Cellist lights up the Lane Series
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 14:10
The University of Vermont presented Zoë Keating, a Canadian born and classically trained cellist, at the UVM Recital Hall Oct. 12 as part of the Lane Series.
Keating has pioneered a musical career in merging classical cello music with electronic styled looping techniques.
Wearing a pinstripe suite that matched her avant-garde musical style, Keating provided details on her musical career and creative processes in the pre-show talk.
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, Keating moved to San Francisco, where she took on a software start-up day job while performing in friends’ rock bands on the side.
The electronic music scene quickly caught her attention while she was living with artists and programmers in a California warehouse.
“I was interested in ambient electronic; the way the music was specialized is part of that music,” said Keating in the talk. “I thought, ‘how could I make music in that ambient electronic style with the cello?’”
Keating said she began experimenting with her cello in an electronic lab. Much of her early work was composed on old-school equipment and seldom written down.
Keating now uses much more advanced software such as Ableton Live, Super Looper and MiniPlex. She used the three music software programs on her MacBook and pedals at her feet simultaneously throughout the show.
With the tap of a foot, these programs allow her to record and loop what she plays.
The final product creates layer upon layer of intriguing sounds from just one instrument.
Keating’s tall, slender frame allowed her to move fluidly with the cello, performing songs such as “Optimist” and “Escape Artist” from her latest album, “Into the Trees.”
The structured pleats of her blouse fanned out as her bow created an ethereal, spacey landscape of plucking and percussion.
Hollow hand drumming on the cello’s side was looped as Keating continued to play alongside an invisible orchestra.
“The layers are there because I only choose to use the cello, so I am sort of limited to this small box,” Keating said. “I like the rigid structures that I sort of play inside of.”
Despite this rigid structure, the sound she creates is anything but small. The technical originality and striking sound engages a diverse audience from classical enthusiasts to tech geeks.
Although the tangling chaos of wires onstage is an innovative use of musical technology, Keating said she is wary of distracting viewers.
“As interesting as all that stuff is to me, I put it on the ground,” Keating said.
Her daring approach to music is synonymous with the DIY strategy she has used to promote herself, relying heavily on social media and music sites that cut out expensive middlemen.
“I did not mean to be DIY – it was my only option,” Keating said. “I guess I believe in it. If the door is closed, you sort of build your own building.”
Keating hopes to have a third album out by the end of this year.
Her albums can be purchased on iTunes and on her eponymous website.