Maya Beiser: The Wet Note <font size-=2>by Matthew Richter</font> Nov 18, 2006
by Tania Kupczak
I am an expert in nothing; certainly not contemporary solo cello performance. I know nothing of the larger musical context into which Maya Beiser’s work fits. I don’t know if she’s “redefining the cello’s boundaries ” because I don’t know where the cello’s boundaries lay prior to her arrival. I’m not sure I could tell you how many strings are on a cello (four, right?). What I do know is that halfway through Ms. Beiser’s first set of solo cello performance last night at On the Boards, there were tears rolling uncontrollably down my face. It happened again in the second set—not tears of sadness or of joy necessarily, but tears of recognition I think ”¦ acknowledgement of the presence of a miraculous beauty. I feel the need here to point out that I’m (generally) no pussy, no crybaby, no pushover. Repeatedly wiping tears away I thought of the fabled “brown note, ” a sub-audible tone that, reproduced at sufficient volume, reportedly resonates with your intestines and causes immediate defecation. There must, I thought, simply be a “wet note, ” one that physiologically forces uncontrollable crying, and she must be playing it very, very loudly. But the simple truth is that the waves of emotion translated into sound that continually swept from the stage last night were overwhelming. Wallace Shawn has described the sound of the rosined bow cutting into the violin string as “like a deep-rooted orgasm squeezed out into a rope of sound. ” Following his analogy, Ms. Beiser spends hours coiling mile after mile of ecstatically sensual rope around the room. It’s an exceptionally strong rope, and warm (almost hot) to the touch, and sopping wet. Watching Ms. Beiser sit alone onstage, watching her hands move up and down the cello like a lover, it’s obvious that she’s the one playing it, the one making those sounds happen. But at another glance it’s also possible to see her as simply the one of us who happens to be closest to the cello, hugging it because it can make such perfect music. At times she looks more like the blissed-out fan swaying eyes closed by the speaker stacks than the performer onstage. She is listening to this music just as intently, perhaps more intently, than she is playing it. Being there with her, listening with her, watching this music flow through her (coming from god-only-knows where) is a transcendent experience. Matthew Richter is a loafer and a dilettante. His most recent work, Dinner Theater, premiered in September on the On the Boards mainstage. He is the founder of Consolidated Works contemporary arts center and Rm 608 gallery for visual and performing arts. He is a nationally published writer, former Performance Editor of The Stranger, and has lectured on the arts at the University of Washington and Cornish College of the Arts. He designs and produces a line of original furniture, available in Seattle at Retrofit Home.