Maya Beiser

Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology

Maya Beiser is a “cello goddess” — The New Yorker

Cellist Maya Beiser is the 2016-18 Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. Her intensive two-year residency will feature a world premiere concert of a new arrangement by composer Evan Ziporyn in March 2017. Beiser will also perform new and newly arranged works in fall 2017.

Maya Beiser, Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT CAST, cellist and producer, defies categories while passionately forging a career path through uncharted territories. She has dedicated her work to reinventing solo cello performance in the mainstream classical arena. The Boston Globe declares, “With virtuoso chops, rock-star charisma, and an appetite for pushing her instrument to the edge of avant-garde adventurousness, Maya Beiser is the post-modern diva of the cello,” while Rolling Stone calls her a “cello rock star.”

Beiser’s 2011 TEDtalk has been watched by close to one million people and translated to 32 languages. She has performed her latest critically acclaimed multimedia production, All Vows, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, BAM Next Wave, and London’s Barbican among other major venues. Her latest album, TranceClassical, released July 2016, debuted at No. 1 on the Apple Music classical chart.

Maya Beiser will perform Just Ancient Loops, an “orchestra of cellos” in “just” or “pure” intonation tuning. A collaboration between Beiser, composer Michael Harrison and filmmaker Bill Morrison, the piece gradually builds up to a climax of 22 independent cello parts. The work is comprised of 3 interconnected movements. Section 1 is compiled from deteriorating archival footage. It opens with shots from the observatory at the Vatican and ends with an extended sequence of rare eclipse footage. Section 2 is based on research by Walter Murch, relating orbits to harmonics. Computer generated imagery (CGI) and data from NASA is used to create a harmonic visualization of the four moons of Jupiter. Section 3 is also compiled from deteriorating archival footage. It begins with an evolution sequence, including Adam and Eve, and ends with rare footage from a 1907 French film “Life and Passion of Christ.”

In 2015, Beiser performed a program at MIT built around her acclaimed album, Maya Beiser: Uncovered. Her re-imagined and re-contextualized versions of canonical rock tunes expands the concept of a “cover tune” beyond an homage to the original. These “uncovers,” in new arrangements by MIT professor and composer Evan Ziporyn, evoke the unprecedented power of the music of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Janis Joplin, Howlin’ Wolf and AC/DC. “I approach each of these ‘uncovers’ like an open canvas,” she says, “constructing layers of sound, rhythm, harmony, color and melody–building and experimenting until it feels right.” Maya Beiser: Uncovered, released in August 2014, immediately soared into the top 10 on the Billboard Classical Chart, garnering glowing reviews from critics nationwide.  The San Francisco Chronicle raved, “With this electrifying disc, the avant-garde cello virtuoso Maya Beiser transformed herself into something of a rock ‘n’ roll diva.”

The Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist program is presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).

The 2015-16 MIT Sounding Series and the 2016-17 MIT Sounding Series are presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and MIT Music and Theater Arts.



Cellist Maya Beiser defies categories. Passionately forging a career path through uncharted territories, she has captivated audiences worldwide with her virtuosity, eclectic repertoire and relentless quest to redefine her instrument’s boundaries. The Boston Globe declares, “With virtuoso chops, rock-star charisma, and an appetite for pushing her instrument to the edge of avant-garde adventurousness, Maya Beiser is the post-modern diva of the cello.” Throughout her adventurous and versatile career, she has reimagined the concert experience, creating new music for the cello, commissioning and performing many works written for her by leading composers. She has collaborated with composers Tan Dun, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Steve Reich, David Lang, Louis Andriessen and Mark O’Connor, among many others.

