20 Apr

Maya Beiser(s) and her cello(s)

I’ll be completely honest and say that I seriously considered skipping this week.  (It’s a birthday week so the laziness ramps up like a thunderstorm)  It so happens that I’ll spend a few hours on a Thursday watching anywhere from a half dozen to two dozen TED Talks before deciding which one to focus on.

And this week, I almost skipped it all.  That is, until I got home and…started watching TED Talks.

This musically based TED Talk can be found here:

Length: 20 minutes, 30 seconds

I love live entertainment.  I adore it, crave it, and it depletes me of valuable time and funds however it is worth every moment.  On average I’ll attend a concert / show / musical / play / poetry reading / dance recital about once every two weeks I think.  Each performance tells a meta story of its own, from its choice of actors/artists, their energy levels and what the presentation is.

Imagine my surprise when I encountered a ted talk that is eighteen minutes of music. 

And it is quite clever, despite the fact that the idea is not uncommon.

Beiser plays the cello with herself, eight times over in an interesting exciting clash filled with energy and various intensities.  It starts out so vibrantly that her bow becomes a frayed mess two minutes into the performance.  (Either that, or she needs to buy bows just for performances.  She just ripped that through that thing like a saw in wood)

The cello, to me, has a very distinct almost intrusive sound.  It doesn’t play in my ears the way a violin will leave a melody stuck in constant repetition in my head space.  Rather, it’s almost as if the sounds will pierce through this divide and strikes the adrenal sensations.  It’s understandable that the cello accompanies ‘dramatic’ moments in movies in that regard.

  It took me longer than I would have expected to get into the music itself.  I know why too  It’s because it’s a TED Talk, and my initial thoughts were about the audience.  What were they expecting?  What about the TED staff?

The camera directors for TED took full advantage of a non standard presentation and provided a filming experience that is unlike any other.  Full closeups of Beiser’s right hand, her neck, the audience members in attendance.  As a visual experience it is both distracting and complementary to the music.  I sat and watched wondering why I wasn’t as entranced with the music but when I saw an audience member shift in his chair that I immediately realized why.  And that the audience itself, was distracting me from the TED talk.  (The audience is rarely seen at all, except in cases where they are reacting.  So when they show the audience, I look for a reaction.)

The video presented is artistically minimalist.  It’s not a fanfare of colors or pop culture references to trigger the comfort response.  It’s kept at a level that is foreign enough to keep one a bit askew so I wonder if this impacted some of the listeners. 

Although I would recommend watching every TED talk twice, for this one I think just listening to it would be even more enjoyable.

Beiser mentions her influences, including Sebastian Bach as a major contributor to the cello.  Wait, let me clarify, Johann Sebastian Bach is a major contributor.  If you google Sebastion only, you get a Canadian metal head.  (Which I admit, the latter as her prime practice would be…hilarious.. and.. unusual.)

  Seriously though, watch it again but only listen.

One Sentence Summary

“Modern performance evolves with technology.”

Recording yourself on a microphone and playing it back is not new.  Recording yourself and singing along ‘with yourself’ is also not new.  (It was the first thing a friend of mine did in highschool in fact)

However, to purposely record oneself, enough to create a full concert, with the intention of playing alongside oneself, IS new. 

What caught me off guard

The audience member in row seven chair 17 that shifted in his seat uncomfortably like he was sitting on a frying pan caught me off guard.  I’ve never been so distracted by the audience before.  (And I don’t actually know the seat area, I’m making this up)

Actually, what caught me off guard was the fact this was so very artistically distinct.

What do I mean by that?  I mean the circus, has ruined me.

What do I mean by the circus? 

Do you know when the audience KNOWS when to clap for the circus performer?  Its when the circus performer suddenly stares at the audience and waves out a hand like he or she is presenting a huge 4ft tall wedding cake.  It’s freaking obvious.  If the audience doesn’t clap then they’re a bunch of morons.  That or possibly one of the circus performers just died, which would also be a reason not to clap.  (Heaven help those that do)

That straightforward, in your face, this is how it should be delivered approach, is affecting me now.  Beiser is not playing TO the audience.  Her face isn’t giving knowing glances with the audience, the kind that might say “this is the tricky part” or “this was sad now cry”.  It’s a performance where she is fully invested in playing the music, and that’s very enjoyable.


None.  (see birthday week excuse above)

So now that its been discussed, what can I do with it?

Appreciate the cello and Bach more, is the first things that come to mind.  It’s surprising how much influence that this might actually be for me.

– Updated every Thursday

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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


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