape Aaron starts to solo with a pick. Then he hits upon a cool african sounding groove. It was later to form the center part of his Cello Etude #3, "Broadway", from Minsky's "Ten American Cello Etudes". Then the tempo picks up in the congas and using 6ths, Aaron plays variations on the original song melody. Then as the steam runs out of the players he hits a final chord, but Dave and Xavier keep playing. Finally Aaron turns his amp up and hits a note that creates very loud feedback and he moves his fingers up the strings making siren sounds and he screams. That ends the song! Then Aaron calmly says, "Thank you and good night".
Famous Minsky Tapes 9
    Famous Minsky Tapes 9 - finds us listening to music from that "fella by the name of Schubert". His "Trout Quintet" gets interupted time and again by humorous comments from Aaron, Barry and Tom. Tom was Barry's roomate for a while and then Aaron's. The boys talk about a strange conductor from Manhattan School and make comments about the Schubert piece and music in general. Barry a trombonist, comes up with a funny idea for a classical chamber piece in which a trombonist would suddenly appear and blare out whole notes! This kind of talking about music while listening to music was a favorite past time of Aaron and his friends, during and after those crazy college years.
Famous Minsky Tapes 10
    Famous Minksy Tape 10 - begins with Aaron speaking in Spanish. After all, he did live in Venezuela for a season with the Caracas Philharmonic. He also became the building manager of 431 W. 121 St. It was a part time job that gave him just enough money to live on, while still giving him a lot of free time, allowing him to keep composing and performing throughout his twenties. He hired a Puerto Rican construction worker, named Johnny, to be the superintendent of the building. The two became great friends. At the beginning of this tape Aaron says a few words in Johnny's accent, probably so he would always remember him. Johnny had an incredibly positive attitude about life; no matter what happened nothing got him down. In some ways Aaron looked up to him as a type of spiritual master, although to most people he was just a handyman. Johnny died of cancer at the age of 47. Aaron was the last person to see him alive, when he was sick in the hospital, but Aaron always remembered Johnny with a smile.

    The tape continues with a clip from Family Radio, a Christian radio station that used to broadcast stories about people converting other people or coming by themselves to Jesus. Aaron and his friends found these stories very humorous in that the acting and the music were awful (not to mention the stories). Here is a clip from a play about the converting of a South American farmer. Aaron then goes on to give the background information about what often happens to Indians when they are removed from the customs that have served them for generations.

    When Aaron lived in Venezuela he saw movies that were meant to show the great work of the South American missionaries. The movies would start off showing native people living freely out in nature, walking around in loin cloths, hunting and fishing, and doing tribal dances near their huts. Then you would see the missionaries come to the village and how they would amaze the people with tape recorders, cigarette lighters and other things that the Indians would think were magic. Then they would show them pictures of Jesus and tell them stories. Soon the people would go through a baptism ceremony and become Christian. Then they would move to disgusting government housing centers, which were made of grey cinderblock buildings surrounded by chain link fences. This used to outrage Aaron, who felt that the missionaries were destroying these people's lives. The once proud natives were now living like animals in cages. And this was reported as a good thing!

    Following on the heels of his comments, comes some angry modern classical music that was meant to be a representation of Aaron's anger at missionary work. Then there is a moment of silence in memory of those who have died due to exposure to toxic waste and nuclear energy, two other things that disturbed Aaron deeply. That moment is rudely interupted by salsa music, and that is in turn interupted by a stunningly beautiful heartfelt section of a Brahms piano trio. That leads into the sad guitar strains of the Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams. Aaron put the salsa tune after the moment of silence to show how Johnny would react to tragedy, always positive, always joking. Then Aaron used the Brahms to show how he would react, with deep sorrow. Then he broke in with the Adams tune to show how that same type of nostalgic mood could be expressed in popular music.

    Aaron's favorite ensemble in which to play classical music was the piano trio. He was in a several trios in college. Said Aaron, "I always preferred piano trios to string quartets because in a piano trio both the violinist and cellist get to play beautiful solos with piano accompianment, as well as the pianist getting to play with string backup. I liked the contrast between the piano and the strings. In a quartet the cello is used more often as a bass, and solos are cut short as each instrument picks up melodies from others. I thought at one point that I might make a career of playing in a piano trio but I never found other musicians who had the same vision. Maybe one day I can form a trio that can play classical trios and original pop music."

    From these clips from the Famous Minsky Tapes, you can get a little bit of the flavor of what life was like for Von Cello during his college years and the years after that in Manhattan. It was during these years that he wrote many of the etudes and ensembles that would make him famous. It was also during this time that he expanded his playing ability on the cello and perfected his celtar and other styles. He increased his knowledge of religion and politics yet he always kept his love of bizarre humor and unusual music. During these years he started to work as a classical cellist and a rock cellist, yet he continued to play the guitar and write many songs. We hope to explore more aspects of Von Cello's creative "Manhattan period " on other pages in the future.
Famous Minsky Tapes 11
    Famous Minsky Tape 11 - Aaron was always interested in politics, especially politics about Israel. Here he taped a discussion on the radio about the Israeli invasion of Lebonon in 1981. The Israelis invaded to stop the PLO from bombing them from behind the Lebanese lines. When the Israelis entered Lebanon many Lebanese were happy because the PLO were terrorizing them. This clip has a Lebanese Christian man explaining how the PLO were not wanted in Lebanon, but the radio DJ, from WBAI (a left wing radio station that carries reports that are anti Israeli and anti Semitic) keeps doubting the report from the man. Finally Aaron interupts to say that this conversation proves that those on the left will always see things from the left, until they get into power, in which case they will see things from the right. Then he plays a cut from "We Won't Get Fooled Again", by the Who, which starts with a scream and then the words, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss". This became one of Von Cello's favorite quotes because it expressed his belief that those out of power usually are anti establishment but quickly become the establishment when they gain power. Said Von Cello, "The answer to the world's problems will not come from the left or the right. Those terms are more or less meaningless. It is up to whichever side is in power to constantly seek to improve it's message and it's handling of problems. It is better for those out of power to help improve those in power, than to constantly fight to bring them down. That only creates a cycle of negativity that doesn't allow anyone to get anywhere. One day those out of power may end up in power and then the ones they replaced should treat them with the same respect. It's not a matter of who is in control, it is a matter of what whomever is in control does."

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