ListN Up: Maria Kaoutzani (March 23, 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. 

Maria Kaoutzani is a Chicago-based composer from Limassol, Cyprus. She teaches composition at Knox College and is a founding member of the composers collective Kinds of Kings.

Hello everyone. My name is Maria Kaoutzani and I’m excited to share this music with you. Selecting only nine pieces for this playlist was very difficult, but I ended up with pieces that have the human voice at their core and have also strongly influenced my own vocal writing, as well as the way I think about how rhythm interacts with melody. I also have to confess that I sing along to all of these in my car! Enjoy.

“Agua” by Bomba Estéreo

A modern take on Colombian bullerengue. I love this song because of its association with water and its hypnotizing beat. It ends with a chant for the sea goddess Yemaya.

“Rapture” by Koffee

Koffee’s entire Rapture EP is excellent, and my favorite version has to be the NPR Tiny Desk concert. It’s just a beautiful performance by an extremely talented but humble young artist.

“Suite pour Dantan: Prelid” by Nathalie Joachim

I love the use of the field recording of a children’s choir from Haiti, and its blend with Nathalie’s voice and the electronic beat. Huge shoutout to Spektral Quartet for being awesome, as always.

“Agia Marina” by Alkinoos Ioannidis

This is a Cypriot lullaby that my grandma used to sing to me, in a gorgeously delicate version by my compatriot Alkinoos Ioannides. Makes me emotional every time.

“Waves & Lines: Bees” by Gemma Peacocke

Few people have been more influential to me as a human and artist than composer Gemma Peacocke. This movement from her album Waves and Lines is one of my favorites, but I recommend listening to the entire album.

“Inura: Teaching” by Tania León

I came across this piece about 10 years ago and I keep coming back to it. The writing for choir and percussion here is unlike anything else I’ve listened to, and the spoken parts always give me goosebumps.

“On a Good Day” by Joanna Newsom

Singer-songwriter music meets harp and fairies… It’s so hard to put Joanna Newsom’s music into words, but this little gem is one I’ve been listening to on repeat since I was 19.

“Suspended in Gaffa” by Kate Bush

This Kate Bush song is my latest obsession… The waltz-like beat creates a flow that feels perfect and surreal at the same time, while the use of two types of singing makes it sound like there’s an internal dialogue. The lyrics are about a desire to see/meet god, but they are abstract enough for me to create my own narrative every time I listen.

“White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes

The vocal arrangement and text setting create a beautiful, almost meditative effect. It’s hard to tell whether the song makes me happy, nostalgic, or melancholic.


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