Monday, March 7, 2011

Zoe Keating & Todd Reynolds at Le Poisson Rouge

So first of all, it was raining ... second of all, there was a gigantic line that stretched all the way around the corner ... I've *never* seen like that before at LPR ... Thankfully the show started sufficiently late that I didn't miss anything.

LPR is one of my favorite venues, but the way they set things up was frustrating ... the tables in the middle were awesome, but that forces people to stand *behind* the tables ... no problem .. until you put couches behind the standing area. I spent most of the show moving out of the waitresses' ways or moving out of the couches way, it was annoying (also a result of combining two wildly different concert cultures ... rock music & classical). Besides that, it was really the perfect venue for this concert.

Let me start with Todd Reynolds. Todd's set really blew me away. The guy has a real virtuosic technique (but not in a show-off sort of way) & his music fused classical & blues & gypsyish styles & mixed looping with different FX, which really created a great result ... I've seen a ton of players play with a loop station & mostly, it's cool, but not thrilling ... this was thrilling ... not to mention, the lighting was amazing! I wish I could make it for his cd release at Issue Project Room next week, but I've got rehearsal. I really felt like he went beyond the loop station & really, truly created music. One thing that was really interesting to me was that in addition to using the loop station, he was triggering samples.

This was particularly interesting to me, because I have this solo album of music that I've demo'd and will record within the next 6 months (that is a promise) ... a lot of it is loop based or has multiple cello parts & I've debated whether I'd want to try to perform the songs live using sampling ... still not sure how I feel ... I'm going to start work on a 3rd solo cello piece in the very near future.

The lighting was also really amazing for his set!

Zoe Keating was a treat to get to see (and meet) ... it was cool to see her watching Todd play during his set ... it was also interesting to watching a performer who communicates with the audience, but doesn't necessarily have an extroverted stage presence. Zoe's music has been a big influence on me ... particularly on that album that I am going to be recording & I know most of her backstory that she's expressed in interviews, because I've read 'em all. It's really incredibly cool stuff & I'm long overdue to purchase a good loop station. it was also interesting to see the contrast in sound ... Zoe's sound was a straight-ahead pure cello sound while Todd used FX ... I think the use of FX may have something to do with why Todd's music grabbed me so much.

Still, there's something about a cello that reaches a deep part of me in a way that nothing else does ... especially about layered, harmonizing cello. It was also interesting seeing the parallels between Zoe's music & Break of Reality (who are also a big influence of mine) ... I have to say, it really impressed me a lot to see Zoe create some very similar music despite being one person.

A piece of her backstory I didn't know was that Zoe always wanted to be in an orchestra & that she always wanted to conduct. Also, when she worked an IT job and lived in a warehouse, she'd stay up really late playing cello and experimenting & developing her style. One of the things I find most intriguing is that Zoe plays into microphones live, she does not use a pickup. This results in really great cello sound (and is of course impossible to do in a rock band setting).

One of the most intriguing aspects of the show (and this is true anytime I go to see a cellist) was watching the way Zoe plays cello. The first thing that's apparent is the control and accuracy/solidness/fluidity of her playing ... a solidness that every cellist I see seems to have ... largely what separates the pros from the not-quite-pros (As Janos Starker once said, the thing that defines a professional is consistency). The next thing that caught my interest is that there are some parallels in our technique. First is that neither of us really plays terribly advanced thumb position stuff or incredibly complex fast stuff. Instead, we both make use of what the lower positions have to offer. Second is that both of us lift our fingers somewhat high off the fingerboard (though she has an accuracy with them that I can only dream of).

I think that's where the parallels end ... it's interesting to see the way she uses vibrato and the often lack of a legato melody in her compositions ... her playing and improvisation has definitely been tempered by the use of looping & it's amazing to see all the different ideas and motives she can put together in one song. In a way, she uses a very narrow (minimalist?) palette, yet she uses all the tools of that palette in a way that creates her completely unique style. It might be interesting to see her really tear into/wail on the cello one day, but she expresses herself in a much more refined way than that.

As I mentioned above, cellos really move me in a very deep way and Zoe's playing really stirred up a lot of deep emotions (some positive and some negative) ... it inspired me & reminded me that this is what I want to be doing, this is what I want to be: a performer & a writer ... it called my shortcomings and failings to mind and inspired me to try harder ... it also showed me new things that could be done that I hadn't considered ... mostly though, it uncovered the deep ugly, depressive stuff that's been holding me back and brought it to the top ... (which is great - music is supposed to do that ... that's where its healing power comes from ... it's also why it's so important to our world and society)

In a way, for me, Zoe's success is a beacon of hope ... all of my favorite performers had careers by now ... Metallica, Jackie DuPre, Steven Isserlis, Epica, so many others ... it's often hard to watch where I am and compare it to where my musical gods were at this time ... It's hard to accept that my path is different while simultaneously believing that it leads to the same place ... but here's Zoe, her career took a lot of time to develop & become what it is now ... she's in her 40s and it's just taking off in a big way... but more than that, she's been incredibly DIY about all of it (out of necessity) ... she's just gotten a booking agent for the first time (after 2 cds and a small US tour) ... she's had hard times, she's had good times, etc ... it makes me think that I can still achieve some sort of greatness and I can still build a career like this ...

Most of all, it inspired me to create and practice & this is what I need to feed myself on a regular basis ... I need to be a sponge & a hard-working sponge just like I was a few years ago.

(By the way, you should stop over at: & read Eric Edberg's take on the whole night ... he has some really great, interesting & important things to say ... the thing that stuck with me most out of his post was:

" And that the lesson for us is that we cello teachers, and those of other instruments, need to spend more time developing our students’ imaginations and sense of possibility and less time pressuring them to learn concertos they will never perform."

I believe the same thing.

So, thank you Zoe Keating for the inspiration :)

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