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The Breaking The Sound Barriers CD Contest Results
By Aaron Minsky a.k.a. Von Cello
(more articles from this author)
2001-02-28
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The winners of the "Breaking The Sound Barriers CD Contest" have been chosen! They will be announced below! Von Cello will also respond to some of the comments culled from the entries not chosen. We are very pleased by the turnout. Over a thousand people hit the contest page and many people entered!

The contest was created in response to the fact that Von Cello's CD was entered in the Grammys in the Classical Crossover category and was moved by the classical committee into the Vocal Pop category. The contest worked as follows: contestants were supposed to listen to the CD and then write a comment as to whether or not they felt the CD should be classified as Classical Crossover or Vocal Pop. In other words, it was a chance for people to weigh in on the appropriateness of the classical committee's decision. To review how the comments were to be judged, here is a quote from the original announcement: "Comments will be judged on wit, insight, humor and creativity."

The Grand Prize is a free subscription to the Indiebiz website, a $100 value, and an autographed copy of Von Cello's CD "Breaking The Sound Barriers." The other prizes are an autographed copy of Von Cello's CD. There are five winners.

We also tallied up all the opinions expressed in the entries. The vote went as follows: 77% felt the CD was classical crossover, 23% felt it was vocal pop. And now...the winners!

The Grand Prize goes to David White. He was very clever in the way he tied his comments to a current event. His insight was apparent in his recognition that what was really at stake here was a person's dream. He also peppered his comments with humor.


Grand Prize : David White
Subject: No Choice
I'm fifty one years old now , no longer a beach boy type. I started playing the piano at the age of five, notice I said "playing" and not the "study" word. The truth of the matter is this - my piano teacher of long ago taught me to do one thing, love music! I've listened at one time or another to just about every type of music. I think I know what would be "Classical Crossover" verses "Britney Spearmint Gummy Bear Blues." Someone missed the boat here. I think I know the type. "We have to meet a dateline and I think I'll put this here." That is about as logical as a submarine captain in the United States Navy sinking a ship full of high school students, without a torpedo, in the worlds largest ocean! We live in wonderful times. DNA, NASA, NRA, and BS. "Voncello" was robbed of the chance to compete! Someone goofed here and probably elsewhere too. I don't pretend to be an expert, but this one is not stupid. This one can recognize stupid. Stupid is what happens when someone abandons thought. Stupid sometimes takes lives, sometimes an arm or leg or even an eye. Sometimes stupid is called an "accident." When stupid takes away someone's dreams, it is no accident- it is just plain STUPIDITY!

Winner: Maggie Council DiPietra
Subject: *Classic* classical crossover
There is no music outside Von Cello's sphere of influence; he effectively deconstructs musical genres with his work, reconstructing in unique, but still recognizably classical ways.

Someday the NARAS people might have to deal with expanding their categorization concepts to be more inclusive. It's not like the guy took a sample of the LSO (London Symphony Orchestra) and laid a rap on it! There is no question in my mind that the CD is Classical Crossover; although Von Cello could go for a Pop Vocal award if he wanted to, his album is much more than that, and should stay where the *artist* entered it. I hope it makes him smile, too, the thought of the classical committee acting all afraid of his music...

Winner: Paula Bright
I have long been a fan of Von Cello's classical work, as well as his newer "crossover" material. Are these Grammy "classical committee" members aware that he has numerous serious music books published by Oxford press? Are they aware that he spent years studying with some of the finest classical cello teachers in the world? Are they aware that he has performed with some of the top orchestras in several continents?

For a cellist of his caliber who has "created" these new sounds, songs, and style -- to be denied the label "classical crossover" is not just an injustice--it is an outright joke and insult!

If this is the way in which artists achieving the so-very-coveted place in the Grammies are treated, then I'm not so sure it is something that we in the music world should aim and work for with the dedication we do.

What are these people THINKING? Surely they are joking? I'm stunned, and to tell you the truth, outraged. Well, I'm beginning to grind my teeth in frustration, so I'll end this missive before I start asking for names and addresses!

Winner: Tamika English
My name is Tamika English, and I've been recording for 11 years now, Choir was nominated for a Grammy this year. And I know my music!!!!!! and I thank it should be a classical crossover !!!!! And whoever said it shouldn't needs to get out of the industry... "WHY?" Because they don't know good classical music at all !!!!!! And I'll be glad to tell them !!!!! I love music and know good music......let me win this please!!!!!! Because I would love to meet that person to tell them to CLEAN THEIR EARS !!!!!!!

Winner: J.J. Hagger
Subject: To be or not to be. that is the competition!
We sit in judgment all the time about what something should or should not be, is it modern rock or classic rock, can a new Robert Plant song be modern rock by a classic rock artist?

We get tangled up in genres & the inability to recognize a musical piece for just that, we now have moved into so many sub-genres because we still have to have that little box to put something into when we live in an age where the public doesn't do that anymore. Rockers like Rap & Rappers like Rock, on the streets it's 4-Real, yet all those nice marketing personnel will tell you it ain't so.

