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Twilight of the Cello,
Midnight of the Celli

Sure, your left kidney and right lung are up for sale on Craig's List so that you can afford for your child to attend one of those touchy-feely, hippie-dippy, artsy-fartsy schools because — doggonit! — any educational setting that doesn't include the arts, especially a progressive music program, just isn't going to be able to address the "whole-child needs" your whole child needs.

This isn't just some passing musical bee that has flown into your parental bonnet. Your child having music as a part of their educational environment is a conclusion drawn from endless reviewing of educational journals, cutting edge neuropsychological clinical studies, and what some guy on NPR said.

But, it's paying off, right? After weeks and weeks of musical exploration, how proud you were when your dearest progeny came to you with her announcement:

"Daddy, I'm learning to play the cello!"

Cellos: Our calm, Staid, Melodic Friends

The cello! Yes! A properly refined musical instrument, but not one of those (and c'mon, you thought this, don't try to pretend otherwise) "wimpy" things like clarinet, violin, or (and here, you shudder at your own musical experimenting from days past) saxophone.

Aw, the cello, an instrument of certain size but not too big that you actually have to trade in your Prius for a mini-van. A device of mellow sounds and elegant heritage. Oh, how the whole of your being swelled with parental pride the first time she came home from cello practice, the fingers of her left hand still red from decisively, yet nimbly working the strings, her right wrist smarting from lightly, yet strongly holding the bow, and her clothing carrying a slight tell-tale patina of bow resin!

And all was right with the progressive education musical world. For a while.

Then one day you noticed . . . subtle changes in her demeanor. Carrying her cello in from the car, you notice: was she . . . slouching while simultaneously walking with a determined swagger? When she listened to her cello music on the drive to school, did she opt for listening to it on her MP3 player instead of having you play it on the car stereo? You investigate:

"What'cha listenin' too, Muffin?"

Labored sigh, nearly inaudible: ". . . Music."

"What kinda music, sweetums?"

Slight pause, eyes definitely rolled toward the heavens, teeth clenched: "MUSIC, OK? Cello music, duh! What's with the inquisition symphony alla the sudden? Geez!"

Then that one, fateful, afternoon, as you are carrying her backpack into the house after cello practice, a CD falls out; homemade, clearly a bootleg. Scrawled on the disk in slightly smeared Sharpie is:


Hunh? A chill runs down your spine. This is certainly not like her other, so-well maintained CDs of Yoyo Ma and Lorne Munroe. This . . . is . . . somehow . . . disquietingly . . . different. You quickly stuff it back in her bag, deliver it all to her room and, when the coast is clear, head to the computer to do a little Google-ing: "apocalyptica." As the miracle that is a Google search quickly grinds through some 4,500,000 Web sites, you attempt to allay your disquiet. "Just some new type of educational method," you tell yourself during that 0.32 second that Google was doing it's search. "Yeah, that's it! And to think I was . . . worried . . ."

Worried, indeed, for this is what you see . . .

Apocalyptica: Not Quite The String Quartet You Had In Mind . . .

"Apocalyptica . . . A band famous for playing Metallica with four cellos." WT-progressive musical education-F? Wholly cats! It's a rock band. No, not rock . . . Heavy Metal!

Yes, musically confused parent, irony of ironies: in your attempt to erect a progressive musical education firewall around your dear darling child, doing so has put them in the position of becoming not only exposed to, but an active devote of, heavy metal poisoning. And not the sort of metal that most people such as yourself know and avoid, but Symphonic Progressive Heavy Metal, a devious deviation of a quintessentially deviant sub-set of rock. Sliding downward to an 8th level of musical hell on the strings of her cello, she has sold her ever-lovin' four-stringed soul to . . .

Cello Metal!

Oh My Goth
Typical Cello Metal maniac? Oh, my Goth! . . .

Who is to blame for this outrage? Certainly neither you nor your lofty musical goals. One possibility is genetic damage due to rosin poisoning (work with me here, there is always the possibility of a class action suit that will help put Craig's List behind you). Others include secret latter day MK Ultra-esque government experiments, global warming, and (as always) the actions of alien seed pods.

