WATCH / HEAR
Maya’s newest production All Vows explores the dichotomy between the physical, external world we inhabit and the inner landscape of our secret selves. It features Michael Gordon’s All Vows, Glenn Kotche’s Three Parts Wisdom, and Mohammed Fairouz’s Kol Nidrei, plus Michael Harrison’s Just Ancient Loops with film by Bill Morrison and re-imagined classic rock from Maya’s latest best-selling album Uncovered.
The first half of All Vows begins with a set of “uncovers,” crafted by Beiser with arrangements by Evan Ziporyn. Re-contextualizing classic rock through the lens of her cello, Maya goes deep inside music by Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Janis Joplin, and Howlin’ Wolf to reveal the core of each song as a musical masterpiece – a totem of our collective consciousness forged by our shared, popular culture. Composer and drummer Glenn Kotche (Wilco) contributes Three Parts Wisdom, a rhythmic and multilayered new work for Maya that evokes the experience of the individual alone and as part of a collective.
The second half of All Vows delves into our inherent desire for ritual and meaning, and begins with Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz’s new Kol Nidrei, in which Maya sings the text in Aramaic and engages echoes of ancient cantorial styles. Michael Gordon’s All Vows takes the Kol Nidrei as its starting point, and reimagines it entirely. Beiser’s extensive collaboration with film artist Bill Morrison is reflected the final large-scale work on the program, Michael Harrison’s Just Ancient Loops. Morrison uses archival footage, chemical process, and animation to create a stunning visual tapestry that illustrates, in his words, “the implication of an unknowable future as reflected through a dissolving historical document.” Just Ancient Loops is a 25-minute epic piece that unveils every aspect of the cello – from its most glorious and mysterious harmonics to earthy, rhythmic pizzicatos – all utilizing “just intonation,” an ancient tuning system in which the distances between notes are based upon whole number ratios. Morrison’s film explores the many spiritual beliefs and views of the heavens, and the ancient philosophical concept of the “Music of the Spheres” exploring proportion in the movements of celestial bodies as a form of music.
What The Critics Are Saying about ALL VOWS:
“. . . a musician with stunning technical resources and intense musical instincts. In a repertoire tailored to her talents, Beiser made a haunting episode of Mohammed Fairouz’s setting of Kol Nidrei, chanting the original Aramaic prayer for the Jewish Day of Atonement while accompanying herself on her electrified instrument in an act of communion both defiant and serene. . . . Michael Harrison’s ‘Just Ancient Loops,’ a three-part, 25-minute tour de force, uses ‘just intonation’ and mines the instrument for its harmonics and its capacity for vibrant rhythmic forays. The plugged-in Beiser met its sundry challenges with sublime ease . . .” – The Financial Times
“she has the chops to make her cello a license-to-kill instrument . . . Her sense of invention borders on stupendous. . . Some of the songs are like tone poems, often bringing genre-defining music into modern global music consciousness.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Maya Beiser, the reigning queen of the avant-garde cello, has been pushing out the boundaries of her instrument for years, but in a rapturous, high-intensity performance on Saturday night at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, it was clear she’s now aiming at almost transcendental heights. Switching between electric and amplified acoustic cellos, using electronics to build huge and sweeping juggernauts of sound, Beiser knitted pop and overtly spiritual music together — and found a deep, almost devotional thread running through everything she played.” – The Washington Post
“If rock ‘n’ roll is a spiritual practice – and who’s to say it isn’t? – then the ferociously adventurous cellist Maya Beiser has set herself up as an officiant. ‘All Vows,’ the engrossing solo program she presented over the weekend at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, had all the earmarks of a revival meeting, by turns contemplative and ecstatic. . . whatever Beiser turns her attention to has the potential to come vividly to life. Her playing has a muscular weight and integrity that comes through even amid a variety of electronic processing, and she lavishes a combination of technical agility and expressive eloquence on a wide range of contemporary repertoire. So when she resurrects a rock classic such as Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’ or a more recent number such as Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’ – done in inventive new arrangements by composer Evan Ziporyn – she brings to them all the energy of an arena show . . . And in music of a more restrained bent by Mohammed Fairouz or Michael Harrison, Beiser plays with tenderness and lyricism that can be almost heartbreaking.” – San Francisco Chronicle