ListN Up: Sky Macklay (August 19, 2022)

ListN Up is a 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. 

Sky Macklay is a composer, oboist, and installation artist based in Baltimore, where she is Assistant Professor of Composition at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. She is a founding member of Ghost Ensemble, a Guggenheim fellow, and her music is published by C. F. Peters. Her work encompasses playful inflatable kinetic sculptures, raucous walls of woodwind multiphonics, surreal barrages of tonal cadences, and deeply personal process music.

Hi! My name is Sky Macklay. I’m a composer, oboist, installation artist, and professor based in Baltimore, and I’m excited to share my ListN Up playlist here on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN. The theme of my playlist is “recent releases by composer/performers.” I’m gradually working on an album that features me performing my oboe-centric chamber music (along with many collaborators), so I have been listening to albums by a lot of musicians that I admire who take on the roles of composer and performer simultaneously. All of these artists are unified by an intimate mastery of their instruments, which influences their compositional choices, creating a feedback loop that expands the instrument’s capabilities. I also think it’s exciting that in many of these tracks the listener cannot always tell where the music is on the spectrum of fully-planned-out-ahead-of-time to fully-improvised. I also decided to include one of my pieces, an oboe-centric piece with my group Ghost Ensemble, to give a little taste of what my eventual album will sound like. Thank you for listening!

“Inner Child” by Joy Guidry

This is a deep track overall, which integrates the melody “Down in the Valley” into a fresh, free jazz context. My own inner child was especially captivated by bassoon phenom Joy Guidry’s multi-tracked chorus of high reed-crows, which sounds like a rowdy choir of happy chipmunks.

“Tryst” by Joanna Mattrey

For this album, creative violist Joanna Mattrey plays the Stroh violin, a tart-sounding violin mechanically amplified by a metal bell. Her imagined folk music feels simultaneously very old and very new.

“Disfluent Waters” by JJJJJerome Ellis

I met JJJJJerome at MacDowell, and since hearing him perform there, I have been a huge fan. Ellis’s highly personal album uses spoken word and musical time to create a simulation of his experience of stuttering, and to reveal the deep artistic and communicative possibilities of speech disfluency.

“Phase to Phase 2” by Katie Porter and Lucio Capece

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an intimate house show in Berlin, which served as the album-release event for Phase to Phase, a gorgeous work by bass clarinetists and co-composers Katie Porter and Lucio Capece. Hearing Katie and Lucio play together live, sitting close to them and feeling their vibrations was so comforting and luxurious, and their love for and tender treatment of each gentle sound and multiphonic permeates the album.

“60 Degree Mirrors” by Sky Macklay, performed by Ghost Ensemble

In my piece, “60 Degree Mirrors,” the title refers to the angle between adjacent mirrors in a kaleidoscope. I started with a series of oboe multiphonics as a cantus firmus that expands and contracts in duration and level of adornment, like the tiles in a kaleidoscope.

“Vultures Laughing” by Nicole Mitchell and Moor Mother

Nicole Mitchell and Moor Mother’s vivid, creepy, and fresh piece is an exciting addition to the “music about birds that uses flute” genre.

“Whalefall” by Josh Modney

As soon as “Whalefall” lulls the listener into a predictable pattern of Josh’s signature just intonation dyads on the violin, we suddenly shift to blocks of noise, improv, and fields of microtonal exploration. It’s a wild and pleasurable ride!


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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