My Fellow Americans: Zoe Keating's Radical Cello

Live Performance at NPR West

Keating performs at NPR's studios in Culver City, Calif.

From 'A Radical Recital'

Keating performs with her trio Rasputina, recorded live in San Francisco:

From 'One Cello x 16: Natoma'

Hear a track from Keating's solo CD:

Zoe Keating has been playing the cello since she was 8. She grew up practicing hard every day to learn the music of classical composers such as Bach and Beethoven.

Zoe Keating performs at 964 Katoma in San Francisco, April 2004.

hide captionZoe Keating performs at 964 Natoma in San Francisco, April 2004.

Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz/ZoeKeating.com

But she soon found the rigid structure of classical music too constraining, and just a little nerve-wracking. She suffered from extreme bouts of stage fright. Keating eventually conquered her anxiety, and at the same time made an unusual transition from performing classical music to electronically looping and modifying the sound of her cello.

The result was a distinctive mix of old and new — layers of sound, pitched to octaves higher and lower than the original that feel more like orchestrations than a solo instrument. As a member of the band Rasputina, she pushed the concept further, taking on classical tunes with a modern twist and imbuing rock 'n' roll tunes with the warm, expressive sound of the cello.

Keating now has a new solo CD — One Cello x 16: Natoma. She talks about redefining the traditional boundaries of classical music to reach a new audience.

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