New music for a guy who likes the cello
May 16, 2007 6:45 AM   Subscribe

I really like string music like Appalachian Journey and Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Please help me find some more.

What I think I like is the not-so-serious in this music. I mean, I like Arvo Part and Gorecki and all those depressing Estonians some of the time, but there's a healthy part of the time that I want to hear something that isn't contemplating The Awful Emptiness of Death.

Yes, Yo-Yo Ma has some nice stuff, like The Souuld of the Tango and the other joint endeavor between Ma, Meyer, and O'Connor. And I've got Meyer's slightly-less-excellent Short Trip Home. But now I'm looking for something new. I've been in love with PCO for a while, and I've always enjoyed cello music. Where do I go next?
posted by terceiro to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You should check out Arthur Russell. He was a really talented cellist who made some of the most unique and beautiful music i've ever heard. His sounds range from delicate ambiance to disco (yeah, I couldn't believe it either. Aside from being an amazing cellist, he was also somewhat of a pioneer in the emerging hip-hop and electronic scenes. iTunes has a bunch of his stuff if you want to check it out before you buy. I recommend starting with Another Thought.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 7:26 AM on May 16, 2007

I liked Uncommon Ritual more than Appalachian Journey, maybe because I'm a fan of banjo and Bela Fleck is amazing. YMMV.
posted by junkbox at 7:37 AM on May 16, 2007

Just beat me on Uncommon Ritual, so 2nding.
posted by MtDewd at 7:39 AM on May 16, 2007

This Bill Frisell record is very beautiful. It's a string quartet: guitar, cello, violin, viola.

If you like Appalachian Journey, and you don't already "go there" in your musical tastes, you should check out some of the higher quality instrumental bluegrass out there. No cellos, but gorgeous, joyful virtuosic playing. Three quick starters:

Bela Fleck's Bluegrass Sessions
Chris Thile's Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Aubrey Haynie's Bluegrass Fiddle Album.

And this isn't bluegrass or cello, but it's interesting stuff nonetheless:

Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer's Music for Two.
posted by kosem at 7:46 AM on May 16, 2007

I mean this Bill Frisell record, Richter 858.
posted by kosem at 7:49 AM on May 16, 2007

Kronos Quartet leaps to mind. I'm not a big fan, actually, but Pieces of Africa was distinctly different from the rest of their oeuvre, and I was addicted to it for quite a while.
posted by bricoleur at 7:55 AM on May 16, 2007

Second the recommendation for the Kronos Quartet. I love the string quartets by Philip Glass that the Kronos played. I think the CD is titled "The Kronos Quartet plays Philip Glass" or something equally straightforward.
posted by cotterpin at 7:59 AM on May 16, 2007

Try Balanescu Quartet, best known for Possessed, their album of Kraftwerk covers.
posted by carrienation at 8:12 AM on May 16, 2007

Is the cello mandatory? It sounds like you'd get a big kick out of the Tin Hat Trio, who play clever, classical- and folk-influenced jazz with a definite sense of humor. I don't recall hearing any cello on their albums, but there's prominent — and very good — violin.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2007

The Creaking tree String Quartet
posted by Artful Codger at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2007

Response by poster: I'd mark you all best answer if I didn't think it would kinda miss the point. But do know that I love you all.

For the record, cello isn't mandatory, but seemed like a common thread. I'm happy to give Tin Hat Trio a shot.

I do have Pieces of Africa as well as some other Kronos stuff, but they tend to get a little stuffy, if you know what I mean. And don't get me started with Phil Glasssszzzzzzz (Oh, sorry. I guess I fell asleep there, because most of his stuff is dang boring. And anyone who feels like mentioning Brian Eno will become invisible to me. While I have no basis for my antipathy, I have disliked everything the man has ever produced.)

Question I should have asked before: is there a terminology to describe this music? It's not "classical" though it does (typically) involved acoustic, traditional string instruments. While bluegrass sometimes creeps in, Penguin Cafe Orchestra sure ain't bluegrass. And whatever it is, it's not "new age." There's nothing more self-serious and pretentious as new age music.

Point being: your suggestions are wonderful and welcomed. Thanks and keep 'em coming.
posted by terceiro at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2007

nth Uncommon Ritual. one of my all-time favorite albums.
posted by Soulbee at 12:27 PM on May 16, 2007

Sufjan Stevens
posted by popcassady at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2007

Mark O'Connor's fiddle concerto is a lovely piece, especially for a drive or a bike ride in fall, when the leaves are coming down all around you.

Samuel Barber's violin concerto (preferred recording: Hilary Hahn, since you get a bonus Edgar Meyer work on that album) is similarly good.

Fritz Kreisler's violin compositions are quite nice, and many have that same "light" feel of music reveling in itself instead of in its composer's seriousness.

As for cello-specific work, the Dvořák cello concerto is one of my all-time favorites, though maybe a bit heavier than what you're looking for; Yo-yo Ma did an OK recording of it a couple years ago, but the classic for me will always be Mstislav Rostropovich with the Berlin Philharmonic.
posted by ubernostrum at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you like the bluegrass, you've got to hear Crooked Still - they play bluegrassy/old-timey/Americana sort of stuff, but instead of a fiddle player, they have a cellist who pretends his cello is a fiddle. As you'll see from his website, he's in some other bands and is a not-so-serious guy (<- understatement of the year).
posted by clavicle at 2:49 PM on May 16, 2007

I am also addicted to PCO, and have as yet to find anything really similar, or as unique and infectious -- Simon Jeffes truly had a genius.

The friend who introduced me ages ago to the Penguin Cafe also liked Larry Coryell & Philip Catherine's "Twin-House", which is enjoyable and might be worth a listen.

The days that I listen to PCO often find me listening to a fair bit of African music (Ethiopian and South African mostly) as well. Might be one direction to go in until Jeffes is reborn.

and I am grateful for this question, and will be checking into other recommendations here.
posted by vers at 3:15 PM on May 16, 2007

Along the same lines as the "String Quartet Tribute To..." albums but a bit deeper are two suggestions: the music of Instrumental, a string sextet doing covers of various electronic music, and Alarm Will Sound's Acoustica, the music of Aphex Twin. Steve Reich is also worth checking out, particularly Music for 18 Musicians.
posted by modofo at 3:44 PM on May 16, 2007

This may be too cheesy, but I have a soft spot for the jazzy stylings of the Turtle Island String Quartet.

Stephane Grappelli played jazz violin so he has that whole jazzy strings going on as well (but much different from Turtle Island). Once again, this may be too cheesy for you, but I find the duets of standards he recorded with Yehudi Menuhin to be quite fun. Grappelli lived to a ripe old age, so there are shitloads of recordings of his to choose from.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:49 PM on May 16, 2007

Gideon Freudman! Start with Hologram Crackers; Adobe Dog House is also good too (but it has a few vocal tracks, which I don't prefer). It's all one guy with a cello, too.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:17 PM on May 16, 2007

ObDisclaim: I Work for SonyBMG (who put out the appalachia/uncommon/etc)

Edgar Meyer had an interesting solo record we put out last year that got ignored...he plays something like 20 instruments on it.

Also you might try the Yo-Yo/Bobby McFerrin project "Hush", though i recommend listening to it online before purchase.
posted by softlord at 5:17 AM on May 17, 2007

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