ListN Up: Matana Roberts (December 11, 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. 

Matana Roberts is an internationally renowned composer, band leader, saxophonist, sound experimentalist and mixed-media practitioner. Roberts works in many contexts and mediums, including improvisation, dance, poetry, and theater.

Hello! My name is Matana Roberts. I am a musician, composer, sound experimentalist, mixed media practitioner, sometimes sound conceptualist I’ve been accused of, which I don’t mind, I think that’s a really great label. So much for labels, though…Music moves the world. This playlist is a list of things that I’ve just been listening to a lot recently. There’s so much great music out here. I feel so privileged to be able to live a life where I have time to listen to some of it. There’s no particular theme of this list other than every track moves me in different ways to stay in the fight of creativity, to stay in the fight of life. We’re all living through an incredibly unusual moment in time. I don’t know about you but I’ve never in my life wanted to see a year be over–I’m so ready for this year to be over!–but in the process of trying to keep my own vibration high, which I hope you’re doing, listening to sound is monumental…I hope you find something on this list that you really like. There’s a nod to a certain type of experimentation that I feel heavily affected by and heavily moved by, but there’s also a nod to certain strains of Americana musics that I’m also still quite curious about….We’ve all been through a lot this year, and I hope you find something on this list that just keeps you lifted.

“Exu” by Metá Metá

This record came out about seven years ago, but it’s still in rotation for me. It’s really unpredictable yet harkens back to an ancestral layering of soundwork that I really love. And I just adore Brazil. I feel at home there. Wish I could get there more often.

“Sensorium” by Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn

I’m a huge fan of both of these musicians. And hearing them in duo conversation solidifies, for me, the individualistic search for meaning in my own music.

Excerpt from Shaar by Iannis Xenakis, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic (Peter Eötvös, conductor)

Just a snippet, but the full performance is worth everyone’s time. I just love the way this sounds and most importantly feels–it moves my nervous system in a way I’m interested in with my own work.

“I Feel So Good” by Lovey Williams

Not enough space here to speak on how much I continue to devour this box set of classic Americana that sits at the base of how I hear sound. Mississippi is a state that holds a lot of American history that moves me.

“There” by Phil Minton and Audrey Chen

It was seeing the amazing Audrey Chen perform some years ago. That gave me the confidence to start using my voice. And Phil Minton is a force. I love that this recording exists.

“Present Joys” by Alabama Sacred Harp Singers

I am fascinated by the communication of this style of singing and the overall sounds. I dig through a lot of different recordings and styles of sacred harp these days. Not too long ago, I took a cargo ship trip from the UK to North America, and on one particularly rough sea day, the sacred harp that popped on my playlist was oddly comforting. A great memory.

“Tornado” by Chimzy

I listen to a lot of Afro Pop. I went to Africa for the first time a few years ago to do some research and see the slave castles along the ivory coast. I am obsessed with the super varied musical sounds of the continent. I can’t wait to go back. I like the energy of Chimzy, and often, spontaneous solo dance parties have broken out in my studio when his music comes on!

“Dream State” by Fay Victor

I loooooooooooooooooove Fay’s music. I’ve had amazing moments as a listener, hearing her live. Love this entire record.

Entire Populations (Pt I) by Jessica Moss

J Moss is one of my oldest kindred and plays and creates music from a place of deep knowing. She has inspired me in too many ways to count. Her love for creativity is fearless.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is a program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. A gift to ACF helps support the work of ICIYL. Editorial decisions are made at the sole discretion of the editor-in-chief. For more on ACF, visit the “At ACF” section or