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Zodiac: Poems for Cello


  • Artists In Residence

  • February 2021

In February 2021, we welcomed the creative team behind Zodiac: Poems for Cello. An album and multimedia experience that combines spoken word, movement, music, and imagery, Zodiac is a unified exploration of love, loss, trauma, and healing composed by Paola Prestini for her husband, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler. The project takes its title from the twelve houses of the zodiac as facets of the self, and draws inspiration from explorations of the subconscious including Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest and the poetry of Pablo Neruda, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Natasha Trethewey.

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More about the Project:
The album, produced and recorded by Grammy-winning producer Adam Abeshouse, paints a broad sonic palette, with Side A featuring solo cello works by Prestini performed by her husband, former Kronos Quartet member Jeffrey Zeigler—the couple’s first solo album collaboration. The music is inspired by and interspersed with excerpts of poetry by Pablo Neruda, Brenda Shaughnessy, Natasha Trethewey and Anaïs Nin, read by Shaughnessy and Trethewey themselves, as well as Maria Popova of Brain Pickings and Prestini. Poetry interludes are underscored by brief sections of an instrumental soundscape called We Breathe Again, originally composed by Prestini as the score for an acclaimed 2017 documentary of the same title, which explores intergenerational trauma in Alaska Native communities. The piece, which appears in its entirety on Side B of the album, features Zeigler alongside Prestini’s ‘musical family’ of guest artists Tanya Tagaq, Nels Cline, David Cossin, and Cornelius Dufallo, as well as Prestini herself.

Created by filmmaker Murat Eyuboglu, who previously collaborated with Prestini and Zeigler on the award-winning documentary The Colorado, the Zodiac film weaves together the poems and music of the album with archival images that inspired the works, as well as cross-cultural explorations of dance. Filmed at MASS MoCA and Studio Polygons in Tokyo, Japan, it features the performances and original choreography of New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin and Butoh dancer Dai Matsuoka, a member of the acclaimed Butoh troupe Sankai Juku. Created under the challenges of Covid-19 restrictions, the curated cinematic experience highlights unlikely pairings from seemingly disparate worlds—ballet and Butoh, poetry and photography—and reflects on the themes of being, becoming, solitude, communion, and freedom.

“ZODIAC represents a culmination of years of collaboration, and a family of sound bound by friendship, collaboration, and poetic imagery. Each solo cello work spans my career and is performed by my fiercest interpreter and husband, Jeffrey Zeigler. From my days at Juilliard with Océano, to recent work like Eight Takes, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, each work is preceded by an interlude and the poetry read by its author. The work as a whole is imbued with my greatest passions: poetry, movement, collaboration and deep muse-like bonds with the musicians featured, and for this reason, I call it my “family album.”” — Paola Prestini