A collaboration with Bowie seemed to be the
perfect match because he is known for pushing the musical envelope. The
two were brought together during a concert Mooke produced for other
artists like herself, who weren't afraid to take the road less traveled.
"I had produced a new music showcase called 'Thru the Walls,' that
featured ASCAP composers and performers who do music that defies
categorization," says Mooke. "I generally don't write for symphony
orchestras, and I realized that people like me were falling through the
cracks. I brought this to the attention of the people at ASCAP, and they
put all of their efforts behind me to create this showcase."
Mooke aspired to present classical musicians
as well as rock-and-roll and studio musicians. To broaden her outreach,
she asked friend and music producer Tony Visconti to introduce the
showcase. Visconti-Bowie's longtime producer- mentioned that Bowie might
be interested in attending the per-formance. "Sure enough, a few minutes
before show time, Tony walked in with David Bowie and I was floored,"
"Thru the Walls" was a tremendous success, and
continues to be one every year. Bowie joined Mooke's fanbase, and invited
her to play with him at the annual 2000 Tibet House Benefit Concert. She
put together a quartet to accompany Bowie on Visconti's arrangements of
"Heroes" and "Silly Boy Blue" at the concert. Bowie was thrilled with the
quartet's rendition. "It went over really well and he loved it," she says.
"Then I got the call to do some work on the new album."
In September 2001, Mooke and the
quartet, which Bowie dubbed the Scorchio Quartet, traveled to a recording
studio in Upstate New York. They spent part of the fall working on the
original works on "Heathen." He was so impressed with the quartet that he
again asked them to accompany him for the 2002 Tibet House Benefit
Concert. "We did one of the new songs on the CD, and then Tony did an
amazing arrangement of 'Space Oddity' which he scored for double string
quartet," she says. "It blew everybody away."
Because they worked so well together, the
quartet decided to put together their own repertoire. "It's a whole
different concept for string quartet that's really solidly
electroacoustic," says Mooke. "We all play classical and acoustic
instruments, but we also do electric playing and we've all played jazz,
rock, and other assorted styles. We're premiering pieces and reworking
some old pieces. Several of us are composers, so we're writing for the
group as well. We have a lot of plans."
In performance, a
traditional-sounding passage will give way to mesmerizing mood
sequences and then, it seems, half an electric orchestra is
playing-but it's all her."
-Staten Island Advance
on Mooke's amazing live
Mooke remains busy outside of the quartet.
She's now in the process of putting together a tour for her duo, Bowing.
She and guitarist Randolph Hudson III released their first CD titled "Café
Mars," which is described as a dynamic and futuristic musical
experience-but Mooke can better elaborate on the duo's unique music-making
process. "We use the E-Bow which is a device that's held, instead of a
pick, over the strings of an electric guitar," she explains. "You get a
bowing sound, like a violin bow. We do a lot of work with digital effects
processing and loops, so there are actual times when you don't know who's
playing. I'll sound like a guitar and he'll sound like an electric
Despite all of her performances, Mooke still
finds time to devote to her work as a Yamaha clinician. She's been
instrumental to the evolution of the EV series and has seen firsthand how
well the electric string series is received by students. "I'm mainly a
violist, but I've been playing the Silent Violin™ while they continue to
develop the Silent Viola™. From the very beginning I've encouraged Yamaha
to continue making innovations with the series."
She traveled to Japan in 2000 to see the
prototypes and to lend insight from her years of work as a clinician and
performer. "My specialty is the five-string," she explains, "and when I
got over there I was surprised. Not only did they have the Silent Viola,
but they also had a second generation Silent Violin and both the four- and
five-string models of the new electric violin."
Mooke is never far from her Yamaha electric
violins. She says their modern design and practicality are tremendous
pluses. "The schools love them," she says. "When I go in and start playing
the bright red violin, that's the first thing the kids latch onto. And
then I can plug it in and make it sound like so many different things.
Kids love the flexibility of it. They never thought a violin could do
Highly regarded for her work with the five-string
electric viola, Martha Mooke spends a lot of her time traveling the world,
as she did here on "Live from Downtown" on Downtown Commumity Television
Center )DCTV) with host Tasha Guevara in New York City, New
Mooke spent September 2001 in the recording studio with
David Bowie working on original works for his recent release
Bowie is surrounded by the members of the Scorchio
Quartet after the 2002 Tibet House Benefit Concert. Pictured are Gregor
Kitzis, Martha Mooke, David Bowie, Mary Wooten, and Meg