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Maya Beiser Shreds The Cello


NPR Music | Staff

Through the decades, classical cellists have studied the masters: Pablo Casals, Mstislav Rostropovich, Jacqueline du Pre. AC/DC doesn't quite make that list — but cellist Maya Beiser loves playing their music.

Beiser gives some of her favorite rock and blues numbers — like AC/DC's "Back in Black" and Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" — a modern cello workover on her new album, Uncovered.

"If you look at the trajectory of all the things I've done, this is very much in line," she tells NPR's Arun Rath. "Because my whole career mission has been to re-introduce new ideas and new sounds for the cello."

One of Beiser's early mentors was violinist Isaac Stern, who didn't take too kindly to young Maya's interest in rock 'n' roll. She says she told him, "'This music is so great! I'd like to try to do it on the cello.' And he looked at me very upset and said, 'You know, this is really not serious music.'"

Beiser says that while classical purists might not embrace this direction, it is necessary to keep moving the classical world forward.

"We need to make concert music part of the cultural landscape," she says. "And it's great to play the great old masters from the past, but in order to really make it a relevant art form, the only way is to play music that is relevant to our culture."


Maya Besier's Tiny Desk Concert

June 29, 2013  • Maya Beiser's Twitter handle — @CelloGoddess — says it all. She's a brilliant cellist with a stunning command of her instrument, and she's tightly tied to technology. Beiser takes the sound of her cello and runs it through loop pedals, effects and other electronics to make her instrument shimmer, drone and groove. Then there's her magnificent sense of melody.

It's not unusual to want to run in the other direction when you hear the words "experimental music," but Beiser's is an experiment that works. Time Loops, her 2012 album, is one of that year's hidden gems. To see the Israeli-born American musician perform this music alone and magnificently was enchanting; we're thrilled to capture and share this cello goddess with you.


  • Osvaldo Golijov: "Mariel"
  • Michael Harrison: "Just Ancient Loops" Mvt. 1


Producer: Bob Boilen; Editor: Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Gaby Demczuk, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Marie McGrory; photo by Marie McGrory

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