Name: Lori Goldston
Nationality: American
Occupation: Cellist
Recent Release: Lori Goldston's High and Low is out via SofaBurn on October 7th 2022.
Recommendations: Because he just passed away I’ve been thinking about the great improvising cellist Abdul Wadud, who left behind a lot of beautiful recordings. I recommend his incredible solo album, By Myself, which had a huge impact on me and the improvising cellists of my generation. I’ve never owned it on vinyl, I only had a dubbed cassette copy but I listen to it on YouTube once in a while for inspiration. Hopefully someone will reissue it soon. So much integrity, warmth and intelligence, it deserves to be heard more broadly.
Soon we’ll be lucky to able to see a new film by my iconoclastic polymath friend Clyde Petersen, “Even Hell Has Its Heroes”, an experimental documentary about Earth, a band I played in and am still close with. It isand transcendent and gorgeous, also about many other things including community, culture, perseverance and the Pacific Northwest.

If you enjoyed this interview with Lori Goldston and would like to find out more about her work, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, and Facebook.

Over the course of her career, Lori Goldston has worked with a wide range of artists, including Nirvana, Stuart Dempster, David Byrne, Terry Riley, Earth and Ellen Fullman.

[Read our Dylan Carlson of Earth interview]
[Read our Ellen Fullman interview]

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started on guitar at seven years old. Once I started playing guitar I started listening very avidly to New York City area radio, early on lots of soul, an and much later salsa and early hip hop. Al Green, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, etc. was the first music I remember falling in love with.

I don’t know what drew me in, it was just very exciting and one big swoon.

I wasn’t around many musicians and don’t remember people in my house listening to music much. So I was kind of a blank slate, and have always had omnivorous taste.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

Often I see moving images, and sometimes am transported to the place where the music’s from. When I’m playing sometimes I try to convey a sense of where I’m from.

One thing I love is how music, especially live music, carries so many kinds of things: the essence of where it’s created and / or played, ideas about how to approach things, different ways of thinking and being, etc.

It’s a multi-dimensional, penetrating kind of communication and learning. The listening happens with the whole body resonating.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

My early training was in jazz and folk guitar, and a little later I took up cello in public school orchestra.

When I took up guitar I was young enough to not worry about whether things were difficult. I improvised and played by ear without thinking anything of it— I don’t remember being discouraged or encouraged to do it.

With cello a few years later the pedagogy was traditional, and eventually I felt a chasm between the ways I approached the two instruments: on guitar I felt free in ways that were at the time inaccessible to me on cello. I spent several confusing years working to bridge that gap and eventually got there.

Being in Seattle for so long has been great. It took a while to absorb and adapt what was happening here with the noisy amplifiers, but eventually it got into my bones. We are awash in great shows, musicians, advice, listeners and gear.

Over time I developed an amplified voice I’m pretty happy with, and those ideas about timbre, texture, noise, etc. inform my acoustic sound enormously. I doubt I’d sound the same if I’d been living somewhere else.

Amplification-wise touring with Nirvana was the source of many breakthroughs, of course in terms of playing with them but also from watching a lot of amazing bands— Mudhoney, the Meat Puppets, the Breeders, etc.— up close for 2-3 week stretches. It was a master class. It’s a joyful way to make music and I never wanted to be too far from it since then.

It’s a long, long list of interests and breakthroughs, I am really lucky. I went to Bennington College for a couple of years and learned a huge amount from professors and students about improvisation, composition and collaboration.

Also for many years I had a long running band, the Black Cat Orchestra, that experience was a steady churn of breakthroughs, too.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

Musician life looms large in my sense of identity; I think a lot about my connection to past, present and future musicians. Music is hands down the best thing humans do and I’m extremely grateful and proud to be linked to / through it.

Beyond that my sense of identity in is always in flux ,and I’m not all that inclined to talk about it very much in relation to music— I’m not sure why, or whether it’s good or bad. I appreciate the increasingly open discussion of identity, but have not made it my discussion. Am I leaving space in a finite amount of bandwidth for under-represented folks? Am I being a coward when I should be stepping forward? Resisting a trend toward branding? The confusion has been central to my identity.

I put a lot of myself into my work and feel quite laid bare by it, while at the same time am a pretty private person. In some ways it’s a paradox, a pretty common one. Everyone’s looking to strike their own balance.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Ideally I hope my music helps give people space and nourishment to allow their imaginations to flourish.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I love traditionalists but am definitely not one. I’m more of an odd branch on many trees.

In some ways music resists chronological time and the musicians of the past, present and future are in constant contact.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

This is an enjoyably confusing question: what kind(s) of tools? I’ve been blessed with a lot of excellent physical tools but I’m guessing you mean the intangible kind.

Of these probably the most useful have been stubbornness, curiosity and sincerity.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I’m settling back into home life after traveling in Mexico, Europe and Canada for most of the last three months, so it’s a question I’m asking myself.

I take long walks, and need to work a lot with my hands making and fixing things. There are always a lot of music projects that require emails and / or in-person communication. Also some practicing, listening and researching.

Most evenings I’m at rehearsals, or playing or attending shows. Sometimes I teach some private lessons, but not so much lately.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

During COVID lockdown doldrums an old friend, Ann Kaneko, hired me to score her film “Manzanar, Diverted”, a beautiful documentary about several groups of activists working together in California. I enlisted a couple of ex-Californian friends, Steve Fisk and Alex Miranda, to collaborate, figuring that they’d have a better sense of invoking the feeling of that place.


orking with them would have been a pleasure any time, but being immersed in a project and in constant touch with excellent collaborators was heavenly at that lonely moment.

That area’s where Los Angeles’s water comes from, and much the film is about the long, tortured historic and present struggle over water rights. Alex plays guitar and an extremely watery-sounding instrument, the Array mbira, and I could hear it clearly right away. Steve is very kind and brilliant and a pleasure to work with, and we roped in our friends Matt Chamberlain and Susie Kozawa. So good to work with everyone involved, editors, producers, the whole gang.

During lockdown I’d been missing that kind of togetherness very much.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I attend and play live shows a lot, often several times a week. I love and rely on it.

Many all time favorite experiences have been while listening with or performing for a lot of very astute ears.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

Music is extremely fundamental to human existence. I am delighted to be a minuscule speck in a gigantic continuum.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

In general music makes room for people to decompress and be with themselves. Life would be unbearable without it. Humans and I’m sure many other species are hardwired to use music ceremonially to mark transitions.

Music seems to be tied in some way to the afterworld, and maybe makes it feel a bit less distant.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?

My musician/scientist friend Susie Kozawa likes saying that artists and scientists both ask “Why?”. Both disciplines require imagination, subtle perception and rigor, and seem more alike than different.

I’m a plant and animal fan, a heartfelt but undisciplined fan of natural science. Recently I attended a bat listening workshop at a lovely festival I played at in British Columbia, Active / Passive. A biologist gave a talk and told us that some moth species developed ways to deflect certain bat species’ sonar so that bats thinks the moths are elsewhere. I keep wondering if this bat / moth ventriloquism duo thing is somehow reproducible on cello?

I’m wondering a lot about ways scientists and musicians can help each other to understand sound.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Listening to and playing is by far most transcendent and psychedelic thing I do on regular basis.

As I mentioned, I believe that music carries information that we receive in an infinite number of conscious and unconscious ways.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

This seems like an unknowable mystery. Music’s physical resonance mirrors many other kinds of resonances we don’t have names for.