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September 8, 2017

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 S By Gabe Friedman NEWYORK (JTA)--There's a small music room in the basement of cellist Maya Beiser's large, kempt house in the leafy Riverdale section of the Bronx. It's pretty spare--a few cellos, some basic record- ing equipment and posters from past concerts. Against one wall, though, rests a cherry red Gibson SG guitar, the kind made famous by AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. Beiser--a tall, auburn-haired and beautiful Israeli-American--smiles when asked about it. "I play around with it some- times," she said. She also owns several foot pedals, which alter and distort the sound of her cellos, but those are housed in a different space upstate, she explains. Most cellists--most clas- sical musicians, for that matter--don't experiment with guitars and distortion pedals. But Beiser isn't your typical cellist, even if she's had a successful 30-year career playing classical music. She has performed solo at the world's most prestigious ven- ues and as a featured soloist on scores in some M. Night Shyamalan films. On top of all that, she is known as one of the most inventive cello players in the avant-garde music world. Famed minimalist composer Steve Reich wrote his only solo cello piece specifically for her in 2003. In 2014, Beiser released an album of covers of classic rock songs by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, all arranged for cello. She has collaborated multiple times with Philip Glass and Brian Eno. This year she has taken an orchestral arrangementofDavid Bowie's final album, "Blackstar," on tour in the U.S. and Europe. When Beiser performs, she usually favors an eye-catching high-fashion look--think part Anna Wintour, part '80s- era Madonna, usually with a pair of extremely high heels. Her Twitter handle is @Cel- loGoddess. Yet despite her accomplish- ments, as the 52-year-old Beiser prepares to release her 10th solo album early next year, she is not a house- hold name like fellow Israeli virtuosos Itzhak Perlman or Pinchas Zukerman. Asked if her decision to pur- sue experimental music is the reason, she gets a focused look in her eyes and immediately answers: "It is." Beiser has been a self- described bucker of trends since her childhood in Gazit, an arts-focused kibbutz in Israel's southern Galilee re- gion. Locals suggested that she play the violin, as it was a common instrument in the community. "Nobody played the cello," she said. "The thing about the kibbutz is that you kind of had to do what everybody else does, and I was a rebel and I wanted to do my own thing." The renowned Jewish vio- linist Isaac Stern quickly discovered her during one of his trips to Israel through the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, which he found- ed. Stern, who mentored sev- eral Israeli musicians through the organization, wanted to bring her to the United States to ramp up her classical music studies, but Beiser's mother wanted her to stay in Israel through the years when she would be required to serve in the army. (Her father pushed her from an early age to aim for Carnegie Hall; her mother was an advocate for a more "normal life.") Also, Beiser began to tire of classical training, which dic- tated how every single note of a piece of music should be played. "I don't think art is about perfection," she said. "I don't think perfection is interest- ing at all. "I can go on Ableton Live [the music software platform] and make a really good cello that can play a lot faster than me and a lot more accurate than me. But who cares? It's not interesting. What we love about art is the human expression, which always has imperfections in it." When Beiser was 15- having not heard much else besides the classical music from her cello lessons and whatwas played in the kibbutz bubble--her boyfriend played her a Janis Joplin album. The Texas-born rock singer's "raw expression," as Beiser once put it, blew her mind. Since then, Beiser says, she has tried to play cello the way Joplin sings. "Classical training teaches you how to play.., but what if I want to play it the complete opposite way?" she said. "At some point if you're actually going to become an artist, as opposed to a student, then you have to start creating your own way." Beiser served in the Israeli military and studied music at Yale before moving to New York City. She became a key player in the creation of the contemporary avant-garde collective Bang on a Can along with founders Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon and David Lang--who, she noted, are all observant Jews (as is Reich). Although she is more spiritual than religious, Beiser says she is interested in Jew- ish tradition and its sense of morality. She draws inspira- tion from Abraham Joshua Heschel and says she often talks with Wolfe about "what it means to be Jewish today." Wolfe wrote a piece titled "Emunah"--"faith" in He- brew--for Beiser's last album, "TranceClassical." Lang's opus "World to Come," which he wrote for Beiser more than a decade ago, was inspired by the 9/11 attacks but is based on Judaism's concept of the afterlife. Robert Marquardt/Redfern Maya Beiser performing an orchestral version of David Bowie's "Blackstar" album at the L'Auditori in Barcelona, Spain, July 13, 2017. Israeli-Palestinian coex- is really where I belong," she istence is another impor- said."NewYorkisthisincred- tant topic for Beiser. For ible place that doesn't really "TranceClassical" she com- have a nationality. What I missioned a half-Palestinian, think drives all of us [in New half-EgyptianMuslimtowrite York] and what connects all a song inspired by Kol Nidre, of us is the idea that we want the invocation chanted the to live creative lives." night ofYom Kippur. She said Of all of the memorable the composer, Mohammed performances and projects Fairouz, was "fascinated" with thus far, the moment that the idea. stands out most distinctly for Althoughshestillconsiders Beiser was her appearance at Israel her homeland, Beiser aTEDtalkconferencein2011. says she now feels equally, In between playing pieces by if not more, tied to the U.S. Reich and Lang, she spoke She says she never set out to of the cello's "endless pos- become an American--her sibilities." Afterward, some goal was simply to leave the of the influential audience kibbutz, which despite all of members, such as Bill Gates its liberal principles felt small and A1 Gore, praised her per- and restrictive. Once here, formance. New York City was the place "It felt like anything could to be for an up-and-coming happen,"shesaid."Likeyeah, experimental musician. I have the platform to speak "This is my home, New York and to communicate my art." ! Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora 848 N' Donnelly St!i ount Dora, FL 32757 (352) 735-4774,,