A Contemporary Playlist: Part III / by Anne Lanzilotti

This is Part III in a series of contemporary playlists, specifically focused on 21st century music. Here is some music I've been revisiting lately by mentors/heros, friends, and new acquaintances.

Shelley Washington

Friend/hero Shelley Washington is a composer based in Princeton, NJ. In her single BIG Talk for two baritone saxophones deals with the relentless verbal abuse many female-identifying people encounter on a daily basis walking around in a big city such as New York. She is a member of the composer collective Kinds of Kings.

Wang A-Mao

I met A-Mao this summer at the Beijing Modern Music Festival and have been getting to know her music better this summer. This work treats traditional Chinese folk elements as sound objects that are turned around and observed, as one would a small wooden sculpture in one's hands.

Gabriel Kahane

Gabe is a phenomenal musician and a wonderful storyteller. This summer I've often caught myself humming this song from Kahane's latest album, out this week (that chronicles his journey across the country by train the day after the 2016 presidential election).

Martin Bresnick

Martin Bresnick is a mentor for generations of musicians who have come through Yale. He is a complete musician, and one who uses his knowledge to lift others up. Ishi's Song is a meditation on a melody sung by the man who was the last native speaker of the Yahi-Yana language. Bresnick meditates on the memory of this song, otherwise forgotten in time.


Björk's attention to detail and complexity of arrangements is incredible. She has influenced musicians across genres and continues to challenge herself by finding a new sound in each album. For example, in Vulnicura, she arranged individual string parts for five violins, five violas, and five cellos in order to get the darker sound she wanted. If you haven't yet, read this interview: The Invisible Woman: A Conversation with Björk.

Marcos Balter

I've been teaching Marcos's music a lot this year to talk about timbre as structure or a shift in perspective. That's what I love about new music, and Marcos's music in particular, the attention to small shifts in timbre which make me want to lean in more, pay more attention. In this act we can practice really listening, and take on the subtlety and complexity of the perspective of another person.

Unsuk Chin

Unsuk Chin is a composer living in Berlin. I kept watching this opera in pieces this summer: the bass clarinet caterpillar, the loops of orchestration that build up into a frenzy under various creatures from Wonderland. Read this wonderful interview from last year in Music & Literature.