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, performed by 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.
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.