Tonight, I saw Zoe Keating perform at The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis with Zack.
It was an incredible performance. It lasted about ninety minutes, which was immense when you consider it is just her and her cello on stage (well, correction: her, her cello, and her computer on stage). As she explained it on stage, she began with the idea of writing music for a symphony of cellists and then, when it came to figuring out how to write music for the equivalent of vamping (which, she joked, the classical cellists didn’t like to do) she figured it’d be easier to work with a computer. She records sections–8 bars, 32 bars; sometimes seconds of plucking or strumming the strings– and then loops it together, live, while also playing new sections of music. The compositions are complex, haunting, exciting and beautiful.
She joked that if she never messed up on stage (as she was erasing an errant section) that it would be hard for the audience to know that she was really doing it–live. While I listen to the music on my iPod, I often lose myself in the music so much that I forget that it is only one artist who has created that textured sound. On stage, you watch her as she plays and mixes, drawing you in with her subtle moves and her hypnotic sound. It is entrancing. A wonderful show–she should be one of those ubiquitous artists that is everywhere, but instead we are force-fed Lady Gaga’s redundant, simplistic and very familiar mixes–shown the spectacle and told that it is creativity and award it. Meanwhile, Zoe Keating needs only her cello and her Mac to layer intricate and engrossing music. No need for a meat dress when the music alone is worth the price of admission. But that is harsh–I don’t wish to knock another artist, or to put forth a hierarchy of art (I only mentioned it because it seems a shame that the way the business works, someone like Zoe Keating is still so unknown).
Don’t take my word for it though, check out this incredible show that she gave in Edinburgh, Scotland. She played many of the same pieces this evening (though she also improvised one for us live and played “fern”, which she has never played live before). Enjoy!