Von Cello Early Cuts
This page contains the earliest recordings of Von Cello, when he was simply known as Aaron. The cuts begin with a solo electric guitar jam at age 13, going through his early collections of songs, following his switch from rock guitar to classcal cello, until he recorded his "Celtar" songs: the first recordings in history of a cello played like a guitar.
The background of these songs is very interesting, because through his music, Aaron created a diary of his thoughts and feelings as he went through his crucial teen years. You will find detailed explanations of the songs below. If you want to understand the makings of Von Cello, you will find them fascinating. If you just want to listen to the cuts, that's fine too.
You can stream or download each song set individually, or stream the whole page at once. Enjoy the adventure!
|13 Year Old Jam|
Aaron began guitar lessons at age 7, but he began studing rock guitar around age 12. After about a year of explorations he made a tape of what he felt would be the ultimate rock guitar jam. At the time he called it, "The Apotheoses of Rock". Now we call it "13 Year Old Jam". This clip shows that even at a very young age, Aaron was a guitarist to be reckoned with. It is easy to see why he was a famous musician in his neigborhood. It is clear that he was already pushing boundaries in music very early on. These are the baby steps that led to Von Cello.
Keep in mind that this recording was made in 1971 when rock was still pretty young. It includes many quotes from the classic rock songs of the time, but even then, the quotes all meld together to create a new musical collage of the sights and sounds of the "classic rock era".
This clip begins with the end of the Allman Brothers song, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed". Then 13 year old Aaron starts jamming on the same riff. From there he quickly goes into a blues solo. Then he does the chordal lick from "Crossroads" as done by Cream. Then into a section of "America" as done by Yes. Then the head from "Johnny B. Goode", by Chuck Berry. Then a Bo Diddly chordal riff. Then back into a Cream riff and more soloing. That leads to the riff from "Purple Haze" by Hendrix, and then a jam on the "Purple Haze" lick. That leads to the chords from Hendrix's "Easy Rider". And then another jam based on rock and roll blues chords. That speeds up into a frenzy that leads into "Pinball Wizard" by the Who and other chords from "Tommy". That leads to another chordal jam. Then we hear leads mixing with chords. Then leads echoing in two octaves. Then the use of an echo effect with leads all over the guitar creating a spacy effect. The next signpost is the use of string stretches. Then after more jams we get a recap of "Elizabeth Reed" and another jam. Then comes a slow soulful blues jam without reverb. After a few minutes the reverb comes on and the tempo speeds up a bit. Next comes a section using 6ths. Then another slow blues. The music picks up in speed one more time in a section that includes chords with and without reverb. And with the final push of emotion Aaron screams and hits the final set of chords!
|My Songs vol. 1 side 1|
At the age of 14, Aaron produced his first collection of songs, called "My Songs". These songs were recorded on tape, using the primitive technique of recording on one tape and then recording the first tape plus additional live material, onto a second tape. Using this process, Aaron was able to record a tape with many tracks, creating a "draft" for what could have been an incredible album for a young teen musician. Here is the proof that Aaron could have been a teen pop sensation. It was not until around 25 years later that Aaron, as Von Cello, would create a CD with high tech computer technology, in which he once again created every track of the music. Check it out here: Breaking The Sound Barriers
Song 1 - "I Am Free", is about Aaron's impressions of what he thought it would be like to be in love and/or to reach a higher consciousness. Both experiences seemed to him to be like wondrous flights through the universe. So here we see the very early beginnings of Von Cello's space music. Listen for the acoustic and electric guitars, vocals, and space sounds (made by his mouth)!
Song 2 - "Parties", is based on the folk rock of the early seventies. It combines an "Alice's Restaurant" guitar part with a 1920's type pop melody.
Song 3 - "Music". At age 15, Aaron's earliest attempt at classical crossover begins with this song which combines the melody from Beethoven's Fur Elise with a sixties folk rock groove. For this performance Aaron was joined by his childhood friend, Barry Lederman on piano. Barry later became a rabbi and has a website that you can view here: Barry Lederman
Song 4 - "Bouree", is a modified transcription for solo guitar of a version of a Bach Bouree recorded by Jethro Tull. Here we see the earliest example of the type of compositional techniques that led to Aaron's cello etudes and string ensembles.
Song 5 - "Schooly Go Round". The name is a take off on Merry Go Round, the carousel with toy horses that goes around and around in circles. The song expresses a phenomenon that Aaron noticed: during school days he wished for the summer, but by the end of summer he was happy to go back in school. The song ends with a tribute to Jonny Winter, one of Aaron's guitar heroes in those days.
Song 6 - "Open Up Your Door", is a beautiful song that shows young Aaron's fine melodic sense. It is a song that he wrote imagining it as a marriage proposal. It uses many jazz chords and has the flavor of an American standard. One can imagine that with a great singer and band this could be a lovely tune to sing at a wedding or pops concert. Nevertheless, Aaron saw a bit of humor in the song and ends it with the orgasmic murmurings that were so prevalent in some other genres of music at that time.
Song 7 - "Who's Gonna Live In This House?", is a personal song about how Aaron's dad used to always say those words when the family passed a house that was being built for some relatives. The recording was done with Aaron's sisters and their friends backing him up. The little girl who you hear was Heather, the new downstairs neighbor, who, being 4 years old, thought the song was about her!
|My Songs vol. 1 side 2|
My Songs vol. 1, part 2, was recorded in when Aaron was 16 years old. You can hear a little more attention to recording technique and some songs with deeper meanings.
Song 1. - "Life (is the sun in the morning)", is just such a deeper song. Based on sixties folk rock it is a song about the meaninglessness of life. It starts off bright and happy, "Life, is the sun in the morning. Life is the dew on the grass, a boy running very fast". Then it goes into an interlude based on the tritone, relating a sad news item. (This section has since been updated. The new lyrics are: "In the city, a siren is crying. On a stretcher a young boy is lying. Next to him a young girl is crying. From her lips a prayer is rising.") After the interlude, the song comes back to the original melody; the words are, "Life, is the cheating and lying, the wars and the fighting, the fright and the crying". It ends with an inditement of God who watches over all and does "nothing"! The views of this song were not necessarily those of young Aaron, but reflected his fascination with the Jethro Tull album Aqua Lung, which was also an inditement of God. Nevertheless it is a very thoughtful song, especially for a 16 year old.
The explosions in the background are from children lighting off fire crackers in Aaron's backyard before the 4th of July. Aaron thought about rerecording the song but kept the fire cracker sounds because they sounded like gun fire, and added an element of realism to the song.
