Kinship means family relationship or close connection. For Israeli cellist Maya Beiser, that means being alive to all music, not merely the Western classics. A member of New York's avant-garde classical music Bang On A Can All-Stars, Beiser approaches world music with a fundamental affection. At first, some people may be put off by the idea of a classical cellist performing world music. Is this simply another commodity, a classical crossover package to be marketed to a hip, upwardly mobile audience? No, this is something else. In a modern world where musical context can depend on just the press of an on-off switch of a CD player, Beiser argues for a new aesthetic. In her performance on "Kinship" Beiser seeks a meta-style, beyond different musical denominations-nothing less than music's power to move an audience.
The album opens with "Samai Nahawand", a Simon Shaheen composition with Shaheen on the oud, Glen Velez on frame drum. On this song, Beiser uses her cello as one would use a violin to create a piece squarely in the tradition of Arab classical song. "Traya Boia", from Brazilian Nana Vasconcelos, is a piece for solo cello and voice. In this calm, static piece, the cello functions like a drone. A melody buzzes slightly above or below the drone for a while, then fades out. Evan Ziporyn's "Kebyar Maya" is based on Balinese kebyar music. Some 20 multi-tracked cello parts function as the central melody and the percussive punctuation. On composer Chinary Ung's "Khse Buon" for solo cello, Beiser uses her instrument much in the same way the traditional tro, or two-stringed fiddle, is used in Cambodian music. Evan Ziporyn's "Tsmindao Ghmerto" for cello and vocals is based on a Sanctus from the Orthodox Georgian liturgy. Recorded with a deep reverb, the cello functions like an organ against the voice in this polyphonic piece. "Kinship", a Glen Velez composition for cello, frame drum and voices, draws from both classical Indian and American minimalist references. Another Shaheen composition, "Desert Mist", ends the CD. This piece, for solo cello, evokes a classical Arab music instrumental improvisation that would ordinarily set the mood and tone color of the mode of a particular long piece.
At minimum, this album is highly recommended for anyone interested in exploring the possibilities of the cello repertoire. This is formal concert music as opposed to folk music. It's a blend of the ultramodern and the traditional. This isn't simple music. But if you cherish the free flight of artistic fantasy, then "Kinship" should attract you. -Aaron Howard