Frances-Marie Uitti

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Frances-Marie Uitti is composer and cellist known for her performances of the most esoteric and virtuosic contemporary classical music. She was born in the US in 1946 to Finnish parents, and she studied classical music at Meadowmount with Ronald Leonard and Josef Gingold, Boston University with Leslie Parnas and University of Texas with George Neikrug. In Europe she worked at the Academia Chigiana with Andre Navarra, winning their top award two years in a row.

Uitti invented a radically extended technique using two bows simultaneously in one hand- being the first to transform the cello into a 4 part chordal instrument. This technique expands the harmonic and timbral possibilities of the instrument in extraordinary ways: for example, one can play simultaneously 4, 3, 2, and 1 string, with contrasting polyrhythmic articulations between the two bows. Non-adjacent strings can also be accessed. One bow can be played near the bridge while the other is near the fingerboard.

She has used over 75 different tunings in her compositions using this technique, each producing new harmonic possibilities and exotic timbres plus a polyphony and independence of voices that her previous work with a single curved bow couldn't obtain.

Early on, she combined singing with the cello and premiered Louis Andriessen's masterpiece La Voce which is dedicated to her. Other works featuring her voice include James Tenney's concerto, "Ain't I a Woman?" with text by Sojourner Truth, David Dramm's Crosshair, Rodney Sharman's The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Vinko Globokar's Janus, William Kirkpatrick's Stations of the Cross. Uitti has collaborated with and is the dedicatee of composers Luigi Nono, Louis Andriessen, James Tenney, Jonathan Harvey, John Cage, Karen Tanaka, Per Nørgård, Giacinto Scelsi, Elliott Sharp, György Kurtág, Richard Barrett, Guus Janssen, Jay Alan Yim, Vinko Globokar, Clarence Barlow, David Dramm, Geoffrey King, Martijn Padding, Horațiu Rădulescu, Calliope Tsoupaki, and Peter Nelson, among many others. She collaborates in duo with Mark Dresser, and with Evan Parker, Joel Ryan, Misha Mengelberg, David Wessel, and other legends out the jazz world as well as with DJ Low, Scanner etc., and artists Stansfield / Hooykaas, Marina Abromovic, Steina Vasulka, Frank Scheffer. While living in Rome, she worked closely with Giacinto Scelsi, not only as dedicatee of all the cello works, but also transcribing from his archive and improvising together- from 1975 until his death in 1988. Uitti premiered his newly discovered cello concerto at the Angelica Festival, Teatro Communale Bologna in 2006.

She was guest professor at Oberlin Conservatory for 2 years, and was awarded the Regents' Lectureship both at the University of California Berkeley and at University of California San Diego. She gives master classes worldwide for composers and string players at conservatories and universities including Yale, Princeton, Stanford, University of Illinois, as well as having the Fromm Foundation Fellowship to teach a residency at Harvard University. Ms. Uitti is finishing a massive book commissioned by the University of California Press on New Cello Techniques covering music from 1915 Kodály Sonata, to the present day.

In 2003, Uitti commissioned a custom-designed electric 6 string cello from Seattle luthier, Eric Jensen, which she later enhanced ergonomically with sensors at CNMAT (University of California, Berkeley) working with David Wessel and Adrian Freed and Michael F. Zbyszynski. She is returning to CNMAT in 2008 to design and construct a 12-stringless meta cello with Adrian Freed. She recently acquired an aluminum cello made by the Pfretzner luthier family in 1929- aluminum instruments were also used by Jasha Heifetz and Efram Zimbalist. She has recorded and performed on the Mongolian Morin Choor, a custom built Uzbeki Sato, and an original Stroh one-stringed cello.

As inventor Uitti has developed a difference-tone resonator that strongly amplifies the beating and subtle "ghost tone" produced by chordal playing. She has redesigned and built 5 prototype-bows under tutelage of bowmaker Andreas Grutter, to further facilitate her work with two bows in one hand. At the request of G Scelsi, she redesigned the metallic mutes used in the String Quartet #2 and Triphon for solo cello.


Uitti has recorded on ECM records, Wergo, Hat Hut Records, CRI, and BvHaast, JdKproductions, Cryptogrammophone, Sargasso, CRI, .

Films, DVDs[edit]

  • 13AL. DVD with Yota Morimoto. KoK and jdkproductions.com.
  • "Alyssa in Concert" Eric van Zuylen feature length
  • "Frank Scheffer" Elliott Carter
  • "Rescue Dawn" Werner Herzog (various tracks)
  • "Solstice" Stansfield/Hooykaas, Uitti
  • "Re:Vision" Stansfield/Hooykaas, Uitti
  • "De Val van de Goden" Uitti, Koek, van der Meer, Goebbels, Hollandia

Publications[edit]

  • Zorn, John, ed. (2000). Arcana: Musicians on Music. New York: Granary Books/Hips Road. ISBN 1-887123-27-X.
  • "Cambridge Companion to the Cello" New Frontiers of Music
  • "Contemporary Music Review" 2008 Improvisation (interviews by and with F M Uitti)
  • "Music Texte" The Second Bow 1999
  • "Tempo" Preserving the Scelsi Archive 2000
  • "Augmenting the Cello" NIME, Uitti, Freed, MichaelZ 2006

External links[edit]