Song 2 - "Rainy Day Blues", is a bright song with lyrics based on the old nursery rhyme, "Rain rain go away, come again some other day". It has a country western feel, a style that has weaved in and out of Aaron's music for years. In fact, this song became the basis of his cello duet "Way Out West" which is included in his, "Three American Cello Duets" published by Oxford University Press. The middle section has an amazing sound that was created by tons of multi tracking in his "unique" manner.
Song 3 - "I Don't Know What To Do", is one of Aaron's early "hits". It was ahead of it's time, combining a rap with a jazzy groove. The song relates a realistic teen dilemma: whether or not to try to meet someone that you are attracted to.
It was based on a true story. Aaron was attracted to a girl in his high school named Annette, yet he never felt comfortable about walking up to her. Then one night he had a dream in which she sat next to him. He was about to kiss her when he suddenly woke up! He was confused by this dream, not knowing what it meant, or what he should do about it.
Song 4 - "You and Me", was Aaron's first love song (at age 14). It was written for a girl he dated at sleep away camp. The song mixes soft rock with jazz. The words express sexual frustration, yet a love that conquers all. As it turned out Wendy became Aaron's first true love.
Song 5 - "Silent Prayer", was the first song that Aaron ever wrote. He wrote it at age 13, but the lyrics seem like they would be from someone much older. The subject is the thoughts of a deaf and dumb paraplegic who prays for his own death to spare his father the misery of watching his child suffer. It is another inditement of God. The song asks, "Is life a game with which you play? God, can't you play with something else?" Apparently, even at a very tender age, Aaron was aware of the injustices in the world and the inequities of life. Unable to reconcile such disparities in his own mind, he put his thoughts into the mind of one of life's most tragic victims. So ends this earliest collection of the Songs of Aaron Minsky.
|My Songs vol. 2|
Starting with banging on his guitar, and then strumming the open strings, My Songs, vol. 2, begins as if Aaron is first discovering the guitar. In fact, Aaron had started to see music in a whole different way. Suddenly you hear a kid from Aaron's backyard scream "What?". This was a coincidence, but Aaron used it as the springboard for his short song called "Life". It's as if a child is asking, what is it all about? And the answer is simply: life. Simple yet profound. Next we hear a percussion jam that is meant to sound like a New York City subway train. A G major chord follows along and then the vocals say, "City As School woo a woo". Thus begins Aaron's tribute to his new alternative high school. From mid 11th grade to mid 12th grade, Aaron left his Brooklyn neighborhood school, South Shore High School, and joined City As School: an alternative high school in which students took courses all over the city. Courses included real life situations such as working in a senior center, or studying yoga at an ashram. For Aaron it gave him the chance to spend more time on his music and to get familiar with the adult world.
Next come three loud claps, which signify the separation of Aaron's old life from his new life.
Song 1 - "It Goes By", begins with a long beautiful introduction. This song first "came" to Aaron while on a mid winter camping trip at Clarence Farnstock park, with his fellow City As Schoolers. Aaron was very lonely on that trip, feeling somewhat an outcast. He spent much time sitting on a rocky perch above a placid lake watching it ripple with rain drops, while he played his guitar under his rain poncho. This song was like a perfect translation of the sights he was seeing and the thoughts that were going through his mind...thoughts about life passing, growing up, moving on. The intro gives way to the song which became another tribute to City As School, "CAS". It is called "Camping in D Major". The song expresses the difficulty Aaron was feeling letting go of his childhood, while also embracing the future he knew was just up ahead. He beautifully captures with music and words that moment that we all face as our high school years draw to a close. Aaron sang this song at the CAS graduation of the class before his.
Song 2 - "Schooling in C Major", was Aaron's alma mater for CAS. It describes his feelings of depression at his old high school and how CAS opened a new hope for him to start to develop a new life. At the 25th anniversary of CAS, Aaron finally presented his alma mater to his old school!
Song 3 - "Forward Motion Fred", is a song dedicated to Mr. Fred Koury, the head of City As School, who was known to all simply as "Fred". It was a time when Aaron was starting to realize that it was not really "cool" to drift away in the "teenage wasteland", but that it was time to move ahead in life with forward motion and achievement. The song ends with a chromatic chord scale indicating forward motion.
Song 4 - "Feedback Day", is one of Aaron's favorite songs from the CAS era. This song is a spoof on Feedback Day, the day when all the CAS students would meet in the central school site to hand in their logs about their journeys throughout the city. Aaron plays on the word "feedback" by playing a chord with feedback after the mention of the word. The guitar solo in the middle of the song is a musical portrait of what went on on a typical Feedback Day. It starts with the teachers lecturing the students and trying to make jokes. The chromatic chord scales are meant to represent the sounds of laughter. Then he musically portrys someone saying, "Hey let's go out and smoke a joint", and someone else saying, "okay". Then you hear the sounds of inhaling followed by a music representation of "getting high". Then you hear a description of walking around "stoned". Then the song ends with a particularly rousing feedback chord! All told, the detailed description of this event in sound, is quite remarkable! (The description of the musical meaning of this song is not necessarily an accurate depiction of an actual event, nor is it an endorsement of such activities.)
Song 5 - "That's Her", is a song that speaks about a girl who is popular and seemingly happy, but who has hidden problems. The girl is a metaphor for the Grateful Dead! Yes, the Grateful Dead were the most popular band in Canarsie, where Aaron grew up. He was a fan, but at some point he began to feel that the total devotion his friends had to the band was making it hard for him to express himself musically. This song, using a Dead-like groove, is actually a warning about getting too caught up in one type of music and losing your creativity. This comes clear in the final verse that says, "So if you want to start messing around with her, here's advise my friend. You will be Grateful to know, you're gonna wind up Dead. That's her. That's her." And to top it off, the song ends with a chord from Jerry Garcia's "Bird Song". Aaron worked out his desire to create his own musical vision by writing several songs referencing the Grateful Dead, this being the first. The funny thing is the Dead themselves were influenced by many artists of varied backgrounds. So really, Aaron was being true to the vision of the band by expanding his interests into the wider musical world.
Song 6 - "Linda", is one of those Minsky songs that walk that fine line between something serious and a joke. It explores the feelings Aaron had after having a brief but meaningful conversation with an attractive "older woman" in a pizza shop. Aaron was aware of the humor in his teenage crush, but he also felt a type of love for this stranger who seemed to understand his confused teenage mind. The song reflects the dichotomy.
Song 7 - "A Dress Over A Lady Walking Down A Street On Manhattan In A Warm And Breezy Spring Day", is Aaron's first original instrumental, though he later added words. It was his spring time tribute to a dress on a pretty lady flowing in the spring breezes of Manhattan.
The words that were added later were a tribute to Manhattan, a borough that Aaron first became familiar with, as an early teen as he traveled around the city as a student of City As School. Here they are:
"When it's springtime in New York City, I can scream out, hallelujah! Yes, when it's springtime in New York City, I can scream out hallelujah. Everybody smiles at each other. It's a smile from inside. Everybody knows in their hearts: we're keeping to the city's beat!