Among Beiser’s critically-acclaimed multimedia concerts are World To Come, which premiered as part of the inaugural season of Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall; Almost Human, a collaboration with visual artist Shirin Neshat; and Provenance, which forms the basis of her best-selling album. Beiser’s 2012 production, Elsewhere: A CelloOpera, premiered at Carolina Performing Arts followed by a sold-out run at the BAM Next Wave Festival. Elsewhere is an imaginative retelling of the Biblical legend of Lot’s wife, created by Beiser with director Robert Woodruff. Beiser’s latest project All Vows explores the dichotomy between the external, physical world and our internal, private one. It features the music from Uncovered, plus works by Michael Gordon and Michael Harrison, original films by Bill Morrison, and music by Gleen Kotche, David T. Little, and Mohammed Fairouz. All Vows premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in March 2014 and will be presented at BAM Next Wave this coming October.

Beiser has performed throughout the US and at major venues and festivals in Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Torino, Tokyo, Taipei, Athens, Mexico City and Bogota. She has appeared with many of the world’s top orchestras performing new works for the cello, and her vast discography, released on Sony Classical, Nonesuch, Koch (now E1) Innova and Cantaloupe labels, includes eight solo albums and many studio recordings and film music collaborations.

Collaborating with renowned film composer James Newton Howard, Beiser is the featured soloist on several films’ soundtracks, including M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters, Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond, Rupert Sanders’s Snow White and the Huntsman and M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth.

Raised on a kibbutz in the Galilee Mountains in Israel by her French mother and Argentinean father and surrounded with the music and rituals of Jews, Muslims and Christians while immersed in the study of classical cello repertoire, Beiser has dedicated her work to reinventing solo cello performance in the classical arena.  Beiser is a graduate of Yale University. Her major teachers were Aldo Parisot, Uzi Weizel, Alexander Schneider and Isaac Stern. Beiser was the founding cellist of the new music ensemble, the Bang on a Can All-Stars. In 2011, Beiser was invited to present at the exclusive TED conference.

More on the artist’s website: Maya Beiser


Upcoming Events

Being Material CAST Symposium: AUDIBLE
April 21/ 6:00pm
MIT Samberg Conference Center, Building E52
50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139

Register for the Being Material Symposium

Featured during the session AUDIBLE, Maya Beiser will perform the Boston premiere of Michael Harrison’s Just Ancient Loops with film by Bill Morrison.

(Note: This concert has changed from its previous 4/22 8pm Kresge time and location to now take place in the Samberg Center 4/21 at 6pm. Tickets to the symposium Being Material required to attend the concert

Past Events

David Bowie’s Blackstar
Maya Beiser with the Ambient Orchestra
Terry and Rick Stone Concert

March 3, 2017 / 7:30pm
MIT Kresge Auditorium, W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Tickets are available HERE: a number of tickets will also be available for day-of purchase at the door.

The Terry and Rick Stone Concert will feature a new arrangement by CAST Faculty Director Evan Ziporyn of Blackstar, David Bowie’s last album that Maya Beiser, CAST’s Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist, will perform with a 60 piece orchestra as part of the MIT Sounding series. The program will also include a new arrangement of Erik Satie’s 80 Gymnopedies and Ziporyn’s Frog’s Eye.

The concert will also feature a new app called NoteStream, developed by MIT students and Eran Egozy, MIT alum and founder of Harmonix. The audience experience will be enhanced with the technology as they will be able to stream engaging images and facts about the performance in real time on their smartphones.


Maya Beiser: Uncovered
Cellist Maya Beiser, accompanied by Jherek Bischoff on bass and Matt Kilmer on drums, performed music from her latest album Uncovered, featuring arrangements of classic rock tunes by MIT’s Evan Ziporyn.

September 25, 2015
8:00pm Concert
7:30pm Pre-Concert Talk by composer Evan Ziporyn (part of ArtWeek Boston; included with ticket purchase)

MIT Kresge Auditorium, W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Maya Beiser: Uncovered is a concert of startling classic rock tunes, re-imagined and re-contextualized, in stunning performances by Maya Beiser on cello. A “cover tune” can be an homage to the original, but these “uncovers,” in new arrangements by MIT professor and composer Evan Ziporyn, attempt to do more—to evoke the unprecedented power of the music of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Janis Joplin, Howlin’ Wolf, and AC/DC. Uncovered, the album, was in the top 10 on the Billboard Classical Chart upon release in August 2014. The San Francisco Chronicle raved, “With this electrifying disc, the avant-garde cello virtuoso Maya Beiser transforms herself into something of a rock ’n’ roll diva.”  Maya is joined by indie rock bassist/composer Jherek Bischoff (Amanda Palmer, Xiu Xiu, Parenthetical Girls ) and multifaceted drummer Matt Kilmer (Lauryn Hill, Jon Brion, and  coordinator/composer for Louie C.K.)

