ListN Up: Forbes Graham (April 2, 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. 

Forbes Graham is a composer, musician, sound artist, and visual artist whose work explores themes of simultaneity, perceptibility, transformation and collage. He lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.

Hello. My name is Forbes Graham. I am a composer and performer from Maryland. I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts. I have created a playlist that touches on some of my influences dating back almost 30 years, as well as my inspirations right in the present day. This is a small snapshot of music that I find meaningful and I hope that you enjoy it. Thank you.

“C.S.” by Napalm Death

Napalm Death pioneered the genre of grindcore, which draws inspiration from punk, death metal, and industrial music. I tell people that Napalm Death are the band that showed me that anything is possible in music. When I first bought this tape, I could not understand the concept of minute-long songs. I thought the whole first side was one big song that kept stopping and starting.

Moon Inhabitants by Ornette Coleman, performed by Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins

The music of Ornette Coleman was a huge inspiration to me in my formative high school years. Don Cherry (along with Miles Davis) was one of my earliest trumpet heroes. Over the years I’ve always drawn inspiration from Ornette’s persistence to stick to the music he believed in.

Space is a Diamond by Lucia Dlugoszewski, performed by Gerard Schwarz

I first encountered this piece at about the time that I was discovering the music of Bill Dixon, Wadada Leo Smith, and other trumpet players who were influenced by them. This piece was an incredible distillation of the things that I was hoping were possible on the trumpet.

Excerpt from Four Symphonies by Wadada Leo Smith, performed by Wadada Leo Smith, Ikue Mori, Anthony Davis, and Hardedge

Wadada Leo Smith’s album with Ikue Mori on Tzadik records, Luminous Axis, completely blew me away when I first heard it. I have gained so much from the privilege of hearing their music and seeing them perform. The piece I selected features them along with Anthony Davis and Hardedge.

Composition No. 169 by Anthony Braxton, performed by Taylor Ho Bynum, Nate Wooley, Mark Taylor, Reut Regev, and Jay Rozen (Anthony Braxton, conductor)

I cannot overstate the importance of Anthony Braxton’s work to me. His approach is integrative of so many things and yet it is so singular. This performance of Composition No. 169 features a number of musicians that I greatly admire.

Die Schachtel by Christoph Schiller, performed by Birgit Ulher

Birgit Ulher has such a tactile, present, percussive sound. Her sense of pacing and space are of the highest calibre. I have played with her a number of times over the years and I admire her work greatly.

nat.pit.hat by Marilyn Lerner and Nicole Rampersaud

Nicole Rampersaud is a deeply thoughtful person and it shows in her playing. She is right at the edge of contemporary trumpet, and this duo with Marilyn Lerner is a fantastic conversation to be a witness to.


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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