ListN Up: PUBLIQuartet (January 29, 2021)

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. 

PUBLIQuartet is:
Jannina Norpoth – Violin
Curtis Stewart – Violin
Nick Revel – Viola
Hamilton Berry – Cello

We are four classical renegades who find common ground in the spaces and sounds that aren’t written down. Our sound is a sonic reflection of our experiences growing up in Detroit, Manhattan, Nashville, and Wilton, CT. For the past decade, we have created and performed music that tells stories, asks questions, speaks out against injustice, and amplifies voices that need to be heard. We spin the diverse threads of American music and remix the classics in a way that strives to connect the past with the now. We try to keep our programs as unexpected as the playlists we DJ in our rental cars on tour.

People say we’re innovative, adventurous and visionary.

My name is Jannina Norpoth and I am a violinist in PUBLIQuartet, an improvising string quartet whose programming blends genres, issues of social justice and highlights works by living and underrepresented composers. Part of our process for selecting the music we play comes from sharing music we love with one another and often reconceptualizing it for string quartet. The following selections reflect music we are currently drawing inspiration from, and a few favorites from our own repertoire.

Lamentatio by Abel Selaocoe

Abel Selaocoe is a South African cellist whose creative use of sound and integration of classical and African music is sublime. This is his take on Giovanni Sollima’s music, sung in the language of Zulu and inspired by the throat singing of the Xhosa culture called Umqokola. –Jannina Northpoth

Nonaah by the Roscoe Mitchell Quartet

This is part of a live album recorded by the Roscoe Mitchell Quartet in Toronto in 1975, which features Roscoe Mitchell (saxophone), George Lewis (trombone), Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), and A. Spencer Barefield (guitar), who also happens to be my dad. This reminds me of the music I grew up listening to my dad rehearsing, which has influenced my own aesthetic and musical tastes. I love the jaunty and playfully explosive energy of this track. –Jannina Northpoth

“Law Years” by Ornette Coleman

This track comes from The Complete Science Fiction Sessions (1970), which a friend introduced to me back in college; it’s been a favorite album of mine ever since. –Hamilton Berry

“Last Kind Words Blues” by Geeshie Wiley

Hard to believe this haunting song is ninety years old. The NYT ran a fascinating article a few years ago about Wiley and her musical partner, Elvie Thomas. –Hamilton Berry


“Water Music” by Kelly Moran

This track appears on Moran’s 2018 album Ultraviolet and uses prepared piano in addition to electronic elements. She writes, “I am trying to obfuscate exactly what the piano sounds like. The whole point is to make it sound different.” –Nick Revel

“Floating City” by Dan Abrams (Shuttle358)

This understated soundscape of sampled acoustic instruments creates an open, recuperative, reflective space where one might find time to breathe deeply. We all need a little space right to slow down and breathe right now. –Nick Revel

Go Big or Go Home by Jessica Meyer, performed by PUBLIQuartet

A track from our GRAMMY nominated album Freedom and Faith, this cut exhibits PQ’s raw energy, using extended techniques to capture various percussive styles. It is fruit from our commissioning project PUBLIQ Access, although the piece has taken a life of its own in the hands of several other ensembles since its creation. –Curtis Stewart

“V. Break Away” by Jessie Montgomery, performed by PUBLIQuartet

One of the first pieces written for us–this piece mashes our new music aesthetic of experimental and gnarly sounds with heavy groove and improvisation. The piece is highly notated, with varying levels of structured improvisation for one or more instruments woven into the score. One of the original violinists in PQ, this piece was Jessie’s parting gift to the quartet as she moved on to pursue a blossoming composition career. –Curtis Stewart


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

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