Listen: Zoe Keating

victrolaI think there’s something in us as humans that likes to sort and label things. As soon as we start to put syllables together, the tall people in our lives help us out by pointing at objects and saying their names.

And then we compare–is this new thing just like that other one? If it’s different, it gets a new name.

That impulse is alive and well in the world(s) of music. I had no idea how many different labels there are for different kinds of music, but with a quick search I found a site that lists well over 300 different types of music, in at least 40 general categories. The list of genres I’d never heard of compares impressively with the list as a whole. Here are a few that were completely new to me. I want to hear from you if any of these are forms you know well:

Acid Jazz, Chamber Pop, Chiptune, Crunk, Glitch, Hair Metal, Japanoise, Quiet Storm, Shoegaze

After making my way through the giant list, I still am not sure how to classify Zoë Keating’s music, a sample of which I gave you here. I’m guessing that one reason the list is so long is that there are many different opinions on the subject (is Jackin’ House different enough from House Music to get its own business cards?)

Cellist Zoe Keating in a redwood grove near Occidental, California

Cellist Zoe Keating in a redwood grove near Occidental, California (

I have heard the music Zoë makes called Indie Classical, which doesn’t appear as such on my mega-list. I know for certain that she is a cellist of remarkable creativity. Anil Prasad at Innerviews describes her work this way: “Using a minimalist software setup, she weaves together layers of sound, including lush and melodic elements, pulsing rhythms, and spectral atmospheres.”

It is remarkable that she can use one cello to create such a complex landscape of sound in real time. Zoë describes some of what is involved in the process in a 2012 Australian interview that you can find here.

Asked about technology and the cello, she made it clear that she loves the sound the cello makes, and is very careful not to distort that sound–she loops it, cuts it up and layers it, but she doesn’t use technology to manipulate the natural sounds coming from the instrument.

Any more time reading about her music unnecessarily postpones listening to her music, so I proceed. In addition to The Path, featured in my earlier post, the Australian session gave rise to recordings of several other pieces, many of which follow.


Escape Artist


Sun Will Set


Seven League Boots




Finally, here is a piece Zoë wrote to close the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in 2014, called Leap. Visuals by Robert Hodgin.

Leap, for the World Economic Forum 2014 from flight404 on Vimeo.

2 thoughts on “Listen: Zoe Keating

    • It’s wonderful, isn’t it? It was a challenge to pick pieces to share, because each time I’d hear a new piece, I’d think, oh, I have to include this one, too….

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