Press Release

MIT's CAST Names Maya Beiser Inaugural Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist

Event Date: 
3 March 2017
Boston, MA

Beiser to collaborate with faculty on three new performances in MIT’s Sounding Series, and present master classes with MIT students

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announces cellist Maya Beiser as the inaugural Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST). Beiser has captivated audiences worldwide with her virtuosity, eclectic repertoire, and relentless quest to redefine her instrument’s boundaries-all qualities that resonate with the mission of MIT’s CAST to create opportunities for art, science, and technology to thrive as interrelated modes of exploration, knowledge, and discovery. The arts have been an integral part of MIT since its founding, and in recent years, have been further strengthened through the CAST’s artist residencies and initiatives, which the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has supported since CAST’s inception in 2012 and through a recent renewal grant, extended its funding through academic year 2020. The endowment of this new artistic residency demonstrates the ongoing and essential nature of the Mellon Foundation’s commitment to the arts at MIT.

As the inaugural Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist, Beiser will collaborate with MIT faculty and students to investigate ways to advance her artistic practice with new technologies. She will also perform three concerts as part of MIT Sounding -- the new music series curated by Evan Ziporyn, CAST Faculty Director, which integrates the avant-garde sounds of traditional instruments and practices with cutting-edge composition and technology to present various visions of a new, evolving music that defies genre. Both original members of the musical group Bang on a Can, Beiser and Ziporyn are longtime collaborators and these concerts follow their latest collaboration Uncovered (2015).

The first concert on March 3 features a new arrangement by Ziporyn of David Bowie’s complete final album, Blackstar, set as a cello concerto for Beiser and the Ambient Orchestra. The second performance will occur as part of the AUDIBLE component of the MIT CAST symposium “Being Material”, taking place on April 22 when Beiser & Ziporyn will perform their classic multi-cello collaboration, Kebyar Maya, originally commissioned in part by the MIT Council for the Arts. Beiser’s residency will then culminate in a performance in Fall 2017 of Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin and American Gamelan with Beiser on cello and members of MIT’s Gamelan Galak Tika performing on Harrison’s original instruments, in honor of the composer’s centennial.

“It is such a great honor to be coming to MIT, a remarkable institution where creativity and innovation are so vividly celebrated across all disciplines -- art, music, science, and technology -- in a way that aligns perfectly with my own artistic values and pursuit and with what I am exploring in my art,” Beiser said. “I look forward to meaningful collaboration with MIT’s faculty and students as we embark together on what I know will be a memorable and influential year. I am grateful to the Mellon Foundation for recognizing the importance of bringing independent artists, such as myself, into the academic environment.”

“Maya’s entire career has been about expanding the idea of what it means to be a ‘classical’ musician, and a cellist,” said Evan Ziporyn Professor MIT Music Theater Arts and Faculty Director of CAST.  “She approaches performance with rigor but also with risk, openness, and joy.  She’s not afraid of what she doesn’t know, and she’s not afraid to ask questions or approach absolutely anyone - exhibiting a vibrant intellectual curiosity that is fundamental to the character of MIT. So I think it’s a perfect fit.”

A key part of MIT CAST’s artist residencies is the opportunity for artists to experiment and explore new technologies that stretch the boundaries of their respective practices. During her time at MIT, Beiser will research, exchange ideas and collaborate with Evan Ziporyn Professor MIT Music Theater Arts and Faculty Director of CAST, Skylar Tibbits co-director of the MIT Self-Assembly Lab and Assistant Professor in the department of Architecture, and Eran Egozy of the MIT Music Technology Lab, as well as with students in classes and workshops integrating music, technology, and film.


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Photo by Justin Knight.

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