Miles and miles and hours north of San Francisco, Zoe lives deep among the Redwood forest in a cabin. The quality of silence and natural beauty is stunning and unmatched in the city, despite its iconic views. Wooden monoliths towering over everything. The comfort of space, the ease of solitude, and a recording studio right inside her home. Being the number one selling classical artist on itunes, numerous times, affords one those luxuries.
On her way to play at the San Francisco International Airport, Zoe talks about traveling to the city only one or twice a month, usually at the beginning of a tour or to run errands and indulge in the modern camaraderie of urban coffee shops. Her speedometer is broken and the drive is not short. She opens up about the places she’s been fortunate enough to visit and play, because of her music. A cello festival in Beauvais, the opera house in Sydney, Zurich, the New Mexico desert for the gasoline-laden simulation of a nuclear bomb, the list goes on. Sometimes large corporations would hire her to play in brainstorming sessions, to get them in to a creative mood, as inspiration can be fickle. And she’s appreciative. And happy.
Arriving at SFO, we unpacked and headed for the terrace above the security check point. The Transportation Security Administration that grips airports in the United States had many, many questions for us before we could shoot. Apparently they had allowed artists to play here before and as long we didn’t film certain things and they had copies of our passports, we were alright in their books.
As she set up her computer, looping mechanisms and speakers, a crowd started to gather. She began to play and they all sat down on the ground nearby or leaned up against their luggage, listening to Zoe play and loop and create layers reminiscent of a digital symphony. At one point her finger collapsed, not uncommon with such intense playing for so many years, and we all watched with sympathetic anguish as she simply played through it.
During the performance people came and went, some in disbelief, some in awe, most dashing off to planes to Shanghai or New York or Milwaukee, but were caught up in the hauntingly beautiful music echoing off the cavernous concourse.