To ground-breaking violist Martha Mooke, musical talent without the soul is pointless. For more than 20 years, Mooke has sought to infuse the maximum amount of feeling, passion and creativity into her acclaimed performances, compositions and master classes. By breaking free from the conventions of the classical music world, Mooke has established a career that's truly unique.
As a young student in New York, Mooke shunned the mainstream. When the time came to choose between the less trendy viola vs. the more popular violin as her principal instrument, the choice was clear. "Everyone went for the violin," she recalls. "But true violists are different; I have a true viola soul."
Following her essential nature – and defying the rules – has helped Mooke go on to become one of the industry's most sought after instrumentalists. "Versatility is the key to survival," says Mooke, who is fluent in multiple genres, including classical, experimental, free jazz, crossover and Broadway. "It's incredibly important in the current music world to open up your possibilities and not just play what's on the page. There's a whole other universe of making music out there."
Beyond her catalog of works for solo and ensemble electric strings, she has also composed music for theater, ballet and films. Mooke's diverse schedule includes touring, clinics and lecture demonstrations. She has toured internationally as a member of the orchestra for Barbra Streisand's North American 2006 and European 2007 tours. She has attracted wide critical acclaim for her genre-defying recordings Enharmonic Vision and Cafe Mars, featuring guitarist Randolph Hudson, III. Her current Broadway orchestra credits include Spamalot, The Color Purple and Wicked.
By synthesizing her extensive classical music training with extended techniques, digital effects processing and improvisation, Mooke retains the depth and soul of the instrument, while bringing out innovative sounds and styles. She has performed and recorded with musicians such as David Bowie, Philip Glass, Patti Smith, Bon Jovi, David Byrne, Moby, Lou Reed, Trey Anastasio, Enya, Rufus Wainwright, and the Kronos Quartet. An important highlight for Mooke has been creating and producing ASCAP's music showcase Thru The Walls, featuring artists whose work defies categorization. The highly popular concert series has enabled her to express her artistic talent and collaborate with some of the leading independent artists of our generation.
Mooke's affiliation with Yamaha began in 1998, when she was invited to offer input into the creation of the Company's Electric Viola and Violin series. She even traveled to Japan in 2001 to sample the prototypes and to lend insight into their development. "When I first played the prototype, I saw its incredible potential. It was very gratifying to help the instruments come to fruition." One of her favorite instruments remains a custom red EV-205 created specifically for her by Yamaha.
A pioneer and leading advocate of both the electric violin and the five-string electric viola, Mooke celebrates her 10th anniversary as a Yamaha Artist in 2008. As an enormously popular clinician, Mooke has garnered many fans and admirers by focusing on alternative approaches to playing electric strings. Her clinics showcase the use of electronics, extended techniques and the importance of improvisation. The success of her interactive teaching approach is seen through the spellbound responses of the attendees who are encouraged to bring their own instruments and join in improvising and playing along with her. "Do what your gut tells you," she advises students. "Play what's in your spirit."
Her exciting artistry continues to inspire musicians and fans – but the key to creating the ultimate musical experience, according to Mooke, goes beyond technical virtuosity. "The creative soul has to always be in play."