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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student


Cellist Shannon Hayden explores musical perception

Experimental cellist Shannon Hayden is playing a record release

Illinois-based musician Shannon Hayden will release her third album, “You See the World,” in February. The cellist and vocalist said the statement of the title suggests an entry point into an examination of perception versus reality.

Hayden is set to play an early record release show for “You See the World” in Bloomington; she said she often comes to Bloomington to play shows or do studio work.

“Many of the songs on the record have to do with how we perceive the world and how we perceive ourselves and fit into that picture, and what we think people think of us — looking at the world from different lenses,” 
Hayden said.

She said the theme stems from personal musical experiences.

Though her solo-based work involves her running a cello through effects, pedals and channeling experimental, pop and noise music, she said audiences sometimes have preconceived 
notions of what she’ll sound like.

“I deal with people’s perception of my music all the time, just based off press photos,” she said. “When I perform live, you can see these barriers breaking down.”

Hayden said “You See the World” comes closer to a pop edge than her past music, but it doesn’t fit that genre.

She said music on “YSTW” is influenced by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, as well as avant-pop musician Mica Levi, who fronts Micachu and the Shapes band, and scored Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 film “Under the Skin.“

Hayden, 25, has been playing cello since she was 6 years old, and said forward-thinking pop music, not classical, was what drew her to the instrument in the first place.

“I started playing what people consider a classical instrument because I heard ‘Eleanor Rigby’ on the radio,” she said. “Around the same age, I saw Björk on TV with the Icelandic String Octet. That was the first time I saw a cello on stage.”

Hayden said another key player in the making of “You See the World” was her father, a visual artist who spent years building high-end furniture.

Even though he doesn’t play an instrument, Hayden said her father is incredibly musical.

“The problem with my writing process is I have so many ideas, and I want to pull them together, and he’s the one who does that,” she said.

Hayden has produced three solo albums in six years, including two she produced after graduating from Yale University, but said attending a high-stress college has skewed her perception of age and accomplishment.

She said she has friends who worry about having not made a Forbes “30 Under 30” list by 
age 24.

But even though she trained in a classical music world that largely emphasized sticking to decades-old compositions, she said being able to experiment hasn’t alienated her from that background.

“It’s always been really liberating, but I never for a minute questioned my traditional training, because it gave me the technique to play what I wanted to express,” she said.

At Yale, she studied with acclaimed cellist Aldo Parisot, who she said encouraged her to break from classical traditions and experiment with electronics and other contemporary trappings.

For now, Hayden said, she’s working on a new round of solo work.

She said Björk, British R&B singer FKA twigs and Venezuelan producer Arca have provided recent influence, and after hearing how the warm sound of the vinyl pressings of “You See the World” complimented the cello, she’s considering releasing music via EPs with more consistent release dates and 10-inch vinyl pressings.

If pressed, she said, she’d still call her music contemporary classical, even if it stands out in that musical landscape. She said she sees that world changing soon.

“Classical music is in such a state of turmoil right now that things are going to have to change,” Hayden said. “I see peers who looked down on me now saying, ‘How do you do that?’”

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