ListN Up Playlist: Hedra Rowan (October 6, 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. 

Hedra Rowan makes music with her computer in Chicago. She regularly performs with Tallulah Bankheist, Bimbo Rococo, and by herself. She runs the tape label Bodymilk, but her latest album This Beautiful Moment Sours, has just been released by Benska on compact disc.

Hi, my name is Hedra. I’ve been getting really into lists I did not make. When I was a kid, I got a CD of the 1995 Grammy nominees at a yard sale. The tracks are separated into three sections: Record of the Year nominees, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance nominees, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance nominees. I cannot think of many other CDs that are gender-segregated like this.

There are many points on this list that make me think of things that I was trying to do on my latest album, also a CD. My interests are usually pulled toward pop approaches to orchestration, drama and … interim space between the human and the machine. For brevity’s sake, I’ve only included songs that I had something fun to say about.


This is the first track off of my new compact disc, “This Beautiful Moment Sours.” I think it’s representative of the pacing, density, and drama of the album. This is the only track on this list that has not been nominated for a Grammy.

“I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men

I am drawn to the overwrought, and this song’s unabashedly synthesized brass, acrobatic vocals, and positively sexual suspensions all make this a source of inspiration. The Boyz smoothly transport us into a world where every emotion is as big as a star.

“All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow

Many of the tracks on This Beautiful Moment Sours started as computer improvisations which I then orchestrated with other sounds and sources. This track is an amazing example of pop orchestration — every sound is the right sound, every doubling is the right doubling. The changes in instrumentation usher us along with consistent momentum, even with the song’s casual feel. I envy that type of momentum.

“Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen

To me, this song is about creating a super digital-sounding space to bring out the humanness of a voice. The ethereal synths and almost dinky, repetitive drum machine make Bruce’s voice and its quirkiness stand out. The effect here is heightened pathos: the human elements are isolated to let you know it’s okay to be gay.

 “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John

There is a lot of expert blending of real and synthetic sounds in this song. I used a lot of physical modeling synthesis on my latest, and this sort of in-between state is my favorite. Can you tell exactly where the backing vocals ends and the synths doubling them begin? Does this not make you question your own reality?

“Prayer for the Dying” by Seal

The amount of different instruments that get briefly foregrounded in even the first 45 seconds of this song is kind of astounding. It makes sense that former lovers and members of Prince’s band, Wendy and Lisa, play on such a constantly shifting song. Under the vocals, the ever-changing mix is what keeps us going. Time is the space between me and you.

“Hero” by Mariah Carey

Mariah in the 90s is nearly untouchable in terms of emoting per second, and this song is no exception. I am easily obsessed with songs where the drums do not kick in until late. I regularly have Mariah-tier feelings while making music, and to be able to capture them in waves of coalescing instruments like “Hero” does is a dream.

“Longing In their Hearts” by Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt has a bunch of good songs about yearning, which I believe is a central emotion for girls like myself. I’ve made probably too much music that tries to rest somewhere between yearning and aspiration, and I’ll never do it as well as in this notably computerless song.

“Ordinary Miracles” by Barbra Streisand

This is the most 90s performance of a distinctly 70s sound. Maybe Barbra and Marvin Hamlisch, the arranger and composer, made their best sounds twenty years before this record came out. That being said, it is hard for me to resist my relentless attraction to chord progressions this smooth. Also, live recordings of synthesizers are always good, it kind of bullies them into being acoustic instruments. This song actually rules.


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