ListN Up: David Sanford (September 30, 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. 

David Sanford is a composer, bandleader and educator who resides in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he is the Elizabeth T. Kennan Professor of Music at Mount Holyoke College. His big band album, A Prayer For Lester Bowie, featuring Hugh Ragin, was released in 2021 on Greenleaf Music. His pieces for flute and piano, Klatka Still (2007) and Offertory (2021), along with works by five other composers, were recorded by Jennifer Grim and Michael Sheppard on the album Through Broken Time (New Focus Recordings), which has just been released.

Hello, I’m David Sanford and I hope that you enjoy the following pieces as much as I have. I listen to a lot of different music, and, like a lot of us, I’m way behind in hearing all the music I want to listen to because we have access to so much of it now. Consequently, this short list of pieces consists of some of the ones that over the last 10 years or so I’ve listened to multiple times, for one reason or another but usually just because I love hearing them. Many thanks to Amanda and everyone at I CARE IF YOU LISTEN for including me among your weekly curators.

“Langsam” by Arnold Schoenberg, arranged by Jon Nelson, performed by The Genkin Philharmonic

This is a brilliant arrangement by my good friend Jon Nelson that simultaneously evokes both the Second Viennese School original and King Crimson’s progressive rock. Genkin are an outstanding band in the lineage of Zappa and I’m glad to hear that they’re performing again.

“Funk 4 Lunch” by Naughty Professor, feat. members of The Soul Rebels

I don’t usually get that into production, but every instrument on this just roars in the speakers. And I always appreciate a wide-open hi-hat.

“Many, Many Cadences,” by Sky Macklay, performed by the Spektral Quartet

The theory teacher in me loves the harmonic detail of the piece, and the polytonality, but the rhythmic “modes” were what first drew my ears in. Impressive and inspired performance too.

“Metaphysical question” by Hugh Ragin, performed by the Hugh Ragin Trio

I heard Hugh with his trio (John Lindberg on bass and Thurman Barker on drums) in Cambridge, Mass., in early 1986 and it was a rare treat to hear him stretch out as the primary solo voice. Over the years he’s done the piece with a wide variety of ensembles, and juxtaposed its 12-tone row into other compositions (reminiscent of Ives and other composers), and I’ve always appreciated the theme’s angular tonality. [0:00-18:14]

“The Piano in the Palace Beautiful” by Marti Epstein, performed by Don Berman

I’m pretty sure that I was in Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass., when Don Berman recorded this. I loved Don’s playing and his sense of how the music seemed to float up into the hall, but my hat’s off to Marti who – to my ears – really substantially evokes an extension of the transcendental in Ives (again).

“Hell Broke Luce” by Tom Waits

I could just listen to the entire backing by itself; but then I could also just listen to Waits recite this by itself as well. Rest in peace, Jeffrey Lucey.

“Your Best American Girl” by Mitski

Several students in my Transgressive Music class at Mount Holyoke College turned me on to Mitski, particularly this album. The production, the use of electric guitar (!), the lyrics, and the power of her voice all contribute to some raw and effusive pop that I’ve been missing for a long time.

“The David Mourned” by Thomas Tomkins, performed by Gallicantus

I have yet to hear a note by Tomkins that I didn’t like, but this particular performance of his lamentation – which for me isn’t as heartbreaking to hear as his “When David Heard that Absalom was Slain” – is moving in a lot of ways that I think would cheapen it to try to delineate.

“Talin is Thinking” by Rudresh Mahanthappa

A really fantastic quintet plays this one: Mahanthappa on alto, Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, Matt Mitchell on piano, François Moutin on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. All of them contribute something different, but really special.


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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