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Cellista’s Love Letter: ‘Finding San Jose’

In Music
LOCAL LOOPS: Cellista’s new album, ‘Finding San José’ features a collage of sounds, from piano and cello to field recordings. Photo by Yellow Bubbles Photography.

LOCAL LOOPS: Cellista’s new album, ‘Finding San José’ features a collage of sounds, from piano and cello to field recordings. Photo by Yellow Bubbles Photography.

It’s not easy being part of San Jose’s art community. So it’s heartening when a prolific, multi-faceted and successful artist not only embraces, but pays tribute to, the “capital of Silicon Valley,” its art community and its landmarks, as local musician Cellista does on her new album, Finding San José.

Cellista, a.k.a. Freya Seeburger, used her classical music background and unconventional artistic sensibilities to compose a stylistically varied yet cohesive soundtrack that takes the listener on a journey through the city she calls home. She says San Jose has become her creative foundation, and this album is an offering to its artists.

The process to complete the record took over a year. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Finding San José raked in more than its $5,000 goal in September of last year, joining other local crowdfunded successes including K.Flay and The Limousines.

But unlike the conventionally structured works of those acts, Finding San José is a cinematic work; live selections will be performed at a screening of the album’s accompanying “making-of” documentary, Cellista, at Campbell’s Diamond in the Rough Film Festival later this month.

Seeburger is adamant that Finding San José is an experience—best consumed alone, by candlelight, eyes wide open, mind firmly in the present and in one sitting. “I do want my audience to work just a little bit and be present in my process.” says Seeburger.

The album’s anachronistic tendencies blend modern elements such as beat boxing, field recordings and the looping of classical piano, cello and violin. The resulting music is introspective and emotional.

Atmospheric flourishes such as crowd chatter, trains screeching to a halt, and the crunching of leaves underfoot on “St James Park” recall fall afternoons strolling through this historic and often troubled park, while a contemplative and patient approach brings freshness to Seeburger’s brief instrumental take on the Pixies classic, “Where is My Mind.”

But Seeburger isn’t the only artist on display here. Most cuts feature significant contributions from a host of local collaborators, such as the beatboxing of Emcee Infinite, rapping by DEM ONE, or poetry of David Perez. Photographer Cromwell Schubarth and painter Tulio Flores are featured in the album’s packaging, combining with the tracks into something close to a multimedia collage.

The album was recorded at a handful of Bay Area studios as well as in Gallery Anno Domini, a venue that serves as an anchor point for the downtown San José art community, and a place Seeburger calls her, “creative refuge and sanctuary. It’s been a safe place for me to go when I am doubting myself and my process or struggling. Cherri and Brian have always opened up their doors for me there.

The amount of confidence and optimism Seeburger has in the local art scene is inspiring. “San Jose has been a well-kept secret,” she says. “I used to enjoy that people in surrounding areas thought it was devoid of culture. It made me feel like I was in the know. I think in the past couple years there’s been a kind of artistic renaissance, especially in the downtown. Or rather, more people are owning up to the fact that San Jose has the best visual arts scene in the Bay Area.”

In an interesting feedback loop of sorts, Seeburger will be hosting two listening parties for her new album at Trials Pub on Sep. 21. The album happens to feature a track called ‘A Conversation at Trials’, where narrators recount a conversation about persistence in the pursuit of artistic success. Now the fruit of her creative effort—a success in itself—will be listened to and discussed at that very venue.

After experiencing Seeburger’s her love letter to San Jose, perhaps you will be emotionally informed of a city you live in but haven’t paid enough conscious attention to, or maybe it will just deepen your current appreciation for it. Especially the next time you’re fighting traffic to get to an art event in San Francisco.

‘Cellista’ Listening Party
Sep 21, 8pm & 10pm, Free
Trials Pub, San Jose 

Live Accompaniment for ‘Cellista’ Documentary
Sep 24, 3pm
Diamond in the Rough Film Festival, Campbell

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