ListN Up: James Díaz (February 9, 2023)

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. 

Called “stark, haunting elegance” with “intimate focus” by The Washington Post, the music of Colombian-born composer/sound maker James Díaz strives to create unique sonic textures, sound masses, and interactive environments. Deeply influenced by the concept of psychedelia, his music also draws from elements of graphic design, Latin American landscapes, and photography.

Hi, I’m James Diaz, a Colombian composer and electronic musician based in Philadelphia. I’m excited to share this playlist with you. I hope you’ll allow yourself to dive into these different sound worlds by these unique composers and artists.

“Journey” by James Primosch, performed by The Crossing

Let’s set the tone. Discovering Jim’s choral compositions was truly a fortune. This track is the first one from his poignant and deeply personal album with The Crossing. Following his passing in 2021, this album serves me as a symbol of healing and reconciliation.

“Two Questions About Time” by José G. Martinez, performed by Third Coast Percussion 

Like Jim, José is influenced by literary texts, but in his case, by the richness of Latin American literature. The spiral form and infinite loop feeling in José’s “Two Questions About Time,” written for Third Coast Percussion, leads to a galaxy of granular textures and sparkling flashes of sound. You don’t want to miss it!

“Cosmologies Pt 2.” by L’Eclair

As a synth player, L’éclair is the band I aspire to be part of. This track, with its theremin-like vocal line in particular, moves in infinite circles and showcases the band’s signature style.

“Groundwater” by Flannery Cunningham, performed by Elizabeth Wesche, Ania Vu, and Erin Busch

Speaking of details, Flann’s multimedia work encompasses a wide and carefully crafted artistic spectrum, from live processing, pre-edited samples, chamber music, songwriting, video, and installation. This work focuses on tone in its purest form and invites one to hum or sing along. It truly showcases Flann’s range and skill as an artist.

“Muto Infinitas” by Catherine Lamb, performed by Rebecca Lane and Jon Heilbron

When it comes to tone, Catherine’s music is my go-to for introspective moments. Her music functions as a form of time travel, bringing you away from a future-focused state of mind, and into the present moment. If you find yourself transported to the past, it’s okay; just make sure to come back soon.

“Untitled Two” by King Britt and Tyshawn Sorey

On the other hand, King’s synths and ever-changing patterns combined with Tyshawn’s otherworldly rhythmic and meter shifts will have you moving out of your seat. Play it loud. (Fun fact: it was composed and performed on the spot, a testament to their musical chemistry.)

“Sarah” by Alex G

Staying in the realm of Philadelphia music, we have a classic from the scene in the form of Alex G. Although this track is from 2012, I only recently stumbled upon his music. The constantly evolving world of psychedelic Indie Rock never fails to excite, and Alex’s outstanding production and electronic skills are truly remarkable.

“Cello Concerto” by Unsuk Chin, performed by Alban Gerhardt, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, and Myung-Whun Chung

While reminiscing about 2012, I recall my fascination with Unsuk Chin’s music. Her Cello Concerto is a beautiful combination of transparent lyrical passages and powerful, brutal moments. The careful structure of her orchestral writing is truly impressive. I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the entire piece.

“Torso” by Peter Kramer, performed by Pala Garcia

To round off the playlist, I’d like to bring attention to Peter’s music. I think “Torso” exemplifies the close bond and uniqueness of musical collaboration between composer and performer. I’ve selected this short piece to end the playlist, symbolizing a new beginning. I can’t wait to hear about their collaborative album soon.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, and is made possible thanks to 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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