Photo by Lane Hartwell
I had the good fortune to discover Zoë Keating while listening to a Radiolab podcast earlier this year. She is a musician and her instrument is the cello. The Host of the podcast Jad Abumrad seemed quite taken with Zoë as he interviewed her and discussed her music and the process by which she creates it. Zoë played during a live performance of Radiolab where hosts Jad and Robert discussed the making of the famous radio show "War of the Worlds." She supplied the interim and background music for the performance. Let me assure you that this is not classical solo cello that you would hear at a salon in a friends home.
I was immediately struck by the amazing sound and layering she creates as she plays. She uses a piece of computer technology that allows her to record or sample bits of music and then via foot pedals she can replay or loop that piece continually or for just a few repetitions. The affect is both mesmerizing and transcendent. I was immediately transported as I listened to the music she was creating. She uses not only bow and string to produce the sound but may also pluck, scrape, strike or pat her instrument to add percussive ingredients to her music. The part that still perplexes me is the precision that the music and recording are able to be laced together in a live performance.
I purchased her CD and was also able to download other music of hers only available digitally. She also has a new CD coming out soon. While exploring her site I discovered Zoë's Incredibly Interesting Blog and her performance schedule. To my surprise she was playing at MIT at an upcoming conference and it was open to the public. I jumped at the chance to witness a live performance and demystify how she is creating all those magical sounds. After watching her perform I am still confused but more impressed. She was nice enough to sign my CD and talk briefly.
I want to urge you to go to her site and listen to some samples of her music because you have to experience it for yourself. It will be well worth it. She has been one of the top classical music downloads at iTunes which is no small feat considering iTunes is now the largest retailer of music in the country. I'm sure this will not be the last you have heard of this wonderfully talented artist.