Patrick Belaga Is a Cellist Who Moonlights as a Model


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Patrick Belaga is recording a solo album, though he may scrap the project.

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Eric Chakeen for The New York Times

Age 25

Hometown McLean, Va.

Now Lives A 1930s triplex apartment in Hollywood that he shares with two roommates.

Claim to Fame Mr. Belaga is a wildly expressionistic and improvisational cellist who sees no need for a conductor, regardless of whether he is playing at National Sawdust in Brooklyn or the Brutally Early Club, a saloon-style gathering organized by the art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. “I made a pact with myself that while I would always participate in someone else’s music, all the sounds and noises out of my cello would be composed by me,” he said. Mr. Belaga also moonlights as an occasional bartender and model as “a support system for the cello stuff,” he said.

Big Break Not long after moving to Los Angeles in 2014, he met the transgender performance artists Wu Tsang and Boychild at a house party in Venice. “We quickly fell in friend love,” he said. A month later, the trio performed “Moved by the Motion,” a vocal and dance performance with a live soundtrack provided by Mr. Belaga, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. “Scoring to a visual gesture is natural for me,” he said.

Latest Project His untitled band (“Calling it a band is a lot less pretentious than collaborative performance troupe or whatever,” he said) is taking its act on the road, including Le Zoo in Geneva on Nov. 12 and Beursschouwburg in Brussels on Nov. 19. A performance at the Donaufestival in Krems, Austria, last May was staged in a 900-year-old cathedral. “There was a seven-second sound delay at the back hall, and about 500 people came, and all unpromptedly sat down and were really respectful,” he said. “It was magical.”

Next Thing Mr. Belaga is recording and producing his first solo album, if you can call it that. “I don’t like to use the word ‘album,’” he said. “It’s more of a musical sketch of ideas.” In fact, he may scrap the project entirely and use the recording sessions as a blueprint for a possible career in scoring films. “I am not good at being boxed in by limitations,” he said.

Viva la Variedad When he was 17, Mr. Belaga had a transformative experience after joining a local salsa band. “It really stressed the importance of improvisation, which is virtually nonexistent in classical music playing,” he said. “It was much more engaging than trying to mimic the notes and feelings that someone had already expressed many, many times before me.”

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