When it's springtime in the city, and by city, I mean New York! Yes, when it's springtime in New York City, I can scream out, hallelujah! Winter was hard, and it was long, but throughout it we held on. Everybody knows in their hearts: we made it through another year!
New York City, in the spring. How I love you! New York City, in the spring. How I love you!"
Song 8 - "Now I've Been Living 'Round Here", is a song that Aaron wrote on the occasion of his opening a concert for Pete Seeger, the famous folk singer, in Canarsie Park. It imitates Pete's folky style, but speaks of his observations, at age 16, about growing up in Canarsie. Dead Heads will recognize the guitar part just before the words, "Life is for living", as the guitar part that Jerry Garcia plays in the middle of Anthem of the Sun. This again, is Aaron alluding to the Grateful Dead. He says, "There's no use in dying, life is for living", which means what it says, but also means that there's no use in being a Dead Head, one must move on and listen to all the music that life has to offer. "Life is for living"! And so, on that positive note, My Songs, vol. 2 comes to a close.
|My Songs vol. 3 side 1|
Aware by now of the possible future historical significance of these tapes, Aaron chose to make this next tape a documentary about this important last summer before he became a cellist (the summer of 11th grade), thus he begins My Songs, vol. 3 with a little speech. The speech, however, gets interrupted by angry comments from BZ, the head waiter at the music sleep away camp where Aaron worked; the French Woods Summer Festival of the Performing Arts. (We will hear more about Mr. Z as this tape procedes.) By the middle of 11th grade, Aaron knew he wanted to become a cellist and create a new type of music. He felt, though, that he first had to solidify everything he had ever learned on the guitar; so he spent the summer writing songs summing up his musical and intellectual past, and clarifying in his mind the direction he wanted to go in the future.
Song 1 -"Oh Blind Man's Passing Thought Through The Hole In My Guitar, Good Even Now, If So It's So, You See?" (later called "Holes In The Sky") was written during the first few days of camp when Aaron got deathly ill and was confined to the infirmary. There, in a delirious state, he created a spacy song based on an unusual idea. The concept was that the stars are actually pin pricks in a veil that covers a star that surrounds the universe. That star would then be just one little star in another universe, and so on. In the slow motion of a classical largo, Aaron explores this idea, creating a mesmerizing dream-like song. This song later became the grand opus of Von Cello's first CD, "Breaking The Sound Barriers", however the words were altered so that the song could also have other meanings, such as describing a black hole, or the birth of the universe! This recording was done on the front porch of Aaron's wooden camp bunk, so you hear the sound of someone leaving the bunk at one point, and someone calling Aaron at another point. The song ends with Aaron asking, "Is it one?", meaning, is the universe one? Then he makes a train sound on his closed strings evoking the end of Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun". By the end of the song a thunder storm had started. That inspired Aaron to add the storm to the tape. He then tapes various other sounds of water: a sink, a shower, a toilet, and the sounds of the saliva water in his own mouth. This was to show that we are all part of the universe and everything in the universe is one.
Song 2 - "Sue, The English Girl" (later called "Hello Sue"), was taped in a cemetery near the camp. A bus load of campers saw Aaron playing his guitar in the cemetary and never looked at him the same way! He just wanted to find a quiet spot where he could record without doors slaming and people calling him. The song was about a pretty English counselor who was one of the people Aaron served as a waiter that summer. Said Aaron, "One day she expressed sadness about the restrictive atmosphere at the camp and how it was not what she expected of the freedom loving America she had heard about. I told her that she owed it to herself to travel out west at the end of the summer and see the 'real' America. I wrote her this song, but didn't play it for her until the end of the summer, when by popular request, I played my summer songs in a special concert for the whole camp. She cried when she heard it. After the show, one of the music teachers came up to me and asked if I would like to meet a friend of his who had recorded Frank Sinatra. Who knows, it might have been my big break, but by then I knew I wanted to be a cellist and would not let anything get in the way."
Song 3 - "A Space" (later called "Sunday Afternoon"), is a jazzy song about the quiet of a Sunday afternoon. For this performance Aaron was joined by two counselors (Joel Perry on guitar and Harold Messer on bass). The counselors thought Aaron's song was a little weird, but they agreed to perform on the tape, to quite good effect. It's the first recording of Aaron with a "band". The sounds in the background are from the camp loudspeaker. This song was later used by Aaron in a show called, "Welfare Hotel", for Theatre Rehabilition for Youth. It was a show written by and performed by people who lived in a welfare hotel. It was about the difficulty of their lives. Aaron changed the words to the song but used the same melody. The song's new name was, "My Own Room". It is interesting how a song about a calm Sunday Afternoon in the yard, became bittersweet and very affective as a song about a poor child yearning for his own room.
Song 4 - "Open Amenic" (later called "I'll Just Strum My Guitar"), was a song that Aaron wrote using only the open strings of the guitar. Using open strings was a method that he developed to create an original new type of music. (The same technique was used in Cello Etude #9, "The Crack of Dawn", from "Ten American Cello Etudes".) Here we see the beginnings of Aaron's move away from popular music into a music style all his own. The words often make people laugh, but they really are profound in their simplicity. You can hear a singing bird in the background. Aaron purposely recorded this song near the singing bird to create a feeling of insanity in the sound of this song. It is as insane as it is brilliant: a line that Aaron walked that whole summer. (This song was later recorded at the First New Directions Cello Festival before a hysterical live audience. It can be heard on the Von Cello Early Musical History! page on this site.)
Song 5 - "Thinking Twice" (later called "Keep On Movin' On"), was a song written during the school year about Aaron's break up with his first high school girlfriend. Aaron had a crisis in the middle of 11th grade. He became disenchanted with rock music and the many negative messages associated with it, and he ended up quitting playing music. After a few months he forgot how to play the guitar. But after a while he started to realize that he could not be happy without playing music, and feeling that he had made a huge mistake he became depressed. His pretty young girlfriend loved Aaron the happy-go-lucky rock star but she was not the type to stay loyal to this now struggling young man. So Aaron had to build himself up again on his own. He went back to his beginning guitar books and taught himself how to play all over again. It was during this time that he became consciously involved with, and fascinated by, the fundamentals of music, something that helped him later on in his etude composing and teaching. Little by little, he got his playing ability back and rebuilt himself into an original, barrier breaking, musician. This song became his anthem for moving on despite his set backs.
