ListN Up Playlist: Booker Stardrum (January 11, 2024)

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.

Booker Stardrum is a composer, percussionist, producer, and educator. Stardrum’s music is a highly personal amalgamation of electro-acoustics, minimalism, ambient, jazz, and contemporary experimental electronic music. His compositions are sculptural, carved from the dense layering of instruments and manipulated samples, a pantonal harmonic sense, and an intuitive approach to rhythm. In addition to countless experimental and improvisational collaborations, pop projects, film scores, and sound design, Stardrum has released three solo records (Crater in 2021, Temporary etc. in 2018, and Dance And in 2015).

Hello world! I am Booker Stardrum: a composer, drummer and percussionist based in the Hudson Valley of New York. Greetings from Los Angeles. It is January 1st, 2024. I am excited to share some music made by friends, some made by heroes; some rhythmic, some not as much. A lot of this is music that I have returned to over and over, and has moved me in some way. To my complete surprise, almost every track I was drawn to uses voice as a primary instrument. I hope you enjoy this beautiful music as much as I do. Happy New Year.

“A Capella” by John McGuire

I love the constant forward motion in this piece. It feels like it’s always changing and also always staying the same. I can discern micro-patterns, but I can’t fully wrap my head around the overall structure. I love the use of sampled voice. This piece in particular does a great job at blending the qualities of acoustic voice with the qualities of a sampled/triggered sound.

“9:48AM” by Celia Hollander

I’ve always loved Celia’s music! There’s a certain emotional ambiguity that I am drawn to in everything she makes. I love her sense of harmony and texture. I know Celia to be a very reasoned, intellectual, and thoughtful person, and it’s in the music, but it also comes out as tactile, visceral, and emotional. It’s cool and rare to be able to hold all of that.

“Ponta de Areia” by Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter has always been a favorite artist of mine. Somehow I missed this album until tributes were pouring in after his death. The first track, “Ponta de Areia,” just hit me immediately — it starts right off with a gorgeous melody, and continues to unfold with a really sweet groove. Great music for a stroll.

“Rhythmed Events” by Ben Vida, performed by Yarn/Wire and Nina Dante

Ben told me recently that the structure of the various musical elements is all built around the text as a starting point. I think this piece feels like a journey, like a psychedelic trip, maybe one that is on the edge of being scary, but is actually really exciting and seductive. Each change, variation, and added part feels so organic. The evolution of the piece feels like an unfurling, blooming flower.

“Butterfly Friend” by Don Cherry

As a long time fan of Don Cherry and his various projects and collaborations, this era of his music feels like something unique. The organic, earthy vibe to the music feels like a return to stable ground. The music on this album feels so informal, communal, hippie-as-all-hell — it’s hard not to smile. “Here comes my butterfly friend again!”

“Sinden Sohor (The Famous Singer)” by Tati Saleh Group

I came across this track in a wonderful compilation, Malam Minggu: Saturday Night in Sunda. It’s sung by Tati Saleh, who was a popular artist in Java in post-independence Indonesia. I love the playful, theatric, repetitive vocal melody and the incredible groove laid down by the kendang player. As in a lot of Indonesian music, there are superfluid tempo changes that make the music flow in both an organic and surprising way.

“Banteay Srey” by Carl Stone

This is the piece that introduced me to Carl’s body of work, and it’s still one of my favorites. It exemplifies Carl’s process of taking a musical excerpt and stretching it to its limit, recontextualizing something simple, and building structure all around it. This piece is particularly emotional, stretching a sample like taffy into a haunting beauty that gets me every time.

“Les Fleurs” by Minnie Riperton

Do airplanes make everyone more susceptible to tears? I was recently so moved by this song, flying in a plane, looking down on land I don’t think I’ll return to for a long time. This song stirs nostalgia. It’s so tender and so epic and explosive, all in one three-minute song.


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.

You can support the work of ICIYL with a tax-deductible gift to ACF. For more on ACF, visit the “At ACF” section or