Hailed by The New York Times as “a player of formidable expressive gifts,” Dutch-born cellist Katinka Kleijn enjoys a genre-defying, interdisciplinary career. Classically trained, she has since cultivated an exploratory, interactive creative practice at the fertile intersection of improvisation, composition, and collaboration.
Much of Kleijn’s work illuminates the cello’s anthropomorphic qualities, often by placing the instrument in thought-provoking new contexts. In 2019, Kleijn and cellist Lia Kohl waded with 30 cellos in Chicago’s Eckhart Park Pool for their devised piece Water On the Bridge. Similarly, Kleijn’s The Body as a Variable Resistor (2021) uses a shared-circuit synthesizer to articulate parallels between the human and cello body. RESIDUUM, an ongoing collaboration with Aliya Ultan, pairs Kleijn’s cello with unexpected materials, like 600 feet of Mylar or a dress made of soda cans. Her collaborations with composer Daniel Dehaan and the Chicago-based performance art duo Industry of the Ordinary resulted in the widely publicized Intelligence in the Human-Machine (2014), a duet between Kleijn’s cello and her own brainwaves which Time magazine called “a balancing act for Kleijn’s whole body.”
Kleijn presents many of her conceptual projects as co-constructions with the performer(s) or audience, calling upon them to collectively negotiate a way forward. Inspired by Civil War–era drum commands, her composition Forward Echo, for 11 improvisers (2019), commissioned by the Instigation Festival, tasks two spatially separated ensembles with reacting to one another based on each other’s rhythms. More recently, Kleijn’s silent video project Screenplay in 4 (2021) explores touch as a vector for human connection and its new implications in pandemic-enforced solitude.
An active musician in classical and contemporary classical spheres, Kleijn is a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and International Contemporary Ensemble. She has performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Hague Philharmonic, and the Chicago Sinfonietta, and presented her solo multimedia presentations at the Library of Congress, North Carolina Performing Arts, and the Chicago Humanities Festival. Kleijn’s 2016 world premiere performance of Dai Fujikura’s cello concerto at Lincoln Center was released by SONY Japan. As an improviser, she has collaborated with musicians like Bill MacKay, Ken Vandermark, Macie Stewart, Joe McPhee, Claire Rousay, Caroline Davis, Damon Locks, and Du Yun.
Kleijn is a Drag City recording artist, releasing STIR with Bill MacKay (2019), Momentum 5: Stammer (triptych) with Ken Vandermark (2021), An Ayler Xmas with Mars Williams (2017), and SINE NOMINE with Mark Feldman (2022).