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 (CAST). Her intensive two-year residency featured a world premiere concert of a new arrangement of David Bowie’s Blackstar by composer Evan Ziporyn in March 2017. Beiser will also present a solo cello workshop performance on campus in December 2017.

The Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT CAST, a cellist and a producer, Beiser 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 in San Francisco, BAM Next Wave in Brooklyn and the Barbican Centre in London, among other major venues. Her latest album, TranceClassical, released July 2016, debuted at No. 1 on the Apple Music classical chart.

The culmination of Beiser’s residency will be a concert on December 1, 2017, featuring a collaboration with Joshua Higgason of MIT Music and Theater Arts. Beiser will perform “Three Parts Wisdom,” composed by Glenn Kotche from her album TranceClassical, along with music by Bach, Vivaldi and Hildegard Von Bingen, deconstructed and reimagined in an environment where Higgason’s lighting design responds to and interacts with her music.

During the 2017 CAST Symposium, “Being Material,” Beiser performed Just Ancient Loops, an “orchestra of cellos” in “just” or “pure” intonation tuning. A collaboration among 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 three 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.

As part of the 2016–17 Terry and Rick Stone Concert, Beiser performed a new arrangement by CAST Faculty Director Evan Ziporyn of Blackstar, David Bowie’s last album, with a 60-piece orchestra as part of the MIT Sounding Performance Series.

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 expand 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.  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 Performance Series, 2016–17 MIT Sounding Performance Series and 2017–18 MIT Sounding Performance 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,” while Rolling Stone calls her a “cello rock star.”

Raised in the Galilee Mountains in Israel, surrounded by the music and rituals of Jews, Muslims and Christians, while studying classical cello repertoire, Beiser has dedicated her work to reinventing solo cello performance in the mainstream classical arena. She is a featured performer on the world’s most prestigious stages, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, London’s South Bank Centre and the Barbican Centre, Sydney Opera House, Beijing Festival, Big Ears Festival and Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. Beiser has collaborated with a wide range of artists across many disciplines, including Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Shirin Neshat, Steve Reich, David Lang, Tan Dun, Robert Woodruff, Bill Morrison, Evan Ziporyn and Osvaldo Golijov, among many others.

Beiser’s critically acclaimed multimedia productions World To Come, Almost Human, Provenance, Elsewhere: A Cello Opera and All Vows have consistently been chosen for top critics’ “Best of the Year” lists. Her production All Vows premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and has since been on tour in the United States, including performances in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York and Washington, DC. Other recent highlights include featured solo performances as part of the Barbican’s Sound Unbound and Kings Place’s Cello Unwrapped festivals in London, the Cello Biennale in Amsterdam and Strings for Autumn Festival in Prague; two new cello concerti premieres, Mohammed Fairouz’s cello concerto with the Detroit Symphony and Mark Anthony Turnage’s cello concerto with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra; and premiere performances with the Boston Ambient Orchestra and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra of Blackstar, a collaboration with Evan Ziporyn, re-imagining David Bowie’s complete final album as a cello concerto. Upcoming highlights include Spinning, a new production collaboration with composer Julia Wolfe and visual artist Laurie Olinder; the day, a music-dance collaboration with Wendy Whelan and David Lang; and performances at 2018 BBC Proms and Edinburgh Festivals.

Highlights of Beiser’s tours include performances at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, Celebrity Series in Boston, Ojai Music Festival, International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, and major venues and festivals in Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Torino, Tokyo, Taipei, Athens, Mexico City, Havana and Bogotá. She has appeared with many of the world’s top orchestras performing new works for the cello, including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Montréal Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, Boston Pops, Sydney Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Nashville Symphony, China Philharmonic and Shanghai Philharmonic, among many others.

Beiser’s vast discography includes 10 solo albums and many studio recordings and film music collaborations. Her next album, a recording of David Lang’s the day and world to come, will be released in fall 2017 on Cantaloupe Music. Her album, TranceClassical, released July 2016, debuted at No. 1 on the Apple Music classical chart. Her 2010 album Provenance topped the classical and world music charts on both Amazon and iTunes, and her album Time Loops was selected among NPR’s top 10 recordings of 2012. Her album Uncovered, a collection of re-imagined and re-contextualized classic rock masterpieces, made the top 10 on the Billboard Classical Chart.

Beiser is a 2015 United States Artists (USA) Distinguished Fellow in Music and a 2017 Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST). She was recently a Presenting Artist at the inaugural CultureSummit, held in 2017 in Abu Dhabi. Invited to present at the prestigious TED main stage in Long Beach, California, Beiser’s 2011 TED Talk has been watched by close to one million people and translated to 32 languages. In 2013, she was a featured guest alongside such luminaries as Yoko Ono, Marina Abramović and Isabella Rossellini at ICASTICA, a festival in Arezzo, Italy celebrating women working in artistic fields. She is a graduate of Yale University and was a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

 

More on the artist’s website: Maya Beiser.

 

Upcoming Events

 

Stillness Moves: solo cello workshop performance by Maya Beiser
December 1, 2017 / 7:00pm and 9:00pm
December 2, 2017 / 6:00pm
MIT Theater Arts Building, W97
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA

Cellist Maya Beiser is the 2016–18 Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST). The culmination of Maya Beiser’s residency, this workshop performance features a collaboration with Joshua Higgason from MIT Music & Theater Arts. Beiser will perform “Three Parts Wisdom,” composed by Glenn Kotche from her album TranceClassical, along with music by Bach, Vivaldi and Hildegard Von Bingen, deconstructed and reimagined in an environment where Higgason’s lighting design responds to and interacts with her music.

Tickets are $5 for MIT students, faculty, and staff, and $10 general admission.
Reserve Seats

 

Past Events

Being Material CAST Symposium: AUDIBLE
April 21, 2017 / 6:00pm
MIT Samberg Conference Center, Building E52
50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139

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

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

The Terry and Rick Stone Concert features 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, performs with a 60-piece orchestra as part of the MIT Sounding series. The program also includes a new arrangement of Erik Satie’s 80 Gymnopedies and Ziporyn’s Frog’s Eye.

The concert also features 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 / 5:00pm
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’

Slate.com: 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 at the 2017 CAST Symposium. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington.
Maya Beiser at the 2017 CAST Symposium. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington.

More about the Residency

Selected Past Projects