Maya Beiser to Premiere New Philip Glass Project at Hudson Hall

by Seth Rogovoy

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Renowned avant-garde cellist Maya Beiser will be joined by a group of all-star cellists to perform works from her new solo album, Maya Beiser x Philip Glass, at Hudson Hall on Saturday, July 24 at 7pm. The venue is most appropriate for the music’s world premiere, as the album was recorded at Hudson Hall this past winter during the pandemic lockdown.

The immersive performance brings together an astounding group of avant-garde cellists – Jeffrey Zeigler, Clarice Jensen, Andrew Yee, and Paul Wiancko – to create a multi-layered sound sculpture, exploring and unveiling new dimensions in some of Philip Glass’s most powerful and achingly beautiful works. Beiser’s multi-cello arrangements include Glass’s piano Etudes Nos. 2 and 5, Mad Rush, Music in Similar Motion, and selections from Naqoyqatsi, part of Glass’s Qatsi Trilogy with filmmaker Godfrey Reggio. The album will be released on Beiser’s Islandia Music Records label on July 23.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Beiser’s new arrangements of mostly familiar Philip Glass material – none of which was originally written for cello – is how the music for cello sounds as if it has always existed – as if it were written by Bach and not Glass – and how it does indeed seem as if it is heard to its greatest effect via Beiser’s rearrangements for multiple cellos, played entirely by herself on the album via loops and multiple overdubs.

Beiser says, “In making this album, I searched for layers of sound that might reveal something new about Glass’s ingenious creative power. I was thinking about stratum, the layering that occurs in most sedimentary rocks formed at the Earth’s surface. I imagined the layers of my cello becoming porous and Glass’s music flowing vociferously through each layer, like lava, endlessly creating new patterns, expanding into the landscape. For me, recording a solo album is an introverted, solipsistic process. I go inward and build the sound from within, building my cello’s layers one at a time. In the live performance, I wanted to create a shared communal experience, to expand that powerful communion that enfolds between myself and the audience. I reached out to some of the most brilliant artists/cellists I know, wanting to create another communion between the five cellists performing. It’s a different kind of magic. It’s a dialogue that allows for multiple journeys to happen at once.”

Setting up to reimagine two of her favorite Glass’s piano etudes, Etude No. 5 and Etude No. 2, Beiser took out her Boss RC-300 and began experimenting with live looping these scores. She was surprised to discover how natural it was to create them as solo cello loops.

Glass’s 1979 work, Mad Rush, is a pianistic tour de force. But what interested Beiser in creating this work as a multi-cello track was the opportunity to explore its hallucinatory quality. She wanted to create a sonic cello kaleidoscope. Mad Rush, along with the rest of the tracks on the album, are de facto cello ensemble pieces with Beiser performing all the parts and experimenting with perspective, dynamics, and timber.

For her multi-cello version of the minimalist classic Music in Similar Motion, written in 1969, Beiser constructed a powerful trance-inducing track. She has added percussive sounds from her cello and multiple delays to convey the way she hears and feels this music.

In 2005, Philip Glass invited Maya Beiser to perform the solo cello part in his Naqoyqatsi score on a worldwide tour of his extraordinary Qatsi Trilogy. They performed together, with the Philip Glass Ensemble, in many of the world’s greatest venues, including the Sydney Opera House, the world Expo in Nagoya, an ancient Roman amphitheater in France, and a Greek amphitheater in Barcelona. The last four tracks of the album, Naqoyqatsi, Massman, New World and Old World are from the Naqoyqatsi score. These pieces are the most “classical” ones on this album, in terms of their sound and structure. Aiming for big orchestral sound, Beiser’s arrangement takes on the violin and piccolo, the celeste and timpani parts, with her 17th Century cello.

Maya Beiser x Philip Glass is Maya Beiser’s fourteenth solo album and follows the success of her two most recent recordings on Islandia Music Records – a stellar re-creation of David Bowie’s Blackstar with Evan Ziporyn and the Ambient Orchestra (2020) and delugEON, an elegiac album for the natural world (2019).

Defying conventional norms with her boundary-crossing performances, cellist Maya Beiser has been hailed as “the reigning queen of avant-garde cello” by the Washington Post. She has graced world-class stages including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Royal Albert Hall, and has collaborated with the likes of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Brian Eno, among many others. Her recent albums, Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar (2020) and delugEON (2019), topped the classical music charts. Her soundtrack work includes extensive collaborations with composer James Newton Howard and M. Night Shyamalan.



Clarice Jensen is a composer and a versatile collaborator. She has recorded and performed with a host of stellar artists including Max Richter, Björk, Nico Muhly, Arcade Fire, Dirty Projectors, Blonde Redhead, Frightened Rabbit, and Nick Cave. In her role as the artistic director of ACME (the American Contemporary Music Ensemble), she has helped bring to life some of the most revered works of modern classical music, including pieces by Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and more.

Paul Wiancko has led an exceptionally multi-faceted musical life as a cellist, composer, and collaborator. He has had the honor of performing with Midori, Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Wiley, Richard Goode, and the late Etta James, among many others. His 25-minute quartet LIFT is featured on the Aizuri Quartet’s Grammy-nominated album Blueprinting, one of NPR’s top 10 classical albums of 2018. Paul currently writes and performs as a member of Owls, Ayane & Paul, Bird’s Eye Trio.

Andrew Yee has been praised by Michael Kennedy of the London Telegraph as “spellbindingly virtuosic”. Trained at the Juilliard School, they are a founding member of the internationally acclaimed Attacca Quartet. Their newest recording of the string quartets of Caroline Shaw won a GRAMMY for best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble performance. Their solo project “Halfie” draws on their experience as a bi-racial and non-binary person in having access to multiple communities at once, while not feeling at home in any of them.

Admired as a potent collaborator and unique improviser, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler has been described as “fiery”, and a player who performs “with unforced simplicity and beauty of tone” by the New York Times. He is a recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize, the Polar Music Prize, and the President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recorded Arts (GRAMMY’S), among others. This spring, Zeigler will release his new album, Zodiac: Poems for Cello – a multimedia experience combining spoken word, movement, music, and imagery.



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