David Bowie released his final album, called Blackstar, on his 69th birthday, just two days before he died, early in 2016. Composer Evan Ziporyn had already begun to love the record when he learned of the rock icon’s death, and has since rearranged the music for orchestra and cello. His Ambient Orchestra, and frequent collaborator Maya Beiser will be playing it tonight at the Bing Concert Hall through Stanford Live.
You can find out more about the concert at the Stanford Live website.
“I’ve been influenced by, and inspired by David Bowie since I was 14 or 15 years old,” Ziporyn says. “So Blackstar was kind of a return to him for me, because it’s such a great record. And then when he died, I just wanted to be with the music. And did this project as a way to dig deep into it, and share it with other people.” He says it’s not his aim to recreate the recording, but rather to offer another way in to it. “We start at the beginning, and we go to the end. And the songs are really intact. But it’s kind of like doing a translation to another language or maybe adapting something from one medium to another. The orchestra is a very different sound-world than a recording, and so I just try to make it so that the essence of the music comes through, but with an orchestra playing it.” Ziporyn has arranged rock songs for Beiser several times, including on her album Uncovered, and so knew that he wanted to have her play Bowie. “His voice has the same range as the cello. Bowie could go as low as a cello, and as high as a cello. And the reason I knew Maya had to do it is because she is similar to David Bowie, in that she’s not afraid to take her instrumental voice in any direction she needs to go… One of the things about Bowie is that he could be singing the blues one minute, and be singing opera the next, just in the course of one song. And maya is similar. She’s classically trained, but she’s never shied away from taking huge leaps with what she does with the cello.”