Song 6 - "I Am My Grandson" (later called "I Want To Die"), tells of the depression Aaron felt in those dark days of 11th grade. It speaks of wanting to die, yet it has a beauty to it, showing how art and music saved him. In fact, in the middle of the song, Aaron put in a quotation from "Keep On Movin' On" as a way to say, that he was moving on despite the sadness he was experiencing. Not content to let side 1 of this documentary end this way, Aaron records the sounds of water again (an allusion to the realization that the universe is one, and that there are higher things to think about than one's problems) and he plays a little melody that he composed that became a source of comfort for him in those times.
|My Songs vol. 3 side 2|
Song 1 - "An Insane Tune" - has a different sound, because it was recorded in Fredonia University where Aaron spent two weeks in the middle of that summer attending an orchestral seminar. During those weeks he got his first lessons from a professional cellist, and his first opportunity to play great classical pieces with orchestra, yet he also got inspired to write a few songs. This song speaks of the "meanings" of different chords.
Actually it was during the previous summer that Aaron had had a very strange experience while playing his guitar on a river. He was concentrating intensely on his music, when suddenly he felt as if he had just been born. Everything around him looked fresh and new, as though he were seeing it for the first time. At one point he stopped playing the guitar and waded into the river. As he stood in the middle of the river, he looked upstream and saw that the trees on either side of the bank were reaching towards each other. The outline of the trees looked like pictures he had seen of Beethoven's wild hair, and the space in between the trees looked like his face. Suddenly it appeared to Aaron as if the river was time and that time was flowing from Beethoven to him. If felt as if God were telling him that he would become a composer and that he was receiving telepathically some of the knowledge of Beethoven. Aroused by this feeling of revelation, Aaron went back to his guitar and started playing, but something was different. He found himself strumming one chord and just listening to it. Suddenly it seemed as though this chord was a world of its own. Aaron took a breath in astonishment as he realized that this must be the knowledge of Beethoven, the knowledge of the MEANING of the chords! When Aaron played a G Major, he felt happy. When he played a C major, he felt grounded. Then he played an F major and it sounded like the chord of nature. Aaron thought to himself and became astonished again as he realized that Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony was in the key of F! Aaron thought, "Beethoven must have realized that F was nature's key, just like I am now realizing it!" Even each note suddenly had meaning, as if each note were it's own universe. (This thought also prompted the line in the song Open Amenic: "A note means so very much to me".)
Caught up in this amazing revelry, Aaron hadn't noticed that the cutest girl in the camp had strolled up to the river. Aaron suddenly felt butterflies in his stomach as he noticed her standing there in her short shorts and halter top. Though he was scared, he felt that this was a great opportunity to finally approach this fox of foxes . He walked up to her and offered her a cigerette, which she accepted. Then he said, "Do you know what it's like to just be born and see everything as if it's for the first time?" She looked surprised, and said, "No". Aaron persisted, "Imagine that you're a baby, and you've just been born. Every single thing you see, you are seeing for the first time." To this the girl replied, "I think I better go", and she took off, almost running to get back to the safety of the camp! Aaron felt absolutely terrible! Why couldn't he have just made small talk?! But then he laughed, "Ha, a girl like that could never understand me anyway, so be it!" And back he went into the amazing world of notes and chords. It was only a year later that his realizations of the meanings of chords were put into song form in this silly yet clever folk song. Aaron called it "An Insane Tune", not because it was really insane, but because to the common person, like that girl, it would seem insane. In this song he gives the meaning of many of the common chords, ex. D Major is very active, and E major is very grand, A major, the most common key for rock music, is lively, and B major is even livelier. Though not mentioned in the song, Aaron believed that B major had sexual energy. He then thought about songs he knew that were about sex, and he realized that the Grateful Dead song, "Too Hot To Handle", was in the key of B! (We hear Aaron use the expression, "break wild" at the end of this song. That expression was very popular at French Woods, and we will hear more about it later.)
Song 2 - "Song Without Words", was recorded while still at Fredonia. The title is a reference to Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words", but this is a song with words about the process of songwriting, or more specifically, a lack of inspiration due to depression. It has a sophisticated opening guitar solo and words that are both sad and humorous at the same time. The bridge goes back to a sad variation on a D major melody that formed the basis of several other songs, such as "It Goes By", and "Keep On Movin' On". Aaron says he will be happy when that song is finally through, meaning that that part of his life will be behind him and that melody will no longer appear in his music. At the end of the song he says, "Fredonia" in a voice reminiscent of the way it was said in the Marx Brothers move, "Duck Soup", which takes place in the mythical kingdom of Fredonia. (The Marx Brothers must have spent time in Fredonia too, or perhaps just thought the name was funny, which it is!)
Song 3 - "Just Call Me Swearin' Aaron, Goddamn It", or, "I Don't Know Just What Will Happen", is a song in the folk tradition. It is about a musician who basically wasted his life away. Aaron felt in some ways that he had wasted his life away, having become serious about music too late to reach the top of the field, yet having allowed music to stop him from studying other things, like law or politics, where he could have had better prospects for a steady living. As usual, Aaron finds a funny way to express his deep, sad thoughts. The song ends positively, though, with the thought that even when life changes into something bad, "it can change again".
Song 4 - "I'm Fixin' To Remember The Words", is a song about Watergate, the criminal break in at the Watergate Hotel that was initiated by President Richard Nixon, that led to his downfall. This was the summer of 1973 and the nation was glued to television sets watching with bated breath as Nixon self destructed before them. The nation overall was happy to see him go, but Aaron was also sad that summer at what he perceived as the end of the Woodstock era, which to him was an era of peace and love and wonderful classic rock music. In this song he combines these two subjects saying, "Everybody's talking about a dream come true, but nobody remembers about the one that's through". The song begins with Aaron saving newspaper clippings about the historic resignation of Nixon to show to his grandson in the future. He then says, "And I'll tell him about the time our country got it's wish, but someone tell me now, where's Country Joe and the Fish?"
Country Joe and the Fish was a band that played at the famous Woodstock Music Festival and made a big splash with what came to be known as "The Fish Cheer", in which Country Joe led a half a million kids in a chorus of "Give me an F. Give me a U", etc., spelling F-U-C-K. Then Country Joe said, "What's that spell?" And the crowd screams "Fuck" over and over again. In this song, Aaron says, "Give me a water give me a gate, you know just what's that spell?" leaving you the listener to fill in the blank! Meaning that Watergate was fucked up! (Water + gate = fuck!) The musical interlude before that lyric is a quote from Country Joe's song, "I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" which was a bitingly satirical anti Viet Nam War song. The point of using that melody, again, reminds us that this song is at once a gloat at the defeat of Nixon and a cry at the ending of the sixties movement. Yet Aaron stays positive, saying, "Methinks the fun is over, but it's probably just begun".
