Eugene Friesen Music
In Concert

Eugene Friesen Music


Eugene Friesen Music

Created by Eugene Friesen and Rob Faust


About the Performance
CeLLo MaN is a solo performance by cellist Eugene Friesen. As cellist with the Paul Winter Consort, Eugene has performed all over the world and sought inspiration for new music in the depths of the Grand Canyon, in Siberia, eye-to-eye with whales and in great cathedrals, concert halls and natural places. Some curriculum tie-ins CeLLo MaN provides include:

  • music
  • history
  • geography
  • social studies
  • ecology
  • politics
  • Here is some additional information about specific topics that CeLLo MaN covers:

    About The Cello
    The cello is a member of the string "family." Other members of this family, the violin, viola and double bass, all share the same evolution from ancient plucked instruments, like the harp and the lute. Other "ancestors" of modern string instruments are viola da gambas, string instruments with a soft, earthy tone that are rested on the players' legs (gamba is an Italian word meaning leg). The best string instruments are made primarily by hand as they have been for centuries. The wood commonly used is pine or spruce for the top face of the instrument, maple for the sides and back, and ebony for the fingerboard. Bows are traditionally made from pernambuco wood from the rainforests of South America. Though the shape of modern string instruments is excellent for its acoustical properties, the shape was originally chosen to honor the female form, revered for its life-giving abilities.

    About Improvisation
    Though Eugene Friesen was taught to play the cello by learning traditional classical music - music written down by composers throughout history - he also enjoys making up his own music, or improvising. Improvising has a history as long as music itself, and it has only been in the past 150 years that classically trained musicians in our culture have not been encouraged to develop this skill. Before that time, musicians were able to look at a rough sketch of a musical idea, and improvise melodies and harmonies as modern jazz musicians do today.

    The style of improvising Eugene Friesen is especially known for is "free" improvising: starting to play with no plan or discussion, and following the flow of music as his feelings and senses dictate.

    In other countries of our world, improvising is much more common. The guidelines vary widely from place to place for how much a musician improvises his part in a group, or ensemble. Some time the performing musician has only a few small decisions to make when playing his part. At other times, as when she has a solo (that is, featured prominently in a given section), she may be given complete freedom to express herself. In most world musics there are times when musicians play a part which they have learned exactly and play basically the same each time, and there are times when the musicians are allowed to improvise -- to make up their part while listening to the other players and responding to the musical needs of the piece they're performing.

    About Bartok
    Bela Bartok (1881-1945) was born and raised in Hungary. His boyhood was filled with the distinctive instruments, melodies, harmonies and rhythms of Hungarian folk music. Another important influence on Bartok was gypsy music with its passion and sense of abandon. As a young musician, Bartok would often jot down on music paper the tunes he would hear in various Hungarian villages he visited. These melodies, and the spirit of these melodies, give his compositions a distinctive folk-like quality.

    About Whales
    Man has hunted whales for centuries. Among the oldest species on earth, over fifteen million years old, the numbers of whales in the world have dwindled shockingly in the last fifty years. As the result of loud international outcries to the mass destruction of whales by huge whaling ships, whale watching is now a bigger industry than whale killing. Still, the fate of these large, intelligent mammals lies in the hands of the human community.

    The recording of a humpback whale used in Eugene Friesen's performance was made by underwater microphones (hydrophones) in warm waters near Bermuda.

    About The Blues
    Without a doubt, the blues is America's most well-known musical language and export. A unique musical blend of Africa, the Caribbean and America, the blues was born in plantations throughout the South and developed in New Orleans, Louisiana by slaves and the sons and daughters of ex-slaves. With its supple rhythms, and distinctive harmonic framework, the blues were the perfect medium for expressing the suffering and injustice that its creators endured. The blues have given birth to many other new forms as well including jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues and rock and roll.

    About Pablo Casals
    One of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Pablo Casals came from very humble beginnings. Casals was born in an area of northeastern Spain called Catalonia, and his first cello was a rough toy-like instrument his father made for him. Casals never forgot the village he grew up in, and even as a world-famous musician he retained the values that formed him: simplicity, humility, honesty, a love for people and animals and a reverence for nature. When Casals witnessed the sufferings of his fellow Catalonians under the dictatorship of Franco, he vowed never to return to his home in Spain while Franco was in power. As a consequence of his convictions, he lived most of his adult life in exile, and spent much of his energy on behalf of those who suffered as a result of war and political oppression.

    As a cellist, Pablo Casals discovered ways of playing the cello, which he taught to many generations of young cellists. Because of the physical ease with which he played, Casals increased the soloistic potential of the cello tremendously. At the same time, his abilities to play a piece of music simply and from the heart, cast new light on musical performance in our time. Casals died in 1973 at the age of 97.

    About Masks
    Like music, masks are used widely and differently in many, many cultures. For example, in Bali tiger hunters wear a mask on the back of the head since tigers never attack from the front. As a device for theater, masks evolved from religious practices of ancient Greece. The first masks were used to impersonate gods and were made primarily of animal skins. As these ceremonies became more theatrical, the masks became more elaborate.

    One advantage of using masks in a performance is that they can be seen from a distance because they are often larger than the human head. To use a mask, an actor must be well trained; the actions must be large and clear and must match the character of the mask. The overall effect is transformational and unique among the theater arts.

    All the masks in CeLLo MaN are made by Robert Faust, the founder of Faustwork Mask Theater. The masks are made in a variety of media: leather, elastic and rubber.


    1. Discuss the unique creative quality of the performance. How was it different from other concerts? Other theatrical events?

    2. What kinds of feeling were created by the performance? Which parts elicited joy? Sadness? Was there anything frightening?

    3. What message was Eugene trying to convey by having various animals play the cello?

    4. Why would a musician be interested in whales? What do we have in common with whales? What kind of pollution would be harmful to whales? Would noise pollution be harmful?

    5. What unusual body movements or manipulations did you see in the show that deceived the eyes and perceptions of the audience?

    6. One of CeLLo MaN's themes is transformation. What are some examples of transformation that you've experienced?

    7. Why is rhythm considered to be the most basic musical element?

    8. With so much music already written, why would a musician want to make up even more? Why do some composers let the players improvise some sections of the music?

    9. How would you describe the difference between improvising and composing?

    Writing letters to CeLLo MaN often elicits thoughtful responses from students. Also, your ideas and impressions help us in our program planning. We enjoy receiving letters and artwork generated by the presentation seen by so many varied audiences. Suggestions, likes and dislikes are welcome from young people and adults alike. Send all correspondence to:

    CeLLo MaN
    c/o Class Acts On Tour
    PO BOX 653 Hampstead, MD 21074

    Please invite parents, neighboring school representatives and members of local print, radio and TV media to attend your CeLLo MaN performance. Publicity and community involvement makes you look good and helps us with future bookings.

    "We should say to each of [our children]:
    Do you know what you are?
    You are a marvel. You are unique.
    In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you.
    In the millions of years that have passed
    there has never been another child like you.
    And look at your body - what a wonder it is!
    your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move!
    You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.
    You have the capacity for anything.
    Yes, you are a marvel.
    And when you grow up, can you then
    harm another who is, like you, a marvel?
    You must cherish one another.
    You must work - we all must work -
    to make this world worthy of its children."
    - Pablo Casals

    Eugene Friesen Music