ListN Up: Nina C. Young (November 12, 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. 

Nina C. Young is a composer of chamber, orchestral, and electronic music, as well as a multidisciplinary collaborator in performative installations. She creates sonic environments characterized by an acute sensitivity to tone color, manifested in wondrous aural images of vibrant, arresting immediacy. She’s interested in dialoguing between natural acoustic environments, instrumental performance techniques, and digital signal processing. Living between NYC and LA, Nina is on faculty at USC Thornton, and is co-artistic director of Ensemble Échappé.  Her music is published by Peermusic Classical.

Hello! I’m Nina C. Young, and I’m excited to share this ListN Up playlist with you. This playlist is made of ritualistic music that provokes my imagination. I fell in love with music a long time ago, and I’m grateful for this art of listening. This music thing, it helps me to transcend time and space, to dream in my waking, to momentarily reach out and feel sensations and emotions, distanced or close, to focus pleasure and pain, and everything in between. The music in this list is created by those whom I admire from a distance, and by those beautiful humans with whom I have crossed paths and who have inspired me and my work. I want to thank the artists who are featured in this list, and I want to thank I CARE IF YOU LISTEN for the opportunity to share this inner musical world.

The Bells of Novodevichy Convent

The first sounds that I fell in love with were the sounds of Russian bells. This deeply ritualistic practice of bell ringing in the Russian Orthodox Church has been developing for a thousand years. Unlike the Western carillon that features tuned bells performing melodic sequences, the Russian practice forms complex polythmic sequences that prioritize rhythm and timbral exploration of the bell set and its microtones. The patterns cast long shadows, and we can dream in their resonance. I hear bells in everything.

Bolghar for Quray and Symphony Orchestra by Adeliia (Adele) Faizullina, performed by Nina Shekhar and the USC Thornton Symphony (Donald Crockett, conductor)

Adele morphs the orchestra into an organic sonic universe that recalls her visions of the 8th century city Bolghar, located in Tarastan, Russia, and how this place is a symbol of her identity. The music jumps back and forth in pillars of gorgeous overtones, a ritual that allows us to visit and to dream of this place in the past, present, and future through a kaleidoscope of visceral form.

hush by Nina Shekhar, performed by the Ray-Kallay Duo

We just got to hear Nina Shekhar on quray, and now we get to listen to her music. In hush, I experience the audible version of letting my head slowly sink into a tender pillow. But this pillow isn’t made of feathers, it’s made of lollipop dreams. My brain is cradled in the marshmallow world of melting microtonal keyboards lulling me into the comforting maternal arms of a psychedelic lullaby that I’m always on the verge of remembering, or forgetting?

Gray by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, preformed by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti (viola) and Sarah Mullins (percussion)

Composer, performer, curator and thinker Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti transports us into a bifurcated world of activity and stasis, and the work leaves me with an acute awareness of the fullness and emptiness of the interior state of loneliness. Originally developed as a work with dancers, check out this performance, on video, choreographed by Wendell Gray II.

Bouchara by Claude Vivier, performed by Alice Teyssier and Ensemble Échappé (Benjamin Grow, conductor)

On May 14, 2019, my group Ensemble Échappé gave the most glorious and goosebump-inducing performance of this work at the DiMenna Center. In the words of my co-director Benjamin Grow, this is “folk music from Saturn,” a transcendent ritual love song of mysticism and ecstasy. I have never heard a better rendition to date, and want to share this with everyone I can!

Tachitipo by Zosha Di Castri, performed by Yarn/Wire

Zosha’s harrowing and imaginative world is birthed from typewriter sounds. Inside these wild and intricate timbre textures, I find myself pondering the relationship between my body and self and the multitude of tiny machines, mechanical and digital, that I encounter with such fluency that they hardly go noticed, as I am bewitched by their power. For what it’s worth, you need to see this live to really appreciate the journey.

Tarot by Moor Mother (feat. Yatta & Dudu Kouate)

This year, I met Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) and the stars must have aligned, because now I get to call this fantastic artist a colleague at USC. Time travel, or as Camae calls it, “Black Quantum Futurism,” is at the heart of her practice. This track is a mesmerizing healing ritual, portrayed through a tapestry of words and sonic memories, that calls on the memory of ancestors to help transcend the apocalypse of now.

Sleepwalking Form by Pharmakon (Margaret Chardiet)

Upon the cascading, downward glissando of jet-engine-like synths, Margaret Chardiet pulls us down into the urgent caverns of industrial noise as ritual. A primal, guttural exaltation ensues — pure catharsis. While Pharmakon’s other albums, Abandon and Bestial Burden, have an explicitly tactile relationship with the body, Contact is an exploration of the mind transcended from flesh.

Negative Magic by Tonia Ko, performed by Michael Compitello

The collaboration between Tonia Ko’s patient sonic crafting and Michael Compitello’s deft control of detail transforms the snare drum from humble vessel to sage priestess. We are slowly pushed upward from the depth of resonance to a magical surfacing that rides the undulating waves of breath. Check out the whole album, and be on the lookout for a music video, too!

drink rain by Nina C. Young

In closing, here’s something I made with my collaborator, R. Luke DuBois. Our lives are spent in the digital domain, but we dream in analog.


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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