In the final verse the lyric speaks about a "frozen jug band". This is an allusion to a story in the book, "The Kool Aid Acid Test," where Tom Clancy described a performance at an anti war rally in which tear gas was thrown at Country Joe and the Fish causing them to become petrified. They stood like a frozen jug band. Aaron compares that image to the end of the sixties. He says, "I guess the jug band's frozen and my song is almost through".
You would have thought that there would have been a million songs written about Nixon's resignation, but not one song came to the radio. Aaron's song is particulary interesting as it combines the happy event of the overthrow of Nixon with the sorrowful end of the idealism of the sixties. What a shame that he wasn't in a position to get the song on the radio back in 1973!
Song 4 - "One More Time", or, "The Summer's Over", uses a variation on that old D major melody again, to create a song about making it through the summer and looking forward to going home. It was recorded back at French Woods. It ends saying, "Thank God for seeing me through this time". Then you hear on the tape in a whisper, "You're welcome", as if God Himself was participating in this tape.
Song 5 - "Another I IV V". The title alludes to the basic rock chord progression that was behind most of Chuck Berry's songs and most other rock songs. This song, however, is not really just another I IV V, it is a song alluding to the problems that can arise from adulation of the Grateful Dead. The real meaning is hidden by a constant stream of metaphor. Aaron used this song form because Garcia had used it on his solo album which was popular that summer, in the Chuck Berry song, "Let It Rock".
The song begins, "Listen little boy before you grow old, there's a lesson to be learned and it will be told". The lesson is, "Before you pick it up better put it down, better leave it alone, turn yourself around. Or one day you will find yourself on the road, with your thumb sticking out carrying a load. A car picks you up, it's the devil's friend, and your driving along to a certain end, let's go!" The words warn kids about the excesses associated with groups like the Grateful Dead. If one is not careful he may end up hitch hiking away from home to join the sixties counter culture. The devil's friend is Garcia, an allusion to his song, "Friend of the Devil", and the certain end is the confusion that drugs will bring to a youngster's mind.
Now the song will be quoted with a running commentary (in parenthesis): "You're twisting and your turning though you're not in bed (you're at a Grateful Dead show) and the blood's rushing 'round right through your head. You're feeling easy like you might be led (high on drugs), there's a guy in the room wishes he was Dead (Jerry Garcia who is "Gratefully Dead"), next thing you know the rain is falling down (water is a liquid like LSD) and you're out on the street looking all around (in confusion), let's go!" "Blah, blah, blah, and etcetera, that's the smartest thing that I said so far (to someone who doesn't understand the sub text of this song it will sound meaningless), somebody may answer that and you can bet, it may lead to a discussion of an argument (high people can communicate in ways that may seem disjointed to straight people), you may want to believe it 'cause it might be true, but it might be wrong, so what can you do? (it might be true that people high on acid can communicate in ways that straight people can't perceive, but then again, even they might be misunderstanding each other), let's go!" As the song comes to an end, BZ walks out of the bunk and once again gets his raspy voice on the tape!
The season at French Woods was over and during a last lonely day Aaron makes a final speech about the summer and the end of his summer creativity. He breathes in signifying that the summer has been sucked away. Then, in a whisper, he repeats some of the famous expressions of the summer, including "breaking wild". Next comes the grand finale of the tape. Aaron assembled the remaining workers at the camp and told them the plan. Then they got BZ and told him that at the count of three they would all yell "breaking wild" so Aaron could add it to his by now famous tape. They counted 1, 2, 3, but everyone knew not to yell out except BZ! He starts to yell, only to realize that he has been set up by the Minsk! Out of pity, the guys all yell "breaking wild" afterwards, but BZ can be heard saying, "You son of a...". Said Aaron, "It may seem mean that I did this to him, but BZ, who was the head waiter, was a very overbearing boss. Of course he was only a high school student himself, and probably not mature enough to understand how negatively his 'management style' affected his peers, but that summer he acted like a drill sergeant rather than a friend. I felt happy to embarass him, as he had embarrassed us, and the fact that all the other guys joined in this adventure showed that the feeling was mutual among us." In the end of the tape I actually thank BZ for his participation! (His antics do, after all, provide some much needed comic relief to what is overall an introspective journey.) Funny thing is, I heard from BZ years later and am happy to report that he grew up into a fine adult, and now I feel bad that some of his behavior that summer was memorialized on tape. But this should serve as a warning to other bosses! You never know who is watching...and recording you (especially these days). Von Cello would later write more songs about mean employers on his CD "Von Cello Rules!". He has always been careful to respect his employees (when he has been the boss of various enterprises) and has always been vocal about his belief that people should not take advantage of positions of power to dominate or abuse others.
|My Songs vol. 4 side 1|
Song 1 - "So That's the Big Idea" (later called "That's What It's All About"), grabs you right away as this tape begins. The song is about a revelation that Aaron had on the long trip through the Adirondack Mountains on his way to Fredonia. The revelation was that what life is really all about is...LIFE. It's not about what you become, how much money or fame you end up with...it's about living, reproducing, growing in mind and body, facing death.
Song 2 - "A Little Jingle". Here is another version of the song we heard in the previous tape. Aaron takes the deepest possible thoughts about the life cycle and puts them to music using this little jingle that sounds like something you might hear on a television commerical. This was his brilliant way of using popular cultural conventions and imbuing them with philosophical depth. This is something he will do again and again in his future musical output.
Song 3 - "We Like To Write Songs", is a spoof on songwriters who are not schooled in composition or lyric writing. Aaron got the idea for this song when someone sent him a tape of songs to listen to from another songwriter. It starts with a chorus about how "we like to write songs". Then each section contains a bad cliche song fragment, the first is about being sad, the second is about how God should bring peace to the world, and the third is about love. The final verse, about the inside of a flower, is actually a good song fragment, meant to show what a Minsky song is like in comparison to the typical songs of others: not one more love or peace song, but an original idea with original music!
Song 4 - "But It Was All In My Mind", is a breezy jazzy tune, but the words are serious. Says Aaron, "They describe in poetic form how I came to quit playing the guitar in 11th grade. 'All the eyes and expressions filled me up'...somehow I got the feeling, from the way adults looked at me in my neighborhood, that, with my long hair and hippy ways, I was not a respectable person. I started to question my beliefs and even my desire to be a musician. I became like a mold filled with lead, the lead forcing my fingers to be stiff, making my guitar drop to the ground. In fact, I did quit playing music for several months. It was only then that I felt like I was lost at sea 'watching the last splinters of the sunken ship drift away'. I became painfully aware that I had abandoned the most important thing in my life! It was then that I went into a deep depression and realized that I just HAD to be a musician, come what may. I also realized that the negativity that I thought people were throwing at me was all in my mind!" It's amazing how people can psych themselves into and out of things. This song is unique in dealing with this important but overlooked issue.
