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Video Premiere: "Look Homeward, Angel" by Cellista

Cellista - Photo Credit: Temira Decay
23 April 2019

Cellista – Photo Credit: Temira Decay

Today The Big Takeover the pleasure of premiering the new work by American experimental cellist and multidisciplinary artist Cellista. “Look Homeward, Angel” offers us the first taste of her new album Transfigurations, featuring lyrics and rhymes of hip-hop artist DEM ONE (a.k.a. Demone Carter) and beautiful soprano vocals by Melissa Wimbish. As a stage poem, Transfigurations is a multi-media work that includes dance, poetry, original classical compositions, noise, and sound textures.

Cellista has a penchant for performing music in unconventional spaces, and her devotion to collaborating with artists across media and genres disrupts the world of the classical performing arts. Traversing the walls between disciplines and the borders between spectator and audience, she etches out her own niche through her performances of captivating theatrical recitals by interweaving film, text, and dance. Her work is deeply rooted in her musicological studies of Olivier Messiaen and the French Surrealists.

“In 2017, Transfigurations began growing out of a avant-garde performance art piece I wrote, composed, and directed called ‘Wants’. It was meant to be a response to Trump and the rapid gentrification of the Bay, and address the tragedy of the Ghost Ship fire. Wants became a 20-minute film that my regular filmmaker Jennifer Gigantino shot and edited. The ruptures feature sounds from the Internet Archive and there are lots of historical recordings and found sounds, most originating from the Bay area,” explains Cellista.

The accompanying video for this song is stunning and was directed by Jennifer Gigantino. Filmed at Little Boxes Theater in San Francisco, it was choreographed and performed by Lilith Ransom / Ransom Dance and Mojo Deville.

Transfigurations is a response to the world we inhabit. It is meant to allow us all, singularly and as a community, to see the ruptures that punctuate our place in the present – The ache of the Ghostship tragedy that points to greater ruptures interwoven like veins; the call to resist the deadening of our world by institutions and false power, and the violence of gentrification and displacement. Above all, for Cellista, it is a way of seeing and sharing an awareness of her own impact within this shared place.

Engineered by longtime collaborator Maryam Qudus and Grammy-winner Nahuel Bronzini, Transfigurations features original compositions and arrangements by Cellista and also involves Bay area composers Peter Colclasure, Nick Vasallo, and Be’eri Moalem with his piano quintet Tzeva Adom. The album also features the original poetry of Aubrey Ferreira, narrated by DEM ONE. The movements are composed and curated in a suite-like manner with genres ranging from thrash metal, noise, hip-hop, and classical music.

Cellista’s music should appeal to fans of such artists as Pamela Z, Helen Money, Robert Ashley, Merzbow, Rasputina, Zoe Keating, and Kronos Quartet. In fact, Cellista studies with cellist Jennifer Culp (formerly of Kronos Quartet). Another interesting fact: she plays a Luis & Clarke carbon fibre cello and an 1885 Czech cello named Chordelia.

Cellista’s sound brims with a dissidence informed by her classical foundation and her want to tear that very foundation apart. Built on a classical foundation, her music is beautifully avant-garde yet accessible enough to touch one’s sensitivities and create intrigue surrounding her music, her world-view, her all-encompassing vision – elegantly combining sound, space and dance in an impactful way and the meshed field of wonderment connecting them.

As an experimental cellist, performance artist and artistic director of the interdisciplinary performing arts group Juxtapositions, Cellista is known for her collaborations with artists across various media, as well as her self-produced stage poems (live performances staged in unconventional spaces that incorporate elements of music, theater, improvisation, and visual art across a range of genres including pop, hip-hop, classical, and more).

Cellista has worked with Grammy-nominated artist Tanya Donelly, producer John Vanderslice, Troyboi, Don McLean, Casey Crescenzo, Van Dyke Parks, and Pam the Funkstress. She recently joined soprano Carla Canales for Hear Her Song, a project that promotes women’s voices through original compositions by female composers. Under the musical direction of Kurt Crowley (Broadway’s Hamilton), her playing was praised.

Transfigurations will be released on May 31, both digitally and on CD. Digital releases will be available via online music stores, as well as Bandcamp . The CDs, which come with a full-length book and download code, will be available for purchase on Bandcamp and at shows.

Composed by Cellista and Peter Colclasure
Lyrics by Cellista
Rap lyrics by DEM ONE]
Kristina Dutton—violin 1
Mia Bella D’Augelli—violin 2
Ondine Young—viola
Peter Colclasure —piano
Tim DeCillis—Glockenspiel
DEM ONE (Demone Carter)—rapper*
Melissa Wimbish-soprano**
Track XI (Julia Ramos)—beatboxing
Conductor—David Möschler

Engineered and recorded by Keith Munson at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley.
Recording assistant Maryam Qudus
Final mix and production by Nahuel Bronzini at Studio Burgundio
Executive producer Cellista
*Vocal tracking on second verse at Best Studio by Maryam Qudus
**Vocal tracking by Jonathan Birkholz in Baltimore

Apr 21 San Jose, CA – SoFA street Fair at Haberdasher, solo looping set
Aprl 27 San Francisco, CA – Poesis at Connect Arts, composer & performer for dance performance
Apr 30 Saratoga, CA – Rap/Opera Project at Montalvo, composer & performer
May 2 San Francisco, CA – Outbound Sound at the Luggage Store, solo set
May 3 San Jose – Duo/Dual at Anno Domini, noise set
May 15 Berkeley, CA – The Backroom, Cellista and her Juxtapositions Chamber Ensemble and Beth Custer, Drawdown Tour (100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming)
May 17 Palo Alto, CA – Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium, Cellista and her Juxtapositions Chamber Ensemble and Beth Custer, Drawdown Tour
May 18 San Francisco, CA – Center for New Music, Cellista and her Juxtapositions Chamber Ensemble and Beth Custer, Drawdown Tour
May 25 Oakland, CA – The Skin Project, noise set
June 23 Los Angeles – Infinite Noise Outrageous Loud Festival at Coaxial, solo noise set
July 18-Aug 25 San Jose, CA – performing in City Light Theater’s production of ‘Cabaret’

Also check out this stunning video of a performance art piece directed and produced by Cellista with choreography and dance performance by Lilith Ransom, director of Ransom Dance in SF.

and “Deluge” off her Juxtapositions release

Keep up with Cellista