The Cedar Commissions & KFAI: The Playlist

On Thursday, January 26th, The Cedar collaborated with KFAI Community Radio for a two-hour program featuring artists from The 2016-17 Cedar Commissions. Each of the six artists,  Dameun Strange, Zack Baltich, Krissy Bergmark, Bethany Battafarano, Ritika Ganguly and SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE, shared pieces of music that have influenced their work, which will debut February 3rd & 4th at The Cedar. Check out a full playlist of the selected works in a Spotify playlist and read more about each artist’s work and their song selections below.  Tickets for The Cedar Commissions are still available at

Bethany Battafarano 

Choral composer and soprano vocalist Bethany Battafarano is collaborating with Peruvian poet Helmut Jerí Pabón and Chilean musicians Vladimir Garrido and Nicolas Muñoz in an exploration of Western classical and Latin American sounds focused on choral and Andean roots. Danceable rhythms, soaring harmonies, and social justice themes engage our many cultural commonalities, which too often remain divided. Minnesota is home to one of the strongest choral traditions in the country and also to a powerful Latin@ population. Battafarano’s work challenges the underrepresentation of Latin American sounds and languages in the state’s choral music canon.

Illapu is a Chilean folk ensemble formed in 1971 in northern Chile, who were sent into exile for allegedly working against the government. The musicality and instrumentation of this piece has directly impacted Battafarano’s piece and arrangements. The video features people of all ages dancing enthusiastically and is sure to brighten your day.

Additional selections:

Flor de retama” by Ricardo Dolorier, performed by Martina Portocarrero
Tata san juan” performed by Inti Illimani
Rusalka” by Antonín Dvořák
O Weisheit” by Arvo Pärt


A fresh collaborative work from cellist Eric Silva Brennenman and MC SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE, Flow and the Bow takes two talented and risk-taking artists of color and propels them into a musical science experiment around that rare intersection between hip-hop and classical music. Flipping tradition on its head in both genres, Eric and SEE are exploring and testing the dynamics between “one cello and a microphone.” Listen for hip-hop’s boom bap heartbeat pulsing classical motifs through a circulatory system that moves a body through mythology, mysticism, and social justice. Catch the slightest whiff of horchata and guaraná along the way as Eric and SEE traverse landscapes of legend, politics, and the human spirit.

Frontman of the rap metal band Rage Against the Machine, Zack de la Rocha, wrote People of the Sun after a visit to southern Mexico, where he came face to face with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. The Zapatistas were (and are) a revolutionary leftist group, consisting mostly of indigenous people, fighting against the Mexican State for the right to their local resources. The song is an angry anthem against globalization and neoliberalism, referencing many historical events such as the end of the Aztec empire at the hands of the colonial Spanish and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles.

Additional selections:

Candela” – Morena Son
Breakadawn” – De la Soul
Evolução de Bateria” – Maracatu Estrela Brilhante do Recife
Viva La Fiesta Brava” – Paso Dobles con Mariachi


Ritika Ganguly  

Ostir is a project is where poem meets song. It explores the inherent musicality of literature straddling 19th century Bengal to contemporary New Delhi to Victorian England to 20th century Chile. Composer and vocalist Ritika Ganguly is collaborating with Mexican and Indian musicians to render this poetry into musical patterns that draw on the Baul heritage of Bengali music, North Indian music, and Neo Soul. The performance will incorporate instrumentation not commonly used with these genres, including the bansuri, acoustic guitar, and the cajón.

The sister duo of Jyoti and Sultana Nooran sing powerfully in the centuries old tradition of Qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music typically sung by men. They make the art form their own with “force and vigor and a full head of steam!” Their live performances are powerful and ecstatic, with a dramatic light show to accompany the music.

Additional selections:

Moner Manush” – Anusheh Anadil
“Anusheh Anadil is a singer-songwriter on the Bangladeshi music scene. Among other things, her music stands out for me because of she interprets the Baul technique as a feminist. She demonstrates what it is to use traditional music for change, for revolution.”

Moner Manush” – Shapla Salique
“This inspires me in terms of weird and bizarre instrumentation choices. Shapla Salique happily integrates sounds coming out of a Harmonium with the Saxophone and the Clarinet, which is AMAZING!”

Mi Niña Lola” – Concha Buika
Earthy sound, honesty in preserving her imperfections


Zack Baltich

Composer/percussionist Zack Baltich is composing and performing ingress/passage, a new work for drum-set, bass clarinet, and percussion (marimba, tuned bottles, found objects). Performed in collaboration with drummer Reese Kling and clarinetist Carley Olson, ingress/passage seeks alternative textural possibilities through the use of contact microphones. The piece will also be a continued effort to create a paradox of challenging, yet inviting soundscapes by utilizing uncommon performance techniques within familiar confines of form and key center.

Baltich sites Colin Stetson’s Among the Self as potentially his biggest influence of the piece he has been working on for The Cedar Commissions. Particularly, he admires his ability to take “strange/ invented sounds and put them in a palatable context,” a task Baltich strives to accomplish in his own work as well.