Song 5 - "Ripples", is an instrumental on acoustic guitar. The working out of this theme and variations is another early example of Aaron starting to explore compositional techniques, combining popular styles with a classical sensibility. Then we hear Aaron, now in 12th grade, the last year of high school, talking about the improvisitory nature of the piece. We also hear him leaving finger picking ideas on the tape. Aaron is starting to look upon his pieces as compositions that may have future uses beyond just being pop songs.
Song 6 - "The Same Old Town", is recorded next, on the same day that the words were written. The words, which sound mysterious, are actually describing what it is like to see the world from an alternative reality. They say, "Listen and you will see"! The chords are sophisticated, almost classical, yet the rhythms are still in the rock tradition. Aaron is starting to develop his own original music, just as he planned; music that is neither popular or classical, but both at once. The ending is very unique.
Song 7 - "Finding Myself", is a very personal song about a true situation in Aaron's life. This will be a long post, but it will describe an important turning point in the life of Aaron Minsky.
At the age of 14 Aaron met someone at South Shore High School who was a couple of years older, in fact, exactly two years older to the day! That helped in making the two boys become fast friends. This older boy, whose name was Phil, had been abandoned by his parents and put into foster homes, yet he had run away, gone to California and experienced the 60's lifestyle of sex and drugs. Impressionable and inexperienced, Aaron looked up to Phil as a "cool" older guy who really knew "what was happening". Phil influenced the young Aaron in many ways. In fact, it was Phil who kept saying, "Don't play the guitar. Everyone plays the guitar. Do something different. Play your cello." Phil was not into the music on the radio. He was a jazz fan, the first jazz fan Aaron had ever met. Aaron and Phil starting jamming a lot and Phil turned Aaron on to many strange new artists, from Frank Zappa to Anthony Braxton, to Gunther Hampel. He opened him up to the idea that American popular music was not true art, but a commercial enterprise. Aaron became fascinated with this new avant garde world of music and thought, that Phil was showing him. He started going to late night jazz shows, attending poetry readings, and experiencing the activities that were associated with them. It was all very exciting but after a while proved too much for Aaron, and led to him having problems in school and with his friends who had not been so influenced. In fact, it led to him questioning his whole life, including being a musician. Phil went off to City As School (an alternative High School) and Aaron stayed in Canarsie. The following fall he followed Phil out of Canarsie and joined City As School.
One day he came into the school headquarters to find Phil jamming with another guitar player. Here, Aaron had quit music, due in large part to thoughts against pop music culture that Phil had taught him, and now here was Phil still playing his instrument, and even worse, playing with another guitarist! Aaron got very upset and ran out of the school. That was the beginning of Aaron's awareness that he couldn't bare to live his life and NOT be a musician.
Over the next few months Aaron and Phil had several conversations as Aaron tried to put his world back together. At one point he confessed to Phil that he was depressed, that the old Aaron seemed to have died, and he didn't know what he was going to do. Then Phil told Aaron that Jesus brought him to this low level so that he would accept him as his savior! This came as a total shock! Phil was Jewish and Aaron had never been proselytized to before. Phil explained that he was Jewish but had been abandoned by his Jewish parents, so he felt no love for their religion. On his trips out west he was taken in by born again Christians who showed him love and with their help he became a Jew for Jesus. Aaron didn't know what to say.
He went home and had nightmares all night, tossing and turning in agony. He kept thinking about what Phil had said: that only people who believed in Jesus would go to heaven and all others would to to hell. "How could God do that?", he wondered. He had said to Phil, "What about my parents and my grandparents? Even if I accept Jesus, they certainly won't. What going to happen to them?" Phil said, "Jesus said, 'I will turn father against son and son against father', you have to save yourself!" The words were chilling. Aaron imagined his loved ones screaming in pain, burning in hell for all eternity! He felt an anger in his heart that made it want to burst. He finally looked up at the dark sky above him and yelled out, "If that's the kind of god you are, I'd rather go to hell!" Suddenly he felt the fury of the generations of anti Semitism, of the Jews being insulted, persecuted, and tortured throughout history. He saw Hitler waving his arms, he saw concentration camp victims in charred piles of bone. He realized that Phil was saying that this is what God would do to his parents, his sisters, his friends! "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! This can't be God!", he screamed in his heart of hearts! Yet he wasn't familiar enough with Judaism to know how it responded to claims of a hellish destiny for Jews. Thus began a long period of intense religious study. Aaron wanted to know all the facts about Judaism and Christianity before he would consider accepting a religion that would confine his loved ones to eternal torture. (In fact, this event began a road that eventually led to Aaron writing his book "Beyond Faith": http://www.beyondfaithbyaaronminsky.com
This song starts with the story of a guy (Aaron) driving down the road, and picking up a hitchhiker (Phil). Then Phil tells his story in exchange for a ride. Phil's song speaks of a child abandoned by his mother but who finds solace in the Lord. It's the story of an outsider who "follows the wind". Yet, someone who still has a sense of humor about life. At the end of the song, the two boys have a beer together, symbolizing the reconciliation that Aaron felt towards his feelings about Phil, as he became stronger in his understanding about Judaism, and his realization that Phil, though misguided, was trying to do what he thought was right.
Years later, Phil visited Aaron in Manhattan when Aaron was 27 years old. The two jammed again, but this time Phil was surprised as Aaron, now a Manhattan School of Music graduate, played circles around him. Nevertheless, they got into some interesting jams. Sections of the jams formed the basis for Aaron's cello duet "Cosmic Jam (and Peanut Butter)". In another startling coincidence it turned out that they both had plans to go to Israel that summer. They somehow found each other in Eilat on a hot summer's day and spent hours talking. During those talks Aaron realized that Phil was just a child himself when they had first met, and he was able to forgive him for the pain he caused. In fact, Aaron saw Phil as an abandoned child who sought a belief in Jesus as a way to replace the father figure he never had. Rather than anger Aaron now felt pity. In Israel, Phil found confirmation of why he felt the Jews had lost the faith and that Jesus was the way. Aaron found confirmation that Judaism was a much more profound and logical religion than Christianity; that Christianity propelled it's growth through fear, and that Judaism maintained it's strength through education and open minded discourse. The two boys, now men, parted as friends, and Aaron never heard from Phil again. Yet Phil's influence changed the course of Aaron's life forever. (Aaron later found out the sad news that Phil died about ten years later.)
Song 8 - "Concerto?". For the first time we find evidence of Aaron's classical compositions. During this year, while he was still writing guitar songs, he was taking two cello lessons a week and immersing himself in classical music. (In fact, he would not listen to a note of popular music for the next three years! He even played the classical radio all night while he slept to get new sounds in his head and remove the sounds that were implanted there from years of commercial music radio listening.) The ideas on this tape were later used in a trio, but at this stage Aaron thought they would be used in a concerto. He thought it would be called "Rising Above", or just, "Above". It eventually became a trio and was called, "A Celebration of Man's Ability To Rise Above". Clearly, to Aaron, classical music, and the cello, were the vehicle he was using to rise above the problems of his teen years and this piece served as a theme song for his progress.
