I listened to Zoe Keating last night, purposefully. I like Keating, mind you, and I saw her a few years ago at a poetry summit. She plays cello, but has at her disposal a confusion of technology—pedals, mixers, the digital gamut—which elevates her into a virtual one-woman orchestra. Amazingly she has only one bow to rosin.
I listened to Zoe Keating because I know that three weeks and five days ago her husband died having had twenty-four new tumors discovered in his brain. I know this because that’s what Oren reported last week.
Oren has since died, and in similar fashion to Zoe’s husband. Metastatic sickness.
“I’ll be dead soon,” Oren wrote. That’s a weighty sentence to read when you otherwise have an expectation of deferred mortality. Forty-something shouldn’t be a viable, die-able age, until suddenly it is.
If you do the math, it’s scary. Not the years part, mind you, but the days. Oren wrote the most existentially heavy sentence he perhaps could’ve written just five days before he passed. “I’ll be dead soon.” He was right. We’re generally not predictors of this.
I saw Zoe Keating at a community college. I had picked up my friend from the airport and I got us lost on our way to the event. It was nighttime and my eyes are bad. We were at the back of the auditorium when Zoe played. She’d play a measure, reach to her left and switch a dial, else tap a pedal. She created layers of sound with just one instrument.
Everything about the cello suggests warmth. The rosewood, the rotund base. Drawing a bow past the strings is in itself a poetic gesture. (In ASL, the sign for music involves stroking the forearm with an upturned then downturned palm. It’s a beautiful sign).
Zoe played until she stopped. “Excuse me,” she said. Her bank of computers had momentarily failed and her orchestra was reduced to one player. In attempting to begin again, she sawed the chorus for ‘Sun Will Set’ a few times over while pressing at buttons.
In interviews, Zoe says that ‘Sun Will Set’ is embarrassingly simple. It’s beautiful nonetheless and I liked the interruption of simplicity when her set faltered. It was gorgeous.
The internet is stupid and all. I know that Oren liked Zoe Keating. I read it on his FaceBook page. How we know these things about each other without knowing each other at all. He said ‘”Heaven is on earth” and I think of Zoe frustratedly playing a very few and exact notes and it being perfect.