ListN Up: Amanda Gookin (August 21, 2020)

ListN Up is a series of weekly artist-curated playlists. Born from a desire to keep artists sharing and connected during times of isolation, ListN Up offers an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. This series is sponsored by American Composers Forum/innova Recordings with new releases every Friday on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.

Adventurous cellist Amanda Gookin “pushes Classical forward” (LA Times) and champions the future of music through the creation and bold performance of new works, and a dedication to education, culture, and community engagement. She was the founder and decade-long cellist of GRAMMY-nominated string quartet, PUBLIQuartet, and is on faculty at The New School and SUNY Purchase, leading courses on social leadership, music history, and improvisation. Her initiative, Forward Music Project, commissions new multimedia works for solo cello that elevate stories of feminine empowerment, and her newly released album, Forward Music Project 1.0, was celebrated by the NY Times as “communal joy embedded in a music of cooperation.”

Hi, I’m Amanda Gookin, and I’m the cellist and founder of Forward Music Project. I commission new multi-media works for solo cello that elevate stories of feminine empowerment. And I’d just like to thank I CARE IF YOU LISTEN and American Composers Forum for having me here today and inviting me to share this playlist with you! There are so many artists I admire, so this was a really fun but challenging task to narrow it down to just a few. This playlist is a celebration of the feminine spirit. You’ll hear introspective meditations, raw storytelling, spiritual awakening, and pure joy. And because I’m a part of such a beautiful, tight-knit new music community, I have the pleasure of saying that I’ve worked with some of these artists and can say that they are just as beautiful human beings as they are musicians. So, put on your headphones, clear your space, relax, light a candle, and I hope you enjoy this listening experience.

Heart Chakra by Beautiful Chorus

I was floored the first time the sounds of Beautiful Chorus washed over me. Aptly titled “Heart Chakra,” this song came to me at exactly the moment it was meant to. The voices of these four women broke me open as I laid on the floor, face wet with warm tears that carried with each droplet every joy and pain I had felt through this difficult year. Put some headphones on and let this music vibrate through your body and soul.

Harvest Moon by Cassandra Wilson

This song, originally by Neil Young, is my favorite love song of all time. Cassandra Wilson delivers this simple and touching melody through some higher power. I am a sucker for field recordings and the gentle call of crickets and peepers transports me to my favorite place–lying on the grass beneath the stars and moon, breathing in the scent of the trees, melting into the earth beneath me.

Accordion and Voice (full album) by Pauline Oliveros

Getting to know Pauline, her music, and her “Deep Listening” practice completely shifted the course of my life. This album comprises two long-form compositions, “Horse Sings From Cloud” and “Rattlesnake Mountain,” which bathe the listener in the just intonation resonance of her accordion and her layered vocal overtones. Listening to this music invites me to slow down, be still, and breathe deeply. 

Pasajero by Angélica Negrón

Angélica is not only a creative and innovative composer/performer, she is just about the sweetest person I know. Pasajero (Passenger/Fleeting) highlights the colorful spectrum of Angélica’s music, ranging from ambient loops and tender singing to phasing groove textures that make you feel like you’re flying freely through the air. Her work is not only a pleasant aural experience, it’s fun and visually stimulating to watch her play quirky fruits, vegetables, and plants as instruments!

Openwork, knotted object; Trellis in bloom; lightning ache by inti figgis-vizueta, performed by the National Sawdust Ensemble

inti’s music seems to pull from a catalog of imaginative sounds right out of thin air. Her works demonstrate the perfect partnership between composer and performer by inviting the players to experiment with sound, deeply listen, and respond. I would imagine this piece will never be performed the same way twice, which is what I love about inti. She defies all forms and constructs and invites the listener into a magical world full of shimmery chimes, quivers, whispers, faeries, and sparkles of light.

All Is Written by Matana Roberts

From Matana’s album Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee, “All Is Written” guides us through a bramble of field recordings including church bells, footsteps, natural landscapes, whispers, mumbles, and ragged breathing. The distant wail of her saxophone and painful lyrics, “Oh, why do we try so hard? All is written in the cards. The price rolls by the seaside,” float above this restless tapestry of sound.

Suite of solo works for voice and electronics by Pamela Z

The first time I saw Pamela Z perform live, I was awestruck by the playfulness, depth of emotion, and level of control she has over her voice and electronics. The layers she creates in her work are delightfully surprising–you never know what will come next. Every flutter of her voice, flick of her wrist, and wiggle of her finger leads you deeper into a fantastical world of three-dimensional sound design. 

Sancta Femina, arranged by Amanda Gookin, performed by PUBLIQuartet

The album Freedom and Faith was my GRAMMY-nominated swan song with PUBLIQuartet, and Sancta Femina is an arrangement I am most proud of from my decade working with PQ. If you couldn’t tell by now, I am very connected to music that conjures the resilience of the feminine spirit. For this arrangement, I chose three female composers from the Medieval and Baroque eras (Hildegard von Bingen, Francesca Caccini, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani) and turned their music upside down by incorporating whispers, refracted words, and otherworldly sounds to create a full-body experience.

MIND THE GAP: Sancta Femina (2017) from PUBLIQuartet on Vimeo.

Swerve by Jessica Meyer, performed by Amanda Gookin

What can I say? I had to include at least one track from my debut Forward Music Project album here! My collaboration with Jessica was her first commission and inspired her to delve into a full-time composition career, for which we are all grateful. Building Swerve together empowered my confidence as a soloist and embodies what I love about playing the cello–it’s fun, groovy, and flies around the instrument. 


UNEVEN MEASURES is a series dedicated to amplifying today’s women, trans, and nonbinary artists on the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment leading up to the 2020 presidential election. This series is made possible through a generous grant from The Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization Inc. to the American Composers Forum and their partnership with I CARE IF YOU LISTEN. The Sorel Organization is committed to supporting gender equity in music and addressing systemic inequities by providing greater visibility for women musicians from underrepresented communities.