Song 9 - "Ripples". What started as an improvisation earlier on the tape now becomes a song. The words are about someone leaving a lover under the cover of night. The lover is left dreaming, "Dream on dreamer. Dream a dream this dreamy night. Dreaming, dreaming, of daylight".
Song 10 - the tape ends with another short message about the classical composition that Aaron was working on, showing how his goals were now shifting from rock musician/songwriter to classical musician/composer.
|My Songs vol. 4 side 2|
Song 1 - "A Celebration Of Man's Ablity To Rise Above", begins side two of this pivotal tape. Many of the ideas presented here were later used in the composition which became a trio for cello, guitar and flute. The first melody you hear is a fragment of the one that became Aaron's theme song. You will hear a longer version of it at the end. He used to end every cello practice session with it.
Song 2 - with an intense ringing, the song, "Time For Life" (also called, "Hurry Up"), begins. It is song about the pressure of time. Even at this young age Aaron was very aware of the "ticking of the clock" and how life seemed already to be slipping away. The song speaks of wanting to speed up life and get to the next stage and the next, until finally one wants to slow the clock down as old age approaches. It is another deep song about life, not commercial, not classical, but somewhere in between.
Song 3 - "All I Wonna Do", is Aaron's tribute to soul music. Starting with a funky G7#5b9 chord Aaron launches into his vocals reminiscent of the crooners of sixties and seventies soul. The words have a tongue in cheek quality demonstrating the cynical influence of Frank Zappa. In fact, Frank would probably have been proud if he could have heard this tape!
Song 4 - "Thank You For The Roses", seems like a simple love song, but it was actually a song that Aaron dedicated to his grandfather who passed away that year. Aaron was very close to his grandfather who was like a second father to him. Harry Tisman was a man who was always involved in projects around the house, from carpentry, to electric, to plumbing. He also used to tend the roses in the back yard of the two family home which Aaron's family shared with his grandparents, Harry and Rose. Using the word roses to also mean wisdom, Aaron thanks his grand dad for the roses. The roses contained the knowledge of the cycles of life.
Song 5 - "Shelley From Georgia", was written in Florida when Aaron was visiting his grandmother. Shelley was the pretty sister of one of his friends down there. Aaron had quite a crush on her, but felt awkward about asking out the sister of a friend, so he never did. But the song has a cool pop vibe in the style of the 70's, when it was written.
Song 6 - "CELTAR!", marks the moment when Aaron Garr Minsky became Von Cello! This was the first song in history written on a cello played like a guitar, with a pick, over the knee. For this "historic" recording, made just minutes after it's creation, Aaron assembled his younger sisters and their friends to play percussion. Yes, right there in his bedroom at 655 East 81st Street in Canarsie, Aaron invented the cello style which would launch him into musical history! It is also here where Aaron first coined the word "Celtar": a cello played like a guitar.
Song 7 - "Strange Powers", demonstrates the avant garde playing techniques that Aaron had mastered by then on guitar. One can hear how he strains the guitar to the edge of it's capabilities. It is a remarkably original jam that shows how the guitar just could not hold Aaron anymore, how he needed a bigger, more expressive instrument to get out his deep emotions. Unfortunately his sisters became angry at what they perceived as annoying noises coming out of his room and they started to yell at Aaron to stop. Feeling that he was exploring amazing new sounds in the world of music, Aaron became obstinant about playing his unusual music, finally deciding to use this as an opportunity to create the most annoying sounds he could imagine, while still being musical! This only got his sisters more upset. Finally Aaron's parents came home and his now terrorized sisters complained to his parents. Overhearing this, Aaron decided to play his cello really loud, driving his mother to burst into his room and tell him he was "crazy". Knowing that all of this was being captured on tape, Aaron persisted in playing again driving his mother to the brink of violence! (Despite this moment of anger, Aaron's family generally got along very well and were full of love for each other.)
Then with the sounds of a Wagner opera in the background, Aaron speaks about the "very strange powers" of music, and tells jokes. One is about how most musicians in America had become so commercialized that their music was no different than a meal at a fast food joint. "Hey, did you hear the one about the guitar player? He turned into a hamburger, french fries, and a coke!" The segment is as much an insult to pop music as it is irreverant to classical, using the high and mighty Wagner as a backdrop for a stand up routine! Aaron felt that all music should be looked upon in the same way. Classical music should be though of as familiar, and pop music should be judged for its artistic merit. The sounds of Wagner are rudely interupted by atonal music from Alban Berg and Anton Webern. This weird music had become the accepted modern classical music of the time and was now influencing Aaron into pursuing the type of strange melodies and expressions of anger and frustration that were just heard in "Srange Powers". (Don't you wish there were tapes of Beethoven's family yelling at him when he started to make some of his own "crazy" music!)
Song 8 - "The Second Movement", is a song about the second stage of life, the stage of marriage. Aaron compares this to a symphony's second movement. The song, though somewhat dated in its attitudes, speaks of the domestic bliss that Aaron always dreamed would one day be his. The song has since been updated and remains an interesting long form popular composition, with many interlocking sections. Keep in mind that Aaron is still in high school during the writing of this song! He wrote it in Florida while visiting his grandparents when he was 15. Unfortunately the tape runs out before the end of the song. Perhaps one day he will record the updated version, but it is still an important song fragment to hear in that it captures Aaron's domestic aspirations and shows his ability to write long form compositions at an early age.
Here are the updated lyrics:
Sunshine kisses me in the morning. Time to start a new day. So I kiss my wife and I say, "Honey, it's time to start a new day". And we rise. Oh, we rise.
After breakfast we talk, over coffee. No, I don't read the paper, in the morning. Then I fix my tie. A tear comes to her eye. And we kiss each other, goodbye. Then it's off to work. It's off to work.
Driving my car in the morning, on the street. Driving my car in the morning, keeping to the city's beat. When I get to work, I say hello to my secretary. I take care of business. I work right through the day. I think about my wife at home, all alone. So I find some time to call her, on the telephone. Just one more meeting to go to, my baby. Then I'm on my way, my sweet way home to you. Until that time, goodbye, and I miss you.
Well I had a hard day and I'm anxious to go home. I see my house and park out by the road. And when I open the door...she comes running, running to me. And she she says, "Darling it's good to see you again", and I say, "Honey, It's good to see you again".
Now the day is through. The sky is turning red. I kiss her on the head, and we just wait. We just wait for the night to fall.
