ListN Up Playlist: Eliza Bagg (Lisel) (July 11, 2024)

ListN Up playlists are commissioned by American Composers Forum. Artists are selected by ACF staff (including I CARE IF YOU LISTEN and innova Recordings).

Eliza Bagg is an experimental musician, performing as a vocalist in contemporary classical music along with producing and composing her own work. She has collaborated with artists like Meredith Monk, Caroline Shaw, and John Zorn, is a member of Roomful of Teeth, and has performed as a soloist with major symphonies including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics. Bagg has originated roles in many experimental operas including Ted Hearne’s over and over vorbei night vorbei (Komische Oper Berlin) and Michael Gordon’s Acquanetta (Beth Morrison Projects), along with many others, and her singing has been called “ethereal” and “luminous” by The New York Times and “gossamer” by The New Yorker. Bagg’s compositional work is grounded in the human voice mediated by technology, combining virtuosic singing with electronic processing, and exploring what The Guardian called the “valley between authenticity and artifice.”

Hello I Care if You Listen, I’m Eliza Bagg, I’m a vocalist and composer and I’m so excited to share my ListN Up playlist with you. It’s a mix of different ways of writing for the voice, people who I think are using vocals in an innovative way, whether that’s through electronic processing and manipulation or just compositional layering; people who are invested in changing the way that we can hear the voice as an instrument in the 21st century. Thank you so much. 

Immature by Eliza Bagg (Lisel)

This is a song from my most recent album, Patterns for Auto-tuned Voices and Delay. The album seeks to use electronic processing (namely Antares auto-tune plugins and various delay and granular synthesis processes) to bring out new, expressive qualities of vocal layering. In Immature, significant editing and chopping up of the vocal gestures plays with repetition and minimalism as the gestures develop and reorient throughout the song.

“Travel Dream Song” by Meredith Monk, Performed by Dina Emerson

“Travel Dream Song” is from Meredith Monk’s opera Atlas, which premiered in 1991. This was one of the first pieces by Meredith Monk I ever heard, and years later I had the tremendous luck to work with her in a production of her opera Atlas with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, so this song is very meaningful to me. It is ephemerally evocative of a dream state, and the feeling of endless possibility that characterizes the beginning of the opera, when a young woman imagines the possible worlds stretched out before her.

In a classic Meredith way, the repetitive patterns of the synth are always surprisingly mercurial and evasive, and the voice enters and exits as if floating, buoyed by the unpredictable nature of synth arpeggio waves. It becomes impossible to predict exactly which permutation of the pattern will happen next, and one submits to the journey of the music – Meredith’s semi-minimalist relationship to reworking patterns makes them, to me, quite magical – sometimes playful, sometimes even funny – and the way they mutate over time and create dream-like space is something that is hugely influential on my album Patterns for Auto-tuned Voices and Delay.

“Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt” by Holly Herndon

This track is from Holly Herndon’s album PROTO, in which she works with an AI machine to reinterpret and resynthesizes voices. This song appears to use an iterative process by which many voices are generated by and spun out from a main vocal. Built almost entirely out of these voices, which are clearly electronically generated, I find this song incredibly emotional and a new way of thinking about choral music — that is to say, layering and harmonizing multiple a capella voices.


SOPHIE, a pioneer of the hyperpop genre, was a master of developing innovative electronic and vocal sounds in dialogue with contemporary pop. Her use of formant and pitch shifting plays with aural signifiers of gender, and her sound world is completely unique while communicating with many familiar and mainstream sounds.

“just (after song of songs)” by David Lang, Performed by Trio Mediæval, Garth Knox, Agnès Vesterman, and Sylvain Lemêtre

A slowly developing piece of proto-minimalism, this piece for a trio of female voices uses very few gestures to eventually develop longer melodic phrases. The journey of the music is a patient one. A beautiful example of contemporary acoustic vocal ensemble music, playing with the repertoire of vocal music written for high femme voices, from Hildegard von Bingen to Bulgarian folk singing.

“Mirror” by Lyra Pramuk

This track is from Lyra Pramuk’s 2020 album Fountain. The album is almost entirely built out of her processed and layered vocals — almost every sound you hear was originally a vocal one, with Lyra manipulating the sounds so that they become transformed.

“Au Jus” by Carl Stone

An electronic music pioneer who has been composing music since the 1970s, Carl Stone has been fundamental to the field of live electronic performance and laptop-based music. This is a song he released in 2020, and uses a manipulated, chopped up, sampled vocal performance as the “main vocal line.” This melodic line moves in and out of comprehensibility as the song moves in and out of the pop realm — similar to SOPHIE, this plays with aural signifiers and sonic references familiar to us through contemporary pop.

“Nandi” by Jlin

Released in 2017 on Jlin’s album Black Origami, “Nandi” is an example of the way producer and electronic musician Jlin plays with electronic dance and house music. Her music is a highly complex, mathematical take on the footwork genre, and “Nandi” uses vocal samples as the basis for these complex interlocking rhythmic patterns.

“Lu Na” by Kate NV

A Russian born avant-pop artist, Kate NV has been making some of my favorite music over the last five years. This song is from her album Room for the Moon, released on RVNG. Her use of retro synth sounds and repetitive melodic motives recalls references as disparate as Phillip Glass, Brian Eno, and Cocteau Twins.


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