Zoe Keating: A Symphony Unto Herself

January 21,2015

NEW YORK— Avant garde cellist Zoe Keating has a unique sound fusing music with technology. The musical artist performed her work at the SubCulture club in New York City and wowed.

Zoe Keating is a talented and engaging musician.

Originally from northern California, Keating struggled to overcome a performer’s nightmare.

“I really wanted to be a classical cellist and I had one big problem, which was that I had terrible, terrible, terrible stage fright. Whenever I would perform in front of someone I would just totally fall to pieces and my hands would shake, I’d drop the bow," said Keating with a laugh.

Keating realized her problem only happened when she played classical music. When she improvised, or played in a rock band, her stage fright disappeared.

Cello, Apple

Before performing full-time, she earned her living as a computer programmer -- a skill she used to create a musical repertoire that is technologically integrated. She produces a symphony of sounds with just one instrument, her cello, and an Apple computer.

“What I do is take a layer of cello, play it, record it, play another layer, play another layer, play another layer and then I use my feet to control the computer to play those layers back at different times," she said. "Or play them backwards, or chop them up and do it all on the fly on stage.

"My feet are usually tapping a pedal, I have a mini-controller on the right hand side and the mini-controller sends different commands to the computer -- all the things you might normally do with your hands on the computer. So I think technology has really allowed my music to happen. Without it, I wouldn’t have had these tools to create it," said Keating.

Critical, commercial success

Keating’s music has been used on TV and movies soundtracks, like the TV hit "Breaking Bad," and the film "The Secret Life of Bees." Less structured are her improvisation and composition for live audiences. They love it and her.

“I think she’s an incredible innovator and she’s using a classical format, but in her own unique way and her compositions are very compelling,” said fan Paulette Myers Rich.

“I love cello to begin with and when I heard her music and her rendering I was like fascinated. I couldn’t believe she does everything,” said Natalia Tabares.

Another concert goer, Craig Bundy, said, “She is a musician that’s brilliant. And then someone who understands the technology in a way a lot of people never actually achieve.”

And it all began when Keating was just eight years old and her music teacher picked her to play the cello -- because she was the tallest kid in the class. Now, Keating is reaching musical heights undreamed of when she was a child and had no idea what a cello was.