Composer Paola Prestini and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler to release new album Houses of Zodiac: Poems for Cello, September 10 on National Sawdust Tracks
The project combines spoken word, movement, music, and image to explore the intersection of mind, body, and nature
Houses of Zodiac is the first solo album collaboration between Prestini and her husband, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler
An accompanying film and immersive video installation will be directed by filmmaker Murat Eyuboglu, featuring New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin and Butoh dancer Dai Matsuoka
Houses of Zodiac will be released September 10 as a digital album on National Sawdust Tracks, followed by a vinyl release
A pre-release event will take place September 9, featuring a film preview, performances by Jeffrey Zeigler, and poetic interludes featuring the voices of Maria Popova, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Natasha Trethewey
Houses of Zodiac Official Trailer
New York retains a remarkable cadre of composers…but chief among these is the singular figure of Paola Prestini.
– Financial Times
[Jeffrey Zeigler plays with] fiery…unforced simplicity and beauty of tone.
– New York Times
For immediate release – Composer Paola Prestini will release Houses of Zodiac: Poems for Cello, an album, film, and immersive video installation that combines spoken word, movement, music, and image to explore the intersection of mind, body, and nature, in collaboration with her husband, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler. The project takes its title from the twelve houses of the zodiac as facets of the self, drawing inspiration from explorations of the subconscious including the writings of Anaïs Nin (read by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings), Pablo Neruda, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Natasha Trethewey. Additional musicians include Tanya Tagaq, Nels Cline, and others. The album will be released digitally on National Sawdust Tracks on September 10, with a vinyl record release to follow.
A pre-release event on September 9 will feature a preview of the accompanying film directed by Murat Eyuboglu, performances by Jeffrey Zeigler, and the poetic interludes. Later events are in discussions at concert:nova, MASS MoCA (where the work was developed), The Broad, and more.
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 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 (who also composed the score’s vocals), 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 Houses of 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 as well as studios in Tokyo and New York, 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.
Prestini says of the project: “Houses of 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.””
Interlude I | Paola Prestini reads Pablo Neruda’s Océano
Interlude II | Brenda Shaughnessy reads her poem Eight Takes
Interlude III | Natasha Trethewey reads her poem Bellocq’s Ophelia
Interlude IV | Maria Popova reads an excerpt from Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest
Houses of Zodiac
SIDE B: WE BREATHE AGAIN
Film score composed by Paola Prestini, with vocals composed by Tanya Tagaq
Tanya Tagaq appears courtesy of Six Shooter Records
In a landscape as dramatic as its stories, We Breathe Again is a 30’ film score that intimately explores the lives of four Alaska Native people, each confronting the impacts of intergenerational trauma and suicide. Reﬂected in the northern lights and the city streetlights, from the ice roads to the asphalt, the characters battle for personal healing, hoping to break a new trail for their families and their communities to follow. For PBS America Reframed 2018. By Marsh Chamberlain, and produced by Evon Peter. Performed by Tanya Tagaq, Nels Cline, Cornelius Dufallo, David Cossin, and Jeffrey Zeigler, the score by Prestini reflects the resilience, hope, and power of the stories through music, interpreted and improvised on by some of the true artistic masters of our time.
About Paola Prestini
Composer Paola Prestini is a leader in the global new music scene. She has collaborated with poets, filmmakers, and scientists in large-scale multimedia works that explore themes ranging from the cosmos to the environment. She created the largest communal VR opera with The Hubble Cantata, was part of the New York Philharmonic’s legendary Project 19 initiative, and has written and produced large scale projects like the eco-documentary The Colorado narrated by Mark Rylance (premiered and commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Houston Da Camera Series) and the lauded opera theater work Aging Magician (premiered and commissioned by the Walker Arts Center and the Krannert Center, with performances at ASU, the New Victory Theater and San Diego Opera). Her compositions have been commissioned and performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Barbican Centre, Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Kennedy Center, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Opera, among others.
Throughout her career, Prestini has crossed genres, brought together different disciplines, and shattered glass ceilings. She was the first woman in the Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative with her grand opera Edward Tulane. Her upcoming chamber opera Sensorium Ex, co-commissioned by The Atlanta Opera and Beth Morrison Projects for the Prototype Festival, examines the intersection of artificial intelligence and disability, using non-verbal or non-typical patterns of speech to explore the fundamental questions of what it means to have voice, and what it means to be fully and essentially human. Her new opera theater work Old Man and the Sea, with Karmina Šilec and Royce Vavrek, will be premiered by Carolina Performing Arts and Arizona State University. Other upcoming works include two new piano concertos: one for Awadagin Pratt and A Far Cry, and another for Lara Downes with the Louisville Symphony, Oregon Bach Festival, and The Ravinia Festival.