Additional selections:

Strangers All Along” – So Percussion and Grey McMurray
“So Percussion is perhaps the most malleable music group I know of. On one end they have performed concertos with the likes of the LA Phil, and on the other have collaborated with Dan Deacon and the National. What many don’t see is that, besides bringing percussion chamber music into the forefront of contemporary classical, they have an enormous output of their own compositions. This piece comes from their 2012 album Where (We) Live. It serves as the climax of the album, and is such a great incorporation of contemporary classical rhythmic technique into a folk/rock oriented song. Merging these genre boundaries is something I try to do as well in my music, and So Percussion is always an inspiration. “

715 CR∑∑KS “ – Bon Iver
“Like a billion other people, I am a longtime fan of Bon Iver. Their new album 22, A Million came out about a month into my writing process, right as I was in the midst of a big exploration of alternative sounds on my own instrument. One of the most important sounds that ended up in my piece is the ability to use a whammy pedal to harmonize with sustained bowed marimba notes.. It creates a thick texture, and the harmony is a bit off kilter. When I heard this track for the first time, some similarities in sound struck me immediately. But what really inspired me was the simplicity of 715 CR∑∑KS. how it still creates very emotive sound without much happening, something I strived to do as I got further and further into the writing process.” 


Dameun Strange

Helianthus is an afrofuturistic conceptual operetta that tells the story of Dameun Strange as a composer and time traveler visiting his matriarchal ancestors at points in time when they learned valuable lessons that were then passed down to him. The operetta is a series of 5 musical vignettes, each from a different era reaching back as far as the 1890’s and ending 50 years into the future.

The son of Ecuadorian immigrants, Roberto Carlos Lange, otherwise known as Helado Negro, is a master of mesmerization. His work manages to be both hypnotic and expressive. Utilizing both Spanish and English, the bilingual lyrics seem to speak more truth than one language alone could muster.

Additional selections:

Kiss My Feet” – Laura Mvula
Levantar Las Piernas” – Helado Negro


Krissy Bergmark

Composer and tabla player Krissy Bergmark joins with dancer and choreographer Lauren Baker to create an intimate, emotional story line through a “compositional conversation.” Bergmark and Baker have exchanged excerpts of music and choreography to create a three movement piece for tabla, cello, electric guitar, fiddle, and dancer.

As Bergmark puts it, “Rufus Wainwright does despondent so well.” The Art Teacher (the first song in this remarkable Tiny Desk Concert) tells the heartbreaking story of unrequited love in the form of a young student crushing on her art teacher. It is impossible to listen to his poignant vocal delivery and not feel his exact emotion.

Additional selections:

Quarter Chicken Dark” – Goat Rodeo Sessions (Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile, Yo-yo Ma, Edgar Meyer)
“This album, and especially this tune, really made me fall in love with string music. I am a huge Edgar Meyer fan, and each of the musicians in this group have exposed me to an ever-expanding array of projects that end up changing how I experience music. I don’t necessarily have the words to describe what kind of music this is or all of the influences in play here, but I love it so much and feel like it is a big part of me musically.”

Making Music” – Zakir Hussain
“This tune is from another album that I discovered pretty soon after I started playing tabla. My professor was taking a big group of students to see a concert, and he put this on in the car. I have this vivid memory of sitting in the front seat, and listening to this and being blown away. I had never heard anything like it before and he let me borrow the album. It felt like one of those moments you remember because you know that something you listened to has changed your course. Like it was the most important thing I ever heard. Zakir is not only an incredible classical musician, but everything he has done outside of the traditional realm has been so musical and beautiful and been a huge influence on me and why I play tabla.”

UFO Tofu” – Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
“All of Bela’s music has been a huge part of me musically. I always end up coming back to him. He’s such a curious, fantastic artist.  This tune, in particular, has taught me that if the music is going that way, it’s fine to move into whatever time signature you want. That’s a very practical bit that I have gathered from his music. But also that really great melodies and really tasteful lines go such a long way.”

Music for 18 Musicians (last track)” – Steve Reich
“This really needs to be listened to in one sitting as a complete unit, but everyone needs to hear it, so I thought I would include the ending to give an idea of what this experience is like. I had the honor of playing this piece, and parts of Drumming, when I was in college.  It was an incredible experience, and one of the most unique musical experiences I’ve had. I definitely evoke some minimalism earlier in my piece and in some of the transitioning sections. This piece is one of my favorites of Steve Reich’s”

Beauty Has It Hard” – The Bad Plus Joshua Redman
“I love the Bad Plus, (and Dave King! DAVE KING!) has always been one of my favorite drummers. I started listening to the Bad Plus with my dad when I was pretty young, and I love Dave’s busy-ness. This tune is also just a beautiful piece of music.  I think a lot of my melodic ideas start out jumping around and then eventually pull into this big, layered, busy mash of ideas that somehow works and gets to be really big.  The Bad Plus has some tunes that do that, which I have listened to a lot and I am pretty sure that’s where I get it from. “

-Brenna Tierney,
Spring Marketing Intern