I think it is very easy for people to box the cello in. After playing the instrument for three years now, I’ve notice that people have a tendency to keep cellos out of all the fun.
There is something very serious and almost stern about cellos that makes people afraid to play anything on them but Beethoven and Bach. With the violin and the viola one can imagine gypsies or fiddlers casually bowing a tune while others dance around them, but no one seems to be able to conjure up an image of a cello without tailcoats and long black skirts and beautiful notes that you hold for half an hour. I don’t mean to say that people don’t like the cello, but they have made it out to be the nerd of the orchestra, which I don’t think is very fair. Even upright basses, with their comical size, have achieved their own coolness thanks to jazz.
Part of this has to do with the awkward size and playing position of the cello. It’s pretty impossible to play a cello casually. It is not something an interloper can simply add to his pack as he travels from town to town. Playing the cello takes organization, you must have a chair and a rock stop and you must set your endpin to the correct length and you must dress in appropriate clothing, and all this high maintenance tends to keep the cello out of all the fun: the flashmobs, the jazz clubs, the folk music. All the other orchestra instruments are off in their cool genres, while the cello stays home and practices his Phrygian arpeggios.
Fortunately popular music has called up the cello up to see if he wants to hang out. Cellos have not only made it to the hipster Americana party, but also the heavy metal scene. Apocalyptica, a classically trained Finnish cello quartet, started off as a Metallica cello cover band but expanded to performing original music in the neoclassical metal genre. One of our favorite bands, the Hillary Reynolds Band, features a cellist, Trevor Jarvis, who also sings back up. Yo-Yo Ma plays folk music from all across Eurasia in his Silk Road Orchestra. As a cellist myself (though nowhere near the level of those professionals), I get really excited to see people take the cello in so many different directions. Cellists have probably gotten pretty sick of black ties and cummerbunds, and have probably just been looking for an excuse to wear a more casual wardrobe.
So, with apologies to Meghan Trainor, I have to see it’s no longer all about that bass, ’bout that bass. It’s about the cello.
Here are a couple examples of some awesome cellos. Check them out. You’ll see what I mean.
Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Orchestra
The Hillary Reynolds Band