Program: Zoë Keating


November 11, 2022  
Berklee Performance Center

Zoë Keating will perform pieces from her previous recordings and some works in progress, iterating and improvising each to suit the moment. No two performances are ever the same. 

Cellist and composer Zoë Keating has spent the last 20 years exploring the landscape of sounds a string instrument can make. She coaxes sounds out of the very edges of her cello, adeptly layering them into “swoon-inducing” (SF Weekly) music that is unclassifiable yet “a distinctive mix of old and new” (National Public Radio). With the use of computers and machines, she constructs her compositions in front of us, in real time, while we watch. Musical snippets are captured by the technology and added to each other, in layers, transforming simple, straightforward fragments of solo cello lines into giant orchestral forms. She is also known for her DIY approach—composing, recording, and producing her works on her own terms, without the help of a record label. 

Born in Canada, Keating started playing the cello when she was eight and went on to pursue electronic music and contemporary composition as part of her liberal arts studies at Sarah Lawrence College. After graduation she moved to San Francisco and built a career as an information architect and data analyst while moonlighting as a cellist in rock bands. Keating eventually combined her loves of music and technology, using a computer to live-layer her cello and performing for late-night parties in the San Francisco warehouse in which she lived. 

Keating’s recorded works have achieved a surprising degree of popular ubiquity for a DIY artist. Her self-produced albums have several times reached number one on the iTunes classical charts and have spent many months on the Billboard classical charts. Her recordings are used as bumper music for NPR’s Morning Edition, as the theme music to OnBeing, as the thinking music of the Sherlock Holmes character on CBS's Elementary, in countless documentaries, and in tens of thousands of online videos of everything from professional and amateur dance performances to rock climbing and gaming videos. 

Keating also composes for TV, theater, film, and dance. She co-composed, along with Jeff Russo, the score for the HBO movie Oslo, which earned them an Emmy nomination in 2021 for Outstanding Music for a Television Movie. In addition to her recordings, Keating performs to rapt audiences around the world. Each performance is unique as she spontaneously improvises around her works, demonstrates how she makes them, and tells the stories behind each piece. 

A vocal advocate for the rights of artists and creators, Keating writes and speaks often about copyright and the mechanics of the music industry economy. She was elected a governor of the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy, named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and served as a board member of CASH Music, a nonprofit organization that built open-source digital tools for musicians and labels. 

As a cellist, Zoë has played with a wide range of artists, including Imogen Heap, Amanda Palmer, Guy Sigsworth, Tears for Fears, DJ Shadow, Dan Hicks, Thomas Dolby, Sean Ono Lennon, John Vanderslice, Rasputina, Pomplamoose, and Paolo Nutini. 

Zoë lives in Burlington, Vermont, and her latest projects include scoring for a three-part science series that will be revealed in December 2023 and a motion picture scheduled for release in 2023. 

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