Zoë Keating brought what she calls “her layered cello music” to The Egg Saturday night for a 90-minute show that her many fans in the large crowd seemed to eat up.
The layering is created through a computer, which allows her to loop what she has played and then repeats it electronically so that it sounds like she’s playing with several cellos. All of her tunes followed the same method: she’d play either something rhythmic or a melodic motif of no more than two bars, tap a button with her foot which would make it repeat; play another short segment and have that repeated, and then with all this going on, she’d lay down a small melody, or pluck a rhythm or thump her cello. Sometimes she’d interweave a rhythm or tune, wait for the repetitions to stagger and follow that with something else. Reverb and reverse delay were also added to the mix. Among the cello techniques Keating used were harmonics, ricochet, double stops or playing a chord on two open strings, bowing rapidly across all the strings, and using a hard bow to create a raspy tone.
Of the 13 or so songs that she played, some, like the opening “The Sun Will Set” and “Frozen Angels,” were mesmerizing and peaceful. Others, such as two songs that were works in progress, had darker tones, Celtic or Indian rhythms, more growly rasps and pluckings in the bottom range. Some of these sounded a bit too much alike, as certain rhythmic patterns kept showing up.
One of the best was “The Path 2.4,” which had a catchy, almost jazzy rhythm — something she hadn’t played all evening. Overall, her music was more about rhythm than melody and seemed like an exploration of sound for sound’s sake. Based on what comments could be heard before the concert from what appeared to be a very eclectic crowd, people were there out of curiosity, or were “total fans” or were lovers of cello.
Keating’s methods are not new. Cellist Gideon Freudmann has been doing it since the early 1990s — he calls his stuff “CelloBop.” Locals might remember his two concerts in the 1990s at Skidmore College.
But Keating is a hometown girl. She played with the Empire State Youth Orchestra and got her degree at Sarah Lawrence College before she became a software programmer and moonlighted as a cellist in rock bands. To date, she’s taken her own path releasing her music online but has two discs and a third in the works. This was her debut at The Egg.