During the pre-concert talk, MIT Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music Evan Ziporyn discussed collaborating with Maya Beiser, the rationale behind the project and the challenges and rewards of arranging iconic rock tunes for a classical instrument.

The album Uncovered was co-produced by MIT composer Evan Ziporyn and Maya Beiser; all arrangements on Uncovered were created by Ziporyn for Beiser.


Related Past Event

Composer Forum with Jherek Bischoff
September 24, 2015 / 5:00 pm
Lewis Music Library, 14E-109

Free and open to the public

Jherek Bischoff has been called a “pop polymath” (The New York Times), a “Seattle phenom” (The New Yorker) and “the missing link between the sombre undertones of Ennio Morricone and the unpredictability of John Cale” (NME).

Bischoff has served as an arranger, producer and muse to a who’s who of “in the know” creators including internet phenomenon Amanda Palmer, legendary New York musician David Byrne, Australian pop star Missy Higgins and novelist Neil Gaiman. This collaborative tendency found its climax in his 2012 album Composed, which included cameos by Byrne, Caetano Veloso, Nels Cline (Wilco) and Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) among others. Critically acclaimed, The Guardian’s 4-star review called it “romantic, playful and faintly sinister…its ambition and singularity are intoxicating,” while NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross devoted a half-hour interview to discussing the album and his creative life.

Increasingly, Bischoff’s focus has moved from collaborations to his own work as a composer and performer. The last few years have seen commissions from Lincoln Center, Kronos Quartet, yMusic and Austria’s Schauspielhaus with live appearances at Carnegie Hall, Adelaide Festival, Tasmania’s MONA FOMA, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center / Liquid Music, and Seattle’s Moore Theater, in addition to a 25-date Australian tour opening for Missy Higgins. Recently relocating to Los Angeles, the momentum continues with Bischoff’s future release Cistern, an ambient orchestral album which was recorded with a live orchestra in a church in Hudson, New York.

Bischoff performed in Maya Beiser: Uncovered on September 25, 2015.

Boston Globe: Before the concert begins, please turn on your cellphones

Boston Globe: Musicians Revealed In ‘Uncovered’

WBUR: How To ‘Uncover’ Classic Rock With The Cello

The Tech: CAMPUS ARTS: Maya Beiser Reimagines Classic Rock With Her Cello

Boston Magazine: A Hands-On Guide to ArtWeek Boston

NPR All Things Considered: Maya Beiser Shreds The Cello

Wall Street Journal: Cellist Maya Beiser Channels Kurt Cobain and Other Rockers in ‘Uncovered’ A Brilliant Cellist Embraces the Devil’s Music

Strings Magazine: Smashing the Laws of Tradition

Public Radio International’s Echoes: Maya Beiser’s Art Rock Cello In Echoes Podcast

San Francisco Chronicle: Maya Beiser Review: Cellist Casts a Rockin’ Spell

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Rock/classical Meld Too Much To Take In

The New York Times: Uncovered Maya Beiser

BBC: Maya Beiser: Making Classical Music Sexy and Smart

The Washington Post: Avant-garde Cellist Maya Beiser’s Daring Hits Full Throttle

New York Magazine: Bow on Top 

The NY Post: There Are Strings Attached


Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Professor of Music at MIT and Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST)

Skylar Tibbits, MIT Department of Architecture, director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab

MIT Music and Theater Arts

Maya Beiser performs at MIT Sounding, September 25, 2015. Photo: Justin Knight.

More about the Residency

Selected Past Projects