ListN Up: Daniel Allas (July 23, 2021)

ListN Up is a weekly series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

I’m Daniel Allas, and I make and perform instrumental and electronic music. My recent work researches intermedial forms of performance, critical theory (particularly in relation to colonial studies), and collaborative composition processes. I was born in Boston, MA and now live in Los Angeles, CA.

Hi, my name is Daniel Allas and my ListN Up playlist is based around a collaboration I did this year with Rebecca Lawrence. All the pieces I’ve chosen have something to do with the themes of our collaboration, and they also have some critical element that suggests further research and study. It is my goal to encourage this type of investigation around the structures of power that we live in, because I believe that type of study can change our minds and our actions. I hope you enjoy the playlist, and at the very least I hope that you’re intrigued to do more research on your own. Thank you!

this sounds cerebral in the midst of a bloodletting by Daniel Allas, performed by Rebecca Lawrence

This piece was written in collaboration with the bassist Rebecca Lawrence, almost entirely through online communication. We both wanted to create a meditative space to contemplate the destructive universality that the concept “Human” produces, the limits of empirical data (especially with respect to post-colonial studies), as well as the aftereffects of American imperialism.

Much of this conversation was sparked by research I had done into my family’s past, where I learned how the American military annexed the Philippines in 1899, sparking the eponymous war. The Americans quickly and strategically took over the education system in Manila during and after the war, where they perpetuated a narrative about savage Filipino “insurrectionists” and the humane, civilizing American government. All the while, the American military purposefully underreported Filipino casualty data to the government, due to political pressures to conduct a humane” war. This was the same colonial system of education that my grandparents experienced, and they immigrated to the US without learning or passing down this violent history.

Primarily, Rebecca and I hoped that this piece would encourage further research, conversations, and collaborations in the classical music community; ones that lead us to unthought places, where our difference can be radically embraced and nourished even as it sheds an unfavorable light upon this country and its institutions.

Four Moons of Pluto by Miya Masaoka, performed by James Ilgenfritz

At the outset of our collaboration, Rebecca Lawrence had suggested listening to this piece by Miya Masaoka, which showcases the sinewy timbres of contrabass harmonics and sul ponticello open strings. Unhurried and subdued contemplations of intervals become louder bel canto celebrations of just intonation and beating patterns. There is a mythical, primordial air to the presentation, and much of Masaoka’s pacing and notation scheme informed our process.

Great Hymn of Thanksgiving by Rick Burkhardt, performed by Joyce To, Timothy Roth, and Jasmine Tsui

Assembled from texts concerning the Iraq war, Burkhardt’s tabletop piece for three percussionists conjures the image of a surreal dinner conversation. Contemplating the detachment American citizens have from the destruction of their own wars, the three percussionists symbolically suppress news from the warfront by reading war reports into almglockens, fracturing the source sentences and their meaning. In spite of their efforts, the turbulent violence escapes in outbursts and avalanches of percussive sound: vocal shouts, plate scrapes, fists pounding the table.

Foxconn Frequency No. 2  for one visibly Chinese performer by Remy Siu, performed by Vicky Chow

Foxconn Frequency No. 2 is written for a visibly Chinese performer who must undergo a series of “dictations and testings.” The performer plays randomized passages of piano music while a computer evaluates their performative accuracy; additionally, an accuracy threshold must be met before the computer allows the performer to proceed through the piece. All the while, their performative sound is delayed, manipulated, and replayed after the fact, temporally divorcing the sound from its production. Siu sets up this dense metonymic system to describe not only the Foxconn controversy (Foxconn being a Taiwanese electronics company that is notorious for their unethical treatment of workers) but also to contemplate the displacement of labor, value, virtuosity, and identity on global and local levels.

[Warning: the following video contains flashing lights]

Private Ocean by Carolyn Chen

Written during the pandemic, Carolyn Chen’s Private Ocean is a slippery audio-visual piece, casually floating between stories of Jonah and the Whale, sailing in Norway, and her own pregnancy. Whether the surprises come from a phrase, a sound, or an image, this piece epitomizes Chens particular sensitivity to the unpredictability of signification, the music that is found in everything.

Different Furs by Michelle Lou, performed by Yarn/Wire

Michelle Lou has the uncanny ability to frighten and hypnotize me all at once. Written for Yarn/Wire in 2017, Different Furs resembles a turbulent factory, or equally, a teeming forest, where acoustic percussion screeches are augmented by bluetooth speakers to form a snarling tangle of feedback. There’s a dramatic reveal near the end that is somehow both cute and sinister, a fearful and dreamlike denouement.

Tell by Victoria Cheah, performed by Victoria Cheah and Gleb Kanasevich

To my mind, the poetics of Tell are infinitely satisfying to consider. In stiletto heels, Victoria attempts to run at and (almost) slam her hands onto an amplified table covered in looseleaf paper, attempting to stop just short of the surface; should she fail to control her movement, the violent slam is amplified into the performing space. Offstage, an audio engineer attempts to attenuate the signal if they fear Victoria will, in fact, loose control and hit the table. The resulting “effort and wind” produced by the gesture sounds thick and eerie, charged by the elusive symbolic context. Perhaps the use of heels suggests a critique of the impractical balance demanded from feminized bodies, or the inability of some to sound their objections due to a cultural overdetermination. We might be hearing a process of trust (or frustration?) between those on and offstage, where seen and unseen forces impart all sounds with a dramatic aura.


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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