ListN Up: Laura Steenberge (July 30, 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. 

Laura Steenberge is a composer and performer from California, currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. Her work is situated at the crossroads of music, language, mythology, and ritual performance practice. Currently, she is working on solo improvisations for viola da gamba, transcriptions of 11th century Aquitanian chant, and chamber works that usually involve the voice.

Hello people! I am Laura Steenberge and this is my ListN Up playlist. It is divided into two parts, which I’ve been thinking of in terms of the words “within” and “without,” or perhaps music of “the here and now” vs. “music of the beyond.” The first group is works by five composer-performers who are part of my musical world, whose work I have personally found very inspiring. The second group, “without,” or “the beyond,” is music that was created in reference to the idea of divine presence, that strives to reach beyond the mundane reality. This part of the list includes two ensembles of scholar-performers, one performer-composer, and one composer-composer. I am very happy to share with you this collection of works that has inspired me deeply. I hope you enjoy!

Grandchildren of the Camps” from Descension by Patrick Shiroishi

Patrick Shiroishi’s discography is lengthy, and every recording I hear by him is so unique and thoughtful, so variable from one to the next. This collection of works on this solo album from 2016 is a beautiful example of vastness of the sound worlds he explores.

Catriel Nievas @ TVLRUIDO STREAMFEST VIII (2020)

I love the particular sort of restraint captured in this ~20 min performance by Catriel Nievas. You can really sense the focus in the fullness of these subtle actions. The descending melody that enters around minute 14 is such a simple and effective shift.

Sonic Botany: RA’ASH ADAMA (earthnoise) by Maayan Tsadka

Through many years of dedicated practice, Maayan Tsadka has found a way to harness a certain magic of the natural world. This video, made in response to work by Annea Lockwood, stretches the idea of nature recordings to the strange and wondrous.

Songs 2011 by Tim Parkinson, performed by Parkinson Saunders

I had the pleasure of seeing Tim Parkinson and James Saunders perform this piece live a few years ago, and it is really special to see the deep unity and synergy that these two people have formed from years of performing together as a duo: a performer-composer-superorganism. Also, this piece is hilarious.

shade / gradient by Catherine Lamb

Catherine Lamb has such a distinct style and writes so beautifully for ensembles of any configuration, but it is this example of her solo performance that I want to bring to this list. The intimacy of the relationship of her viola with her voice speaks beyond this piece — it is the sound of the focus and dedication she puts into her entire creative practice.

“Idiomelon” from Matins for the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican by Kassianí, performed by Cappella Romana (Alexander Lingas, conductor)

The first track of part two, “without” or “the beyond,” is a chant by Ninth-century composer Kassia, the oldest music we have of a female composer. Directed by scholar-performer Alexander Lingas, the interpretation of this music requires a deep and vast knowledge along with a boldness to discern musical decisions despite some of that knowledge having been eroded by time.

“Resonemus hoc natali 1” from Shining Light: Music from Aquitanian Monasteries, performed by Sequentia

This early example of two-voice polyphony is another fascinating example of scholars combining musicological research with creativity and intuition to bring music to life that was first notated almost 1,000 years ago. I’ve looked at the original notation for this piece and it’s just marvelous to study and observe how Sequentia has breathed such vigorous life into this ancient music.

“Jagadishwar” from Turiya Sings by Alice Coltrane

The entire album of Alice Coltrane’s Turiya Sings is astonishing, and every time I listen to “Jagadishwar” in particular, I feel a sense of peace and comfort. Music like this can only be made through deep devotion and practice — there is nothing like it.

“Kyrie” from Misa a S. Juan XXIII en cuartos de tono by Julián Carrillo

What I love about the Mass form is that, for the past many hundreds of years, it has provided the same five texts for myriad composers to respond to. I love experiencing the cross-section of humanity and history by listening to masses by composers of different eras, especially the 20th century, especially this mass in quarter tones by Julián Carrillo.


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