Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar
"Maya Beiser Reimagines Bowie's 'Blackstar' As Gorgeous Cello Piece" - Billboard Magazine
"For those ready for something truly unique that will push your ears into territory they likely haven’t been exposed to before, it’s a resounding success. You get the feeling David would approve.” - American Songwriter
"Ms. Beiser’s cello has a uniquely commanding tone. Like John Coltrane’s saxophone or Duane Allman’s guitar it is able to convey the sound of an urgently impassioned voice in many guises….[her]pungent sound lends a poignant air, giving this performance a sense that it was Bowie’s self-eulogy.” - The Wall Street Journal
Maya Beiser, Cello
Evan Ziporyn, Arranger and Conductor
Music and Lyrics by David Bowie
In 2017, visionary cellist Maya Beiser, and innovative composer/conductor Evan Ziporyn, debuted a blockbuster tribute to the legendary Rock icon David Bowie, transforming his final album, Blackstar, into a cello concerto for Maya Beiser, backed by the The Ambient Orchestra. Following the acclaim of that performance at MIT Kresge Auditorium, they set out to tour the work and have performed Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar around the world. On January 10, 2020, the full album was released on Islandia Music Records, garnering rave reviews and topping the classical music charts.
Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar is a breathtaking new version of David Bowie's Blackstar reimagined for solo cello and orchestra. The hour long work has been performed to great acclaim at major venues in Washington D.C., Boston MA, Barcelona, New York City's Central Park SummerStage and Brookfield Place, Austin TX, Palo Alto CA, Burlington VT, and Adelaide, Australia, among others. The Boston Globe recently described Beiser as
“a force of nature,” and wrote of the performance of Blackstar in Boston, “The orchestra’s approach took advantage of the rich, jazz-infused harmonic palette of ‘Blackstar.’ As the rest of the strings rose up in deep menace and then flitted away like shadows, Beiser’s cello replaced the vocals of ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’ with a shivering panic. . . ‘Lazarus’ reached further down into the grave and further up toward the stars all at once.” Describing the performance at L'audatori in Barcelona as "rich and adventurous", El Mundo further reports how it "easily and authentically connected high culture with popular culture" and proclaims: "It has probably been one of the best box offices in the L’auditori Barcelona all season.”
Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar represents the first time Bowie's final album is being performed live. For Beiser and Ziporyn, this ambitious project is an homage to the artist, who died in January 2016 two days after the album released. “To me and my generation, Bowie was a model for what it meant to be an artist or creative person,” Ziporyn explains. Beiser adds, “Bowie was so versatile, always exploring and evolving as an artist. He never settled for the easy path. And he himself, as a person, was the totality of his art.”
Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar is currently available for touring in both multimedia and concert versions.
Bowie Cello Symphonic Visualized
Aura Blackstar: Bowie Cello Symphonic Visualized is an immersive “mixed reality” experience created especially for Maya Beiser’s performance of Blackstar. It is a series of animated vignettes, one for each of the Blackstar album’s seven songs. Evocative computer-generated imagery is projected both onto the floor of the stage, and onto the face of Maya’s cello itself. These animations serve first as an entrancing visualization of the music, dynamically transformed by the sound from the live cello and the orchestral prerecorded tracks. The imagery also integrates the songs’ lyrics, which would otherwise be absent as Bowie’s vocal lines are given to Maya Beiser’s cello. Thematically, all seven of the scenes orbit a prominent “black star” on the stage, an anchoring element that is meant to represent Bowie himself, as well as the void that was left by his departure.
To enable projection of imagery onto the face of the cello—which moves as Maya performs—new technology had to be created for this show. The system involves VR spatial sensors for tracking the position and orientation of the cello, combined with a software projection mapping system that “sticks” the video stably to the face of the cello, even as it moves, to magical effect.
Aura Blackstar has been spearheaded by Alex Rigopulos, co-founder of Harmonix Music, the makers of the hit videogames Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Rigopulos commissioned the art collective Secret Portal, a Boston-based group exploring the use of immersive technologies in public spaces, to create the visuals and technology. The show debuted at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in February 2019.
Maya Beiser, Cello
Evan Ziporyn, concept and arranger
Dave Cook, sound design
Alex Rigopulos, Producer
Interactive Projections by Secret Portal
Mike Mandel, Tech Lead
Sam Perzanowski, Visuals Lead
Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar
Chamber orchestra version at Moss Arts Center
Full orchestra version with Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
By Gary Graff January 9, 2020
Wall Street Journal
By Martin Johnson January 7, 2020
By Hal Horowitz January 9, 2020 https://americansongwriter.com/maya-beiser-david-bowie-cello-album-review/hal-horowitz/
All of It--WNYC
By Ellen Johnson January 10, 2020
By Javier Blânquez, July 14, 2017
“Rich and adventurous… easily and authentically connected high culture with popular culture…. It has probably been one of the best box offices in the L’auditori Barcelona all season.”
“...this orchestration of Blackstar has the form of a cello concerto, as the instrument simulates Bowie's voice, low and elusive, and Maya Beiser played its part with inventiveness - using delay effects, or hitting the cello as a cajon - with amplification….she won the applause of the audience for her striking stage presence, especially commanding the two encores at the end: a Pink Floyd version (Wish you Were Here, so I wish Bowie could have heard this homage) and a fun adaptation of Let's dance. There was no dance, but the faces of happiness could not be concealed by anyone.”
“…there were blue lights projected on the walls and almost total darkness on the stage; the conductor, Ziporyn, seemed to want to hop on the podium and appeared in a sort of fitted trench coat, as if chic men's fashion would go better with a baton than a watch or shoes, and the solo cellist, Maya Beiser, appeared sheathed in leather, with platform shoes that are often seen in Gothic circles, but not in auditoriums. Relaxed aesthetics for music that proved to be dense and vibrant, for an audience that may not frequent concert halls, but which may be encouraged after proving that such an experience does not bite.”
90.9 WBUR The ARTery
By Jeremy D. Goodwin March 03, 2017
The Boston Musical Intelligencer
By Stephanie Susberich March 9, 2017