A book like this one is long overdue. This is a treatise for the 21st-century cellist which--most importantly--does not take tonality as a given. Fred Sherry--a major player on the American cello scene for the past five decades who has worked closely with composers Carter, Babbitt and Charles Wuorinen—takes the student through the techniques they need to play music written right up to the present day. Although the first chapters start off with simpler exercises, to use this book fully you would need to be at advanced student or professional level.
To keep things from getting too heavy, Sherry (who currently teaches at the Juilliard School, at Mannes School of Music and at the Manhattan School of Music) includes his own humorous commentary in boxes, for example, “I like this one!” “You’re not using the first finger all the time, are you?” —as if he were there in the room with you. It’s reassuring to know, too, that all the ideas in the book have been tested out on his students, and often changed as a result of their responses. The very first chapter, “Introducing Twelve Tones," proclaims to be a contemporary approach to technique, with every interval within the octave being given equal prominence in the shifting exercises. The idea of note rows (with examples from Schoenberg and Babbitt) and magic squares is introduced early on; and the chapter on scales doesn’t even bother with traditional major and minor ones, instead starting with pentatonic and Asian scales, with improvised exercises on each pattern, and going on from there.
All the time, there’s the feeling of Sherry pushing his readers to explore further—for example, he throws them a musical exercise without a clef or a key signature and then asks them to play it in treble clef C major, or alto clef F sharp major, and so on. By Chapter 8 we are on to extended techniques such as quartertone notation, different types of pizzicato and glissando and bowing effects used in contemporary music (one of very few times the bow is mentioned in the book.) “Enjoy!" says Sherry at the end of his "Letter to Teachers," and although it's not for the faint-hearted, the book contains plenty to allow you to do just that. – Janet Banks