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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Here's a classical musician on stage fright.

Ms. ZOE KEATING (Cellist): My hands would shake. I'd get sweaty hands. One time I dropped the bow in the middle of a performance. It was such torture.

CHADWICK: That's Zoe Keating. She's in her 30s now. She's played cello since she was eight. She grew up practicing Bach and Beethoven, but found the rigid structure of classical music nerve-wracking. Now Zoe explains how conquering her anxieties led her to the music she makes these days.

Ms. KEATING: To calm myself down before my cello lessons--I would get really nervous for my lessons, too. To calm myself down, I would play, like, open strings, you know, just like...

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: And I could do that for hours and hours, really, you know. And I'd start adding harmonics and rhythm.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: When I could just improvise or do something that wasn't scripted, it was really liberating. I just felt really normal. You know, I didn't have any worries. I wasn't even afraid. And I just started doing that more and more.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: Me and, like, four friends decided to just move to San Francisco, and everybody was really into deejays and downtempo and all that kind of stuff. And I was like, you know, `What if you could make those sounds on the cello?' So I would sort of pretend that I was a sampler, and I'd make a sound and then record it and then layer it, like you would hear the beats in electronic music.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: Often I'll start with, you know, rhythm. Here's a rhythm.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: So I'll record it.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: So that's going. And then I'll go to another track, and I'll make some more sounds.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: So that's, like, another sound.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: So that's sort of--you know, it's a little rough, but that's how it works (laughs).

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: I mean, that's how deejays work, you know. Like, they just take little bits of songs and, you know, pump up the bass here, like, you know, pump up the treble here.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: Pretty improvisatory. It's never the same each time.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: I think it's pretty absorbing, like, just to get sort of lost in this wall of sound, which is exactly what I used to do when I was warming up before my lessons--was I would try to get lost in this wall of sound.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: If you can express whatever it is that the music is trying to express with classical music or you can express it with this, it's the same thing. I don't see any difference between it.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Ms. KEATING: People call me crossover, and I'm like, `I'm classical crossover.' And I imagine eventually that the boundaries get blurry, and there won't be anything to cross over from, you know?

(Soundbite of cello music)

CHADWICK: The words and music of cellist Zoe Keating. That piece was produced by Rob Sachs. You can hear more of Zoe's music at npr.org.

(Credits)

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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