Prestini is the co-founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn-based arts institution and incubator National Sawdust, where she serves in a strategic and vision-based role. Her podcast about artistic leadership and social change, Active Hope, is a collaboration with the Kennedy Center and the Apollo Theater, co-hosted with Kamilah Forbes and Marc Bamuthi Joseph. As part of her commitment to equity for the next generation of artists, she started the Hildegard Competition for emerging female, trans, and non-binary composers, and the Blueprint Fellowship for emerging composers and female mentors with The Juilliard School. She was a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and a Sundance Institute Film Music Program Fellow, has been in residence at the Park Avenue Armory and MASS MoCA, and is a graduate of the Juilliard School.
About Jeffrey Zeigler (cellist)
Jeffrey Zeigler is one of the most innovative and versatile cellists of our time. He has been described as “fiery”, and a player who performs “with unforced simplicity and beauty of tone” by the New York Times. Acclaimed for his independent streak, Zeigler has commissioned dozens of works, and is admired as a potent collaborator and unique improviser. Zeigler is the recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize, the Polar Music Prize, the President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recorded Arts (Grammy’s), the Chamber Music America National Service Award and The Asia Society’s Cultural Achievement Award.
Zeigler’s multifaceted career has led to collaborations and tours with a wide array of artists from Yo-Yo Ma and Tanya Tagaq to Philip Glass and Hauschka, and from John Zorn and John Corigliano to Laurie Anderson and Siddhartha Mukherjee. He has also performed as a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Danish Radio Symphony and the Ulster Orchestra under the batons of JoAnn Falletta, Dennis Russell Davies, Peter Oundjian and Dmitry Sitkovetsky.
About Dai Matsuoka (Butoh dancer, choreographer)
Dai Matsuoka (Butoh Master) is a Butoh dancer and choreographer based in Tokyo. He holds degrees from Kuwasawa Design School and the Faculty of Culture at Sophia University. Matsuoka has been a dancer for renowned Butoh dance troupe Sankai Juku since 2005, and has appeared in 10 pieces of Sankai Juku including “Kinkan Shonen”, “Unetsu”, “Tobari”, and “ARC”, and traveled more than 30 countries with the company. As a solo performer, Matsuoka dances “Hijikata Three Chapters” which was handed down by Yoshito Ohno in 2018, not only for the purpose of delving into the early period Butoh method, but also for archival purposes to ensure the important piece survives. He also runs the organization LAND FES in Tokyo, producing site-specific dance events and filmed content online. As a member of NPO Dance Archive Network, he co-edited the book “Something Called Butoh” in 2020, a report on worldwide Butoh surveys conducted from 2017 to 2019.
About Georgina Pazcoguin (ballet dancer, choreographer)
Georgina Pazcoguin, “The Rogue Ballerina,” has danced with the New York City Ballet since 2002 and was promoted to soloist in 2013. A steadily rising star, she is an ambassador of her art on many platforms, crossing over to Broadway, TV, and film. In addition to her many appearances at NYCB, including a celebrated portrayal of Anita in Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story Suite, her credits include the award-winning film N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz, Ivy in the Broadway revival of On the Town, and Victoria in the Broadway revival of Cats. Georgina is a passionate activist for the Orphaned Starfish Foundation, and she is cofounder of the globally recognized diversity initiative Final Bow for Yellowface. She is the author of Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina, available July 2021. She lives in New York City, and a half hour with her will shake your stereotype of uptight ballerinas to bits.
About Murat Eyuboglu (filmmaker)
Murat started photography as an apprentice to Josephine Powell in Istanbul. After attending the Academy of Fine Arts, School of Photography (Istanbul), he transferred to Bennington College, Vermont. He lived in Paris and returned to New York to pursue studies in music history. His dissertation was on the utopian aspects of Gustav Mahler’s works. Since 2000 he has focused mainly on portraiture and collaborative projects. In 2007, he participated in the documentary Claude Lévi-Strauss: Return to the Amazon as assistant director. He directed, filmed and co-authored the script of The Colorado (2016), a music-based documentary with a score performed by Jeffrey Zeigler, to which five composers contributed original music, including Paola Prestini. He is currently working on a documentary on the Amazon River Basin, a sequel to The Colorado. He lives in New York City.
Filmed on site at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, in the exhibition Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing 289: A 6-inch (15 cm) grid covering each of four black walls. White lines to points on the grids. Fourth wall: twenty-four lines from the center, twelve lines from the midpoint of each of the sides, twelve lines from each corner. (The length of the lines and their placement are determined by the draftsman.) 1976. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Purchase, with funds from the Gilman Foundation, Inc.
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing 295: Six white geometric figures (outlines) superimposed on a black wall, 1976. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with matching funds of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Modern and Contemporary Art Council.