ListN Up: Nadia Shpachenko (June 3, 2022)

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. 

A “gifted and versatile pianist” (San Francisco Chronicle) and GRAMMY® Award winner Nadia Shpachenko enjoys bringing into the world things that are outside the box – powerful pieces that often possess unusual sonic qualities or instrumentation.  An enthusiastic promoter of contemporary music, Nadia has premiered more than 100 works. Nadia’s 2019 Reference Recordings album The Poetry of Places, featuring world premieres of architecture-inspired works, won the Best Classical Compendium GRAMMY® Award. She is a Steinway Artist and professor of music at Cal Poly Pomona University.

Hello and thank you so much for tuning in! My name is Nadia Shpachenko and I am very excited to share with you my new ListN Up playlist! For this playlist I chose works by 10 wonderful composers who inspire me greatly and with whom I am collaborating very closely this summer. These 10 composers wrote new pieces for my two upcoming albums on Reference Recordings that I will be recording this summer. The first album is called Invasion, with its key ensemble piece written about the tragic war in Ukraine, my home country. This album will feature works by composer Lewis Spratlan. The second album that I will be recording this summer is called GOAT (for Greatest of All Time, which is a working title), and this is an album featuring works inspired by soccer….For this playlist I chose older works by these composers. I think these works are very inspiring; in fact, I can listen to them all day long, many days in a row, and this list presents very diverse approaches to writing – they have different messages, different means of communication, different inspirations, different instrumentation, so I really hope you enjoy this variety and check out these works (some of them are very recent and some of them are from the last decade).

“Quatre Couches/ Flare Stains” by Pamela Z

Pamela Z’s studio mix of two works, Quatre Couches and Flare Stains, released as the opening track on Z’s latest album, A Secret Code, is a mesmerizing musical adventure featuring the composer’s creative use of layers of her processed voice and electronic sounds, some derived from objects such as tuning forks and popping bubble wrap.

“Double Happiness: I. Self Portrait, Part 1” by Christopher Cerrone, performed by Timo Andres and Ian Rosenbaum

Double Happiness by Christopher Cerrone was inspired by the composer’s field recordings of the Italian countryside, the sounds of church bells, train stations, and rainstorms. It is featured on Cerrone’s latest album The Arching Path, performed by Timo Andres and Ian Rosenbaum.

“Airdancing” by Tom Flaherty, performed by Nadia Shpachenko and Genevieve Feiwen Lee

I commissioned Tom Flaherty to write Airdancing in 2013 and recorded it for my album Woman at the New Piano with pianist Genevieve Feiwen Lee. It was written for the unusual – for that time – instrumentation of toy piano, piano, and electronics, imaginatively using the colors of a toy piano (live and processed) to create a novel sonic soundscape.

“popit” by David Sanford, performed by David Sanford Big Band and Hugh Ragin

David Sanford Big Band’s popit from their latest album A Prayer For Lester Bowie is an exciting short track that features trumpeter Hugh Ragin.

“Miró’s World” by Adam Schoenberg, performed by Nadia Shpachenko

I recorded Miró’s World by Adam Schoenberg (as part of his larger piano collection Picture Etudes) for my album Woman at the New Piano. This music video captures my performance of this piece on piano and drums, played at the same time. Miró’s World is based on Joan Miró’s painting Women at Sunrise and is “child-like, yet delirious.”

“Isla” by Ian Dicke, performed by Sara Andon and Nick Terry

Ian Dicke’s Isla, scored for flute, vibraphone, and electronics, is a remix of a song titled Isla de Niños, by Elisa Ferrari. The work fragments the original stems of Ferrari’s song to create an alternative setting of her poignant lyrics, while the flute and vibraphone exchange short melodic phrases throughout. This music video, made by Elisa Ferrari during the COVID-19 pandemic for 2021 Cal State Fullerton Online New Music Festival, features flutist Sara Andon and percussionist Nick Terry from Brightwork New Music.

“In Full Sail” by Harold Meltzer, performed by Nadia Shpachenko

In Full Sail, by Harold Meltzer, was commissioned for me by Piano Spheres and was featured on my album The Poetry of Places. This music video highlights the imagery of architect Frank Gehry’s IAC Building in Manhattan, NY, which “gives the appearance of a tall ship in full sail… This piece of music is an attempt to translate into sound not only the quality of the facade, the feeling that everything is bravely in motion, but also what it’s like to be on the streets near it.”

“Homage to the Haegeum Eight: The Weaving of the Silk” by Dana Kaufman, performed by Eunah Noh

In 2021, master haegeum artist Eunah Noh commissioned composer Dana Kaufman to write an ode to the eight hallowed elements (bamboo, silk, skin, metal, earth, wood, stone, and calabash) which comprise the haegeum. Each movement of Homage to the Haegeum Eight celebrates the human labor, physical surroundings, and imagery related to these elements. While the piece aims to honor each individual element, it also serves as a tribute to the exquisite instrument itself — which, of course, is greater than the sum of its parts. Second movement, “The Weaving of the Silk,” featured here, is based on two sample recordings: one of a person operating an old Korean silk loom, and the other of modern automated Korean weaving machines.

“If I Have No Witness” by Evan Ware, performed by Paul Dwyer

Evan Ware’s If I Have No Witness for cello and electronics was commissioned, premiered, and toured by cellist Paul Dwyer in 2009 and is featured on his album Solo Cello Premieres. Originally meant to be a part of a longer set of reflections on the experience of graduate students and their struggles with mental health, it ended up being the only movement written. This is a meditation on the word “solitude” as spoken by a number of friends — variously immigrants, LGBTQIA+, recently bereaved, neurodivergent. Their voices create a tapestry of sound that is reflective of the positive and negative sides of being alone. The cello unites these voices in a musical commentary creating another layer of solitude; among the many voices, it is the lone musical instrument.

“Common Ground: Scene 2” by Lewis Spratlan, performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble and The Crossing (Donald Nally, conductor)

Lewis Spratlan’s Common Ground addresses the composer’s and librettist Paul Kane’s concern with the degradation of the environment. Performed here by The Crossing and International Contemporary Ensemble, directed by Donald Nally, on their album Seven Responses.


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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