CORVALLIS — Like many music buffs, I first became aware of Lori Goldston thanks to Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged” session in late ’93. She’d joined the lineup for its “In Utero” tour — which I’d missed, sadly, assuming there was always Next Time. But that “Unplugged,” for a lot of us, was our last real glimpse of Kurt Cobain, his band intact, making television history in more ways than we realized.
Goldston was seated to Krist Novoselic’s right, on an intimacy-draped set dotted with candles and lillies. Her cello wove arresting currents through each and every number, driving chills through “Something in the Way” and adding an ominous dimension to Cobain’s ache in “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”
It was startling, at first, to see a classical musician among rock ’n’ roll monsters, underpinning acoustic renderings of a catalog known for its buzz and crunch. But her presence imbued the performance with a haunting, melancholy sweetness that resonates in my memory to this day.
Reflecting from a distance of 15 years, Goldston told Learning Musician’s Shulamit Kleinerman, “It’s such a funny calling card. A lot of people get stuck being remembered for something they hated doing. I’m fortunate that I like that band, and I like what I did for them.”
Goldston, certainly, never got stuck. In fact, she’s as busy as ever. The Seattle-based artist has continued exploring music with a tireless devotion through a discography that now spans nearly two decades. Her touch has graced albums from David Byrne’s “Feelings” (1997) and the Sub Pop compilation “Give the People What We Want: Songs of the Kinks” (2001) to the Wedding Present’s “Take Fountain” (2005) and the Dead Science’s “Villainaire” (2008). Of course, this doesn’t count recordings made with her own group, the Black Cat Orchestra (which she launched with husband/collaborator Kyle Hanson), Shifting Light and Spectratone International.
She can be heard sending string-soaked shivers through Earth’s “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1,” released last month. As a longtime fan of that Northwest throttle (the seismic vision of guitarist Dylan Carlson), I was delighted to feel her steady pulse illuminating the disc’s crawling intensity.
However, it’s her film-scoring work that brings Goldston to The Arts Center’s Between the Cracks Forum series. Credits include Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday” (2009) and Linas Phillips’ 2010 Sundance Film Festival entry, “Bass Ackwards.” She’s also given dramatic import to a raft of silent classics; her live performances have accompanied screenings of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” (1922), Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928), and Yasujiro Ozu’s “Passing Fancy” (1933).
“Goldston’s music constituted a kind of physical enactment of listening,” ArtForum’s Matthew Stadler observed in 2005, describing the cellist’s TBA Festival performance of “Arc.” “She began in silence — absorbing the moment and the film — and then her sound emerged, shifting and responding to what she took in.”
Audiences may witness this amazing process in action at 7 p.m. Saturday as Goldston improvises to Germaine Dulac’s surrealistic “The Seashell and the Clergyman” (1928) at The Arts Center, 700 S.W. Madison Ave. There will also be a Q-and-A/discussion with the artist and perhaps another piece, time permitting.
Admission is $10 general, $5 for Arts Center members, free for students with ID.