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My Fellow Americans: Zoe Keating's Radical Cello

Zoe Keating has been playing the cello since she was 8. She grew up practicing hard every day to learn the music of classical composers such as Bach and Beethoven.

But she soon found the rigid structure of classical music too constraining, and just a little nerve-wracking. She suffered from extreme bouts of stage fright. Keating eventually conquered her anxiety, and at the same time made an unusual transition from performing classical music to electronically looping and modifying the sound of her cello.

The result was a distinctive mix of old and new -- layers of sound, pitched to octaves higher and lower than the original that feel more like orchestrations than a solo instrument. As a member of the band Rasputina, she pushed the concept further, taking on classical tunes with a modern twist and imbuing rock 'n' roll tunes with the warm, expressive sound of the cello.

Keating now has a new solo CD -- One Cello x 16: Natoma. She talks about redefining the traditional boundaries of classical music to reach a new audience.

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Rob Sachs
Rob Sachs is a director on the NPR news and talk show Tell Me More and hosts the podcast "What Would Rob Do?" (WWRD).