Celebrate the legacy of musician, artist, and icon David Bowie as cellist Maya Beiser joins composer, conductor, and MIT professor Evan Ziporyn and the Ambient Orchestra to reimagine Bowie’s final album as a cello concerto.

The Ambient Orchestra — formed in the wake of Bowie’s death in 2016 — and Beiser, dubbed a “cello rock star” by Rolling Stone magazine, present their tribute to the legendary artist at the Moss Arts Center on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

The performance will be held in the center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall.

“Blackstar” is a concept album and this performance stays true to and amplifies Bowie’s themes of transformation.

Ziporyn formed the Ambient Orchestra in 2016 to create living orchestral versions of great ambient recordings. Bowie’s untimely death inspired the composer to launch the ensemble with two tributes to the musician.

“We made our ‘Blackstar’ to honor Bowie and his influence, but also to immerse ourselves in this amazing music, to live inside it, explore it, embody it,” Ziporyn writes in the program notes for the performance. “Bowie’s four-octave vocal range matches that of the cello almost exactly; I knew immediately that ‘Blackstar’ would be a cello concerto, with Maya Beiser as soloist. In ‘Blackstar’ she is vocalist one moment, lead guitarist the next; she evokes Bowie’s spirit while never ceasing to be herself.”

In its debut performance less than three weeks after Bowie’s death, the Ambient Orchestra performed Philip Glass’ symphonic tributes to Bowie. The following March, the ensemble reconvened to premiere “Blackstar,” featuring Beiser as soloist. Ziporyn and Beiser have since performed “Blackstar” with the Barcelona Symphony and with the Ensemble LPR at SummerStage in New York City’s Central Park.

This performance features the 26-member Ambient Orchestra, with principal soloists joined by faculty and students from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

A distinguished professor of music at MIT and director of its Center for Art, Science and Technology, Ziporyn has composed for and collaborated with various artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Brooklyn Rider, the American Composers Orchestra, Terry Riley, Wu Man, Bang on a Can, Paul Simon, Christine Southworth, and the Steve Reich Ensemble.

In 2017, his arrangements were featured on Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s “The Vietnam War” and on Silkroad’s Grammy-winning album “Sing Me Home.” He has received numerous awards, including a USA Artist Fellowship, the Goddard Lieberson Prize from the American Academy, and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, as well as commissions from Carnegie Hall, Kronos Quartet, Rockefeller Multi-Arts Program, and Meet the Composer.

Beiser has reinvented solo cello performance in the mainstream classical arena and has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, including the Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, London’s Southbank Centre, and the Sydney Opera House, and she has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Tan Dun, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, Shirin Neshat, Bill Morrison, Robert Woodruff, and Lucinda Childs, among many others.

Beiser’s discography includes 10 solo albums and numerous feature appearances on film and television soundtracks. Her 2016 album “TranceClassical” debuted at number one on the Apple Music classical chart, and her album “Uncovered” topped the classical music charts, reaching the number one spot on both Amazon and Apple Music. Her 2011 TED Talk, “A cello with many voices,” has been watched by over 1 million people.

Pre-performance talk

Prior to the performance, Kevin Concannon, director of the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech, will present the talk “David Bowie: Who Can I Be Now?” at 6 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center’s Merryman Family Learning Studio, room 253. From the glam rock of “Ziggy Stardust,” the decadent “Diamond Dog,” the coke-fueled “Thin White Duke,” the Berlin-based “Avant Gardist,” “Dance Floor Pop Star,” and more, Bowie was always one step ahead of the zeitgeist and, with “Lazarus,” one step ahead of his own mortality. This slide-illustrated talk considers his many changes. The talk is free, but registration is required and can be completed online.


Tickets are $25-55 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

While Virginia Tech students can always attend any Moss Arts Center performance for only $10, the center also offers free last minute rush tickets for students who sign up for text notifications. To receive these notifications, text “arts” to 31996. Availability of rush tickets vary by performance and are available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last in the box office. Virginia Tech ID will be required for admission.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email kmcallis@vt.edu during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to an event.

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