ListN Up: Baljinder Sekhon (November 5, 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. 

The music of Baljinder Singh Sekhon, II has been presented in over 500 concerts in 26 countries. From works for large ensemble to solo works to electronic music, Sekhon’s music demonstrates a wide range of genres and styles. Fourteen commercial recordings of his work have been released, with his most recognized output being his contributions to the percussion and saxophone genres. Collections of his percussion and saxophone music can be heard on two Innova Recordings releases: Places & Times (percussion) and Alchemy (saxophone).

Hello, my name is Baljinder Sekhon. I’m a composer and percussionist living in State College, Pennsylvania where I teach composition and music technology at Penn State University. I’m excited to be asked to curate this playlist for ListN Up – a playlist that includes composers, artists, compositions, and performers who have been a major influence on me in the last 20 years or so. Of course, it’s really difficult to create a playlist of all of the music that I’ve absorbed, all the music I love, and all of the music that I has played a role in my own composition. The works that I selected are pieces that I find myself constantly coming back to, artists who I find myself constantly listening to, and compositions that I revisit often. So, I’m excited to put together this playlist and I think one thing that you’ll find is that percussion music has had a major influence on the way that I think about music and the kinds of sound that I am interested in exploring in my pieces.

To The Roaring Wind – Valley Candle by Matt Barber, performed by McCormick Percussion Group

This is one of my favorite works for the genre of soloist with percussion ensemble, and one that I have been listening to regularly since its premiere and release in 2014. The text setting here is superb, and the treatment of percussion is quite inventive, with mixture of conventional and “extended” sounds.

Zwei Gefühle…, Musik mit Leonardo by Helmut Lachenmann, performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Peter Eötvös, conductor)

As a percussionist, I have always been influenced by Lachenmann’s concept of “musique concrète instrumentale” – a concept that aligns with the wide sound palette of the percussion world. In essence, this embraces the idea that any sounds that can be produced have equal musical potential, and Lachenmann’s use of instruments’ sounds is not limited by conventional notions of what acoustic instrumental sounds should be: it’s like electronic music played by acoustic instruments.

Miranda’s Lament by Kaija Saariaho, performed by Avanti Chamber Orchestra (Hannu Lintu, conductor)

This is a work that I have come back to over and over again during the last 15 years or so. It’s simple yet dramatic, and the blending of colors and setting of text demonstrate both orchestration and melodic writing that have been influential on my own music and appeal to my intuitive sensibilities.

Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra by Lou Harrison, performed by Todd Reynolds, Third Coast Percussion, and John Corkill

This might be the single most influential work on my own series of works for soloist and percussion ensemble. I performed this work for the first time over 20 years ago, composed a cello concerto for the same percussion instrumentation (entitled Lou), and continue to reference the rhythm and pitch languages, as well as the use of found instruments, in my teaching and composing.

Björk Live at the Royal Opera House

Björk’s music has been a part of my listening since I was a teenager and has certainly had a major influence on my own music (particularly in terms of melody). This isn’t a particular piece, but a live concert from 2001 that I think demonstrates the wide range of style, sounds, and feeling that her music encapsulates.

30 by Mark Applebaum, performed by Terry Longshore and the Southern Oregon University Percussion Ensemble

I saw this work performed live by the ensemble linked below and was completely captivated by the sound world, concept, and visual elements displayed here. This is a fresh work in the booming collection of repertoire of percussion ensemble works.

Work Samples by Anthony R. Green

I discovered the music of Anthony R. Green in 2007 and have been following his work ever since. Anthony has remained one of my favorite composers with a wide ranging creative output that often includes theatrics and performance art elements. For this, instead of sharing a particular piece, I am sharing a video that includes a sampling of his works.

Enter to Exit by Kenneth Salters

Kenneth Salters is a jazz composer and drummer based in New York City. In addition to being among my favorite drummers for virtually any style, his output as a jazz composer and improvisor has influenced my thinking about performance and collaborations for over 20 years. This is a trailer for his album, Enter to Exit.

Alchemy by Baljinder Sekhon

This last video is a trailer for my new album, Alchemy, that features a collection of my saxophone works. These recordings prominently feature my long-time collaborator, Doug O’Connor, and include instrumentation ranging from saxophone and piano to a concerto for orchestra and saxophone.


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