All conspiracy theorist foo-foo-rah, of course. The roots of cello rock can be traced to the 1971 efforts of screenwriter Stanley R. Greenberg who's mighty work for Skyjacked ("jacked" is right) includes the character of "Gary Brown" as portrayed by Roosevelt "Just 'Cuz People Call Me 'Rosey,' I'm An Actor, And I Dig Doing Needlepoint Don't Mean I'm Not Now And Have Forever Been, A Bad-Ass's Bad-Ass" Grier. Gary Brown, we learn is not just a cellist . . . but the first (so far as you know) jazz cellist ever portrayed on screen. Pop-culturally speaking, the fall of Western Civilization was begun in earnest.

In his defense, a few years later, Mr. Greenberg would script more actors being paid to flip-off the American public than the finale of "The Sopranos." But I digress . . .

Dear disillusioned parent, it's true, your budding Met soloist has begun her run far a field from the lovely tea garden music you had envisioned as being what plays softly through her head moments for she sleeps, a gentle fancy on an air by Bach, perhaps, or the theme from "BJ and the Bear" in four-part harmony for cello, viola, ukulele, and ocarina (could be true). But, in these days of modern times, when so much of our cultures — pop and otherwise — are so commercially niche-ified, perhaps this detour isn't such a bad thing and will not but inform a yet-deeper appreciation of her chosen instrument and the possibilities it holds. Besides, it's probably just a passing fancy, and nothing (much) about which to be concerned, assuming uh . . . permanent dedications to this time of folly can be avoided.

Here is a selection of instrumental works by the apocryphal gents of Apocalyptica to help you to understand as best you can. "Instrumental," yes, but listening closely you may hear a bit of heavy metal growling. Yes, cello metal bands do perform music with what passes as lyrics. Quite the mixed bag: along with the odd (definitely) bit of posture grunting, the Apocalyptic play list features songs with lyrics, most of which are actually sung in a fashion not intended as love calls to heart-broken Sasquatch emo grrls. These vocal stylings tend to be more of the overly-earnest, "liberal arts college radio" rock type. You can thank me later for these omissions.

Lyrically speaking, it's probably a good thing that your child wandered into the alt/metal waste/wonderlands via the cello. Had she been a singer with operatic aspirations, she might well have gone the more symphonic route with the likes of Epica and Nightwish, groups fronted (in so many ways) by operatically-inclined singers vocalizing and dressing in "Sarah Brightman At the Ren Fair" fashions, backed by loud choruses of (ironic?) guttural metal death rants.

Now, sit back, relax, and try to see it from her point of view. To quote heavy metal documentarian Marty DiBergi, "But hey, enough of my yakkin'; whaddaya say? Let's boogie!"

Let's indeed:



ApocalypticaFor Whom the Bell Tolls

ApocalypticaMaster of Puppets




ApocalypticaToreador II

ApocalypticaSanitarium (Welcome Home)


ApocalypticaFade to Black

ApocalypticaNo Education


ApocalypticaHall of the Mountain King

End Note #1: OK, you've done your duty and listened to as much of this . . . music as you can, and congratulations for your dedication! This presentation is intended to make you a better, more frightened, progressive parent. But before you race madly for your iPod to again fill your head with the sensible sounds of Jim Brickman and The Ink Spots, consider this: if, by chance, you are a male of the generation who might had eaten his junior high school P, B & J's from a "BJ and The Bear" lunch box, and had it been available to you then, the music above is EXACTLY what you would have put on the stereo hi-fi set as atmosphere music for your Friday night Dungeons & Dragons get together, especially if you had worked up the nerve to invite actual, living girls and had any even vaguely realistic hopes that they might actually show up.

End Note #2: I've noticed that Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" gets covered a fair amount by the Symphonic Metal crowd making it the Sym/Prog "Peter Gunn Theme" equivalent. Or something like that.

Apocalyptica, "Path"

and Judgment Day
and Rasputina (oh, my!)

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