ListN Up: Jacquelyn Deshchidn (August 27, 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. 

Jacquelyn Deshchidn is a soprano, composer, poet, public speaker, and indigenous rights activist from the San Carlos Apache Nation—their work addresses issues such as violence against women, sexual assault, and the issues facing Indigenous peoples including climate change. Their work as a composer and vocalist focuses predominantly on freeing the voice and returning autonomy to the performing artist, while challenging both audience members and performers to reckon with their discomfort surrounding heavily stigmatized topics.

Hey y’all, my name is Jacquelyn Deshchidn and I’m a soprano, composer, and Indigenous rights activist from the San Carlos Apache Nation. The playlist I’ve got lined up for y’all features some of the most influential and weird vocalizations that have graced my headphones over the past two years. Hope you enjoy it!

“How Graceful Some Things Are, Falling Apart” by Sarah Kirkland Snider, performed by Jacquelyn Deshchidn and Patrick O’Donnell

To kick off the playlist, we’ve got a piece by composer Sarah Kirkland Snider. I wanted to include this piece, which has greatly impacted my life during the past few years due to the ravishingly beautiful way that SKS writes for voice and piano, as well as the deeply meaningful poem by Jonathan Breit.

“Long Grift” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch by Stephen Trask, performed by Lena Hall

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Trask’s Hedwig before, I highly recommend taking a listen to the original Broadway production’s full album. This rock musical includes some stellar pieces, is frequently cast as a gender-neutral production, and continues to feature exceptional alternative vocal styles and extended techniques into theater.

“Wild Women With Steak-Knives” by Diamanda Galás

Of course, any playlist featuring extended techniques would be remiss to forgo including repertoire from Diamanda Galás. The way Galás has weaponized her technique to create intricate sonic worlds for solo voice never ceases to amaze me, and I hope that you too will find the wonder and fantasy she explores within this work.

“Yes I said yes I will yes” by Amy Beth Kirsten, performed by Lindsay Kesselman and Robin Kesselman

Amy Beth Kirsten’s vocal works make it nearly impossible to pick just one. However, I am particularly fond of this recording due to the effortless vocalization by Lindsay Kesselman, which showcases ABK’s gorgeous vocal lines and the inherent sensuality within the piece.

Tundra Songs by Derek Charke, performed by Tanya Tagaq and Kronos Quartet

Tanya Tagaq, Inuit throat singer and composer, is admittedly one of the biggest influences on my own activism and engagement with the classical music community as an Indigenous composer and performer. Her voice, compositions, and activism are a force to be reckoned with, and I hope that the contemporary and pop industries will continue to learn and shape their relationships with Indigenous artists based upon the groundwork Tagaq has laid for ethical and non-appropriative collaboration.

“Lament of Isis on the Death of Osiris” by Elisabeth Lutyens, performed by Jane Manning

“Lament of Isis” is a piece that I picked up to work on approximately six months into the quarantine as an outlet to cope with personal loss. Looking back now, the pairing of Lutyens and Manning is impressive to say the least. Manning’s clarity and mastery of her voice only heightens Lutyens’ setting of this text for soprano.

“Monster” from Octet by Dave Malloy

Dave Malloy is just one of those composers who can introduce the most complex vocal techniques to any audience and make them fall in love with the sound immediately — Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 and Ghost Quartet are perfect examples of this integration. However, there’s something incredibly charming about Octet’s fusion of the acapella vocal ensemble, non-traditional/contemporary techniques, and themes of addiction in the 21st century.

Fragment 755.15 by Jacquelyn Deshchidn

Lastly, I’ve included a piece of my own, which centers around themes of consent. Fragment 755.15 is a companion piece to my current project, Songs of Medusa, a cycle reclaiming the narrative of Medusa as one of the first documented rape and femicide victims, which challenges both audience member and performers to reckon with internalized stigma surrounding SA/DV. Additional excerpts from the cycle can be found here.


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