When you think of classical music I'm sure that we all have thought about a bunch of old farts playing to a crowd that just shakes it's jewelry instead of clapping, John Lennon was right. But when you look at the bigger picture you could call Nigel Kennedy or Charlotte Church pop music, yet they are classical artists that cross over into all sorts of areas & influence.

Look at Steve Vai. Is he a metal artist, not if you talk to Korn fans. Is he a classical guitarist, well the "Beethoven Brigade" certainly would view what he does with distaste. Yet if we could really get "Bill & Ted" to go back in time with a synth & a guitar then we can all imagine what Ludwig would come out with.

There is the problem, old stuck in their ways people with nice cars & nice houses & a history of what is right or wrong. I feel after listening to the Von Cello music that all sides have a valuable point, yet they should make the decision based on the music on the shiny disc & not what they feel they should do. Ten reviewers from ten genres would give the album ten very different reviews, This does not mean they are all right or all wrong, it's just an opinion & like a***holes, we all have them but some are more full of s**t than others.

You can set your watch by what will win certain genres of music because of the blinkers on the higher level at most companies. Free your mind & the rest will follow. If only the music industry took that on board.


Thus ends the entries of the winners. Now Von Cello will respond to sections of some of the entries not chosen. Some are positive and others negative. The reason they weren't chosen was that the entries above were judged to have fit the criteria more closely.

Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin wrote: The CD is really neither.

Von Cello responds: I can see your point. I wanted this CD to walk that fine line between the genres of classical and rock. In fact, I wanted to create a new type of music. I'm glad that you picked up on that.

Victoria Boland wrote: Love the flavor you've given the classics! It's today!

Von Cello responds: I'm happy that you said it's "today." I do feel that I have entered new territory. Perhaps it is too new for certain people to understand.

Marc Wagnon wrote: After listening to a few tracks I am convinced that this is not a cross over album, but a provocative publicity stunt. Von Cello should be congratulated for the latter.

Von Cello responds: I don't know if I should say thank you. The fact that you only listened to a few tracks makes me wonder what you might have thought had you listened to the whole thing. This CD is like those wonderful "concept albums" from the classic rock era. It tells the story of a cellist "crossing over" from classical to rock. Every song is either an arrangement of a classical piece, has lyrics about a crossover cellist, or has references to classical music. Yes I do want publicity, but this is not a stunt. Bringing the cello into popular music is my life's work!

Nicola Cosmo Salerno wrote: I think that "Breaking The Sound Barriers" is simply a very bad trial to make innovative music. My opinion is that if a classical musician is trying to do something else....well...usually he's not able to do anything interesting simply because rock/pop is not his background. The result is really pathetic. I've been listening to some pieces and I found them simply ...old and anachronistic! For example, does the composer know that the kind of use of violin cello with distortion is something already done, for example, in avant-garde improvised music during the 70s? Bad taste dominates the whole work, lack of ideas is the must of this album. The sublime kitsch on the "Air on the 4th String" by Bach is unreachable!!!!

Von Cello responds: Wow! If only you had a sense of humor you might have won an autographed CD! (I'm sure you're upset.) I noticed that you think I am a classical musician trying to sound like a rock musician! That's excellent! You provide living proof as to just how successful I have been at becoming accepted as a classical cellist. This is quite an achievement considering that I grew up as a rock guitarist!

You ask if I know that cellists were using distortion in the 70's. Of course I do, I was one of them! But even if I were the young upstart that you imagined me to be, what's wrong with using distortion? What you're saying is something like, "Does the cellist know that vibrato was first used in the 1670's? How anachronistic to still use vibrato today." Just because someone used a certain sound at a certain time, does not preclude it from ever being valid in the future. After all, guitarists are still using distortion. Do you have a problem with that too?

You commented that this CD has a lack of ideas. A cellist playing everything from Bach to rap to folk to rock to Americana to new age...you don't find any ideas? How about basing a folk rock tune on a Schubert lieder, or using whole tone melodies mixed with industrial percussive sounds to describe feelings of alienation caused by the internet, or writing a pop tune in the style of a Bach cantata, or making the cello sound like a train, or like Hendrix and then combining that sound with hip hop drum loops in a rap about an angry cellist forced to rap for a living due to the fact that our culture gives more support to rap than to classical music? This is the only album that I know where a musician actually describes his journey from classical music to popular music. It's a classical crossover CD about CROSSING OVER! No ideas? If there's one thing this CD has, it's ideas!

I'm glad that you found my "Bach To The Future" sublime. I find it beautiful and moving myself. Your kitsch comment reminds me of a comment I heard from a writer who said that fall foliage was nature's kitsch. Funny...I always thought it was nature's artistry. One man's art is another's kitsch. In any case, the best art always provokes a reaction. By the way, you never did answer the question. You were supposed to have written about whether my CD is classical crossover or vocal pop. Oh well...I guess you were just too busy reacting!

John Pomplin wrote: Yep that's it, classical crossover. You are right, you got screwed by NARAS on that one. Consider this my vote (and entry).

Von Cello responds: If the prize were based on getting quickly to the point you would have won! Your handful of words speaks volumes!

I'm thankful to all of the contestants for their entries. Whether your comments were pro or con, I am grateful for the time you spent listening to, and thinking about, my music!


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