Cellist plans enlightening performance
URBANA — Innovative cellist Maya Beiser has incorporated visuals in her performances before, but usually as video projections on screens.
Then, not too long ago, she became inspired by famed Korean-American artist Nam June Paik's "TV Cello," designed in 1971 for the avant-garde cellist Charlotte Moorman.
In that, the father of video art attached to the front of a one-string cello three televisions showing three images: a direct feed of the performance, a video collage of other cellists, and an intercepted TV broadcast feed.
As Moorman played the cello with a regulation bow, she created a series of electronic sounds.
Beiser mentioned "TV Cello" to one of her collaborators, visual artist Erika Harrsch.
"I told her: Maybe we could come up with a 21st century idea of that," the cellist said. "I said, 'Why don't we figure out a way to do that with LEDs?'"
So the two came up with the concept of attaching light-emitting diodes (LED) panels to the front of Beiser's Yamaha electric cello.
The panels are connected to a laptop, which has software that controls the LED lighting in response to Beiser's movements and aspects of her music-making — timbre, pitch and tempo among them.
On Saturday night at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Beiser will perform on the LED cello for the first official time in the world premiere of "Labryinth Installation Concertos," with music by Paola Prestini.
Beiser will be onstage for the second part of the concertos: "Room No. 35." Violinist Cornelius Dufallo, who like Beiser is at the forefront of contemporary music, will perform the first part, "House of Solitude."
Layered, projected visuals that create a 3-D effect will be part of "House of Solitude."
Krannert commissioned the multimedia "Labyrinth" and bills it as the first work to include a sensor bow — Beiser's — interacting with sound, video and lighting. It also marks the first performance of an instrument integrated with LED technology.
Beiser, who lives in New York, has been in Urbana since Tuesday, spending long days in Krannert's Tryon Festival Theatre rehearsing "Room No. 35" and helping to fine-tune the technology.
The University of Illinois' eDream Institute is collaborating, primarily by developing the software that will make the LED panels interact with Beiser's wireless sensor K-Bow.
The Israeli-born Beiser, who's known for pushing the boundaries of her instrument and classical music, promised that the "Labryinth" multimedia performances by Dufallo and herself will be "seamless," that the technology is not being used just for the sake of technology.
She also praised Krannert for commissioning "Labryinth," calling that action "fantastic and kind of remarkable and rare" — and risky.
A decade or so ago, Krannert co-commissioned "World to Come," a multimedia solo piece performed by Beiser and featuring music by Steve Reich, Osvaldo Golijov and David Lang.
She debuted "World to Come" at Krannert in 2003. That same year, she released the CD of the same title.
She called the haunting, evocative "World to Come" one of her most successful pieces.