Sitting still, listening, to the voices of birds. Hush, as they sing, about the night life in the nest.
Oh darling, I love you. I kiss you, and it's time to go to bed. It's time to go to bed.
(Reprise of opening melody.) I love you!
|Celtar! side 1|
1975 - The famous Celtar! tape begins with a somewhat tongue in cheek explanation of this new innovation by Von Cello. At this point he is calling his new innovation both "celtar" and "guicello" style. Later he would call it only "celtar". Downplaying his genius, he says, "Like most new innovations, it's basically a pretty simple idea...it's just that somebody has to think of it". And so, with those humble words, a new chapter in music history is launched!
Song 1 - "It's TIme To Start Again, Again", is the same song as "Celtar!", from the last tape, but here it has words. The words are about moving on in life. In fact, Aaron performed this song on the celtar at his CAS high school graduation. First he played a Vivaldi sonata, then he turned the cello over his knee and played this song. A parent said to his parents, "Anyone who has the guts to do that has got to make it!" But for Von Cello, he was just doing what came naturally! The song was later updated again, with words about the emergence of the cello in popular music. It can be heard on the , Von Cello Etudes, Duets, & Songs page on this site.
Song 2 - "Be A Friend Of Mine", is the second celtar song. It is an appeal to people to accept this new innovation as Von Cello indicates in a self deprecating speech, after the song. The song later became "Cello Etude #11" (unpublished), with more technical parts added. That in turn became a song, with updated words (never recorded).
Song 3 - "Common Sense", is a song about how innovations are just a matter of common sense. Once again Von Cello seeks to calm people down who may feel threatened by this new way to play the cello. Don't forget in those days the idea of strumming a cello like a guitar, was considered very radical and scary to cellists in the classical community. It represented a direction that they had never contemplated and a style they did not have the abliity to play.
Song 4 - "Sailing Down The River", was later changed into a cello etude and remains "Cello Etude #5" in Minsky's "Ten American Cello Etudes"! How surprised cellists would be to know that this beloved etude was first composed by a 16 year old cello strummer!
Song 5 - "The CAS Alma Mater", a guitar song, was written as a joke. Starting in the pompous way of a traditional alma mater it ends with a goof. It was never offered to CAS, but remained a private joke.
Song 6 - "A Drinking Song", is just what it says: a song that could be sung at a bar or a party where everyone was drunk and looking for a fun song to sing. Once again we see Aaron writing songs, not for commercial use, but just for the joy of composition. The words are clever. It's not a great song, but it's better than "99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall"! Perhaps the best part of the song is the dialogue that Aaron has with himself at the end.
Song 7 - "We Are Only Good Friends", is more main stream pop than most. The words leave something to be desired, but the song shows that Von Cello hadn't lost his pop melodic skills.
Song 8 - Continuing in the pop vein, Aaron compoosed what was his idea of a Paul McCartney song, calling it, "So Sad". Aaron later did a better arrangement of this song which had a melodic commercial pop sound.
We know that Aaron was 17 at the writing of this next song, because it says so in the lyrics. "The Transition", is a touching song about the transition from childhood to adulthood. See how he used a Beatles quote within this song that has many interesting sections and yet a drive that holds it all together. It is a song about Aaron's determination to come through his depression and grab fate by the throat. It is his awakening that success in life is "all up to me". He felt at the time that this song would stand as a postcard to the future about how difficult the teen years were for him, and a reminder, for when he became a father, that his own children will need extra help during those years.
This side of the tape ends with a song that Aaron heard one morning on the radio from, Barnacle Barney and the Ex Seaman's Institute. This type of whaling song would later influence Aaron, just as he was influenced by almost every other sound that came his way. Aaron was impressed by the way the song speaks of death in a unique way: "Tell me old shipmates, I'm taking a trip mates, and I'll see you someday on fiddler's green".
|Celtar! side 2|
Once again Aaron was taping the weird atonal sounds that were often heard on classical radio stations during the mid 70's. It's no wonder he would practice atonal improvisation and look for ways to expand music. While he was amazed at this music, he also was aware that it alienated the general public. He wasn't sure how to come to terms with it at this point in his life. For now, he was just amazed at how people could write such music!
Song 1 - "Whaling We Go!", is a whaling song, influenced by Barnacle Barney's song. Like that other song, this song seems to be a song about going to sea in ships to chase the great whites, but it is really a metaphor for life. Actually it is another song about the death of Aaron's grandfather. As the words say, "When the sun rises we hoist the sails up. When the sun sets we do fill up a cup. And then we drink to the ones that we love, far, far away". The ending is problematic, so Aaron, in a voice sounding like a wacky classical DJ, explains the difference between the two potential endings. As time went on, however, he came up with a new, more appropriate ending. This song stands as another song that Aaron wrote from the pure joy of composing without any concern for the commercial aspect of the music. Rather than putting his creativity into a tiny box that could be sold for mass consumption, he was searching for his own voice in the history of music.
Song 2 - "Cry For Me", is Aaron's first collaboration with another song writer. One of the few times he ever wrote with someone else. The singer of this song, Craig Weiss, was a friend of Aaron's from East 81st St. Aaron wrote the music, and Craig wrote the Dylanesque words about an experience he had while on a trip cross country. (Those were the days when it was not uncommon for teenagers to stick out their thumbs and hitch from New York to California and back!) After Craig's version, Aaron does his own version. Afterwards he does an extremely soulful solo expressing his loneliness at being single throughout much of that year. In fact, it wasn't until the spring that Aaron called up the valedictorian of South Shore High School, to see if she would accompany him on piano in the playing of cello sonatas. Not knowing about Aaron's transition from rock guitarist to cellist she at first thought he was joking. Much to his surprise this "book worm" of a girl turned out to have some passion. Their relationship was cut short, however, as Aaron left to go to college in Boston, but the two were to meet up again at Manhattan School of Music and stay friends throughout college. How strange that the wild young rock star of Canarsie would spend his later college years in the same college as the local high school valedictorian! But that was par for the course in the ever changing life of Von Cello!
"The Summer Storm", comes at the end of the Celtar! tape. It is the first solo cello work that Aaron Minsky composed, and marks a turning point in his musical life. Suddenly the rock guitarist becomes the classical cello composer, and it happens during his first year of cello lessons. The piece describes, musically, a summer storm and was recorded during just such a storm. You can hear the thunder outside of Aaron's bedroom in Canarsie. The music describes thunder and lightning, as well as rain drops. It remains unpublished, but one day it will surely be seen as the historic beginning of Minsky's classical solo cello works. The natural sound effects, as Aaron says were "supplied by God", after which God concurs with a loud thunder clap! It is as if He is giving His blessing to the birth of Von Cello!
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