A friend recently asked me to come up with a list of music. He wanted a ‘starter’ kit to introduce friends and family to contemporary classical. The constraints are as follows: he wants to fill a 1 GB MP3 player to give as a gift.

Actually, the 1 gig threshold is a challenging one for classical repertoire, requiring a streamlined list. I thought it might be fun to open this up to the Sequenza 21 community. Suggestions? Lists?

32 thoughts on “The 1 GB Challenge”
  1. a bit of chamber music:
    Giacinto Scelsi – Ko-Lho – I
    Giacinto Scelsi – 04 – Ko-Lho – II
    Harry Partch – Two settings from Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake – I. Isobel
    Harry Partch – Two settings from Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake – II. Annah the Allmaziful
    Iannis Xenakis – Anaktoria
    Julian Carrillo – Preludio a Colon
    Lou Harrison – At the tomb of Charles Ives

    …Hope this can help

  2. Aw c’mon Doug. Then I’d have to respond with “the complete works of Elliott Carter,” and we’d start a flame war!

  3. Oh, I didn’t mean to leave the impression that this was “the best this composer had to offer”. I put this list together in a half hour, working from my iTunes library, and it is prejudiced more than anything toward the small files, so as to get a greater number and wide variety of composers/music.

  4. Thanks for the additional info. Having looked at it more carefully, I find the list on Dillon’s site a bit cumbersome.

    The thing that really makes Tom’s list so excellent is it’s specificity. It gives movements or moments, not pieces or albums. For me this is especially good, because I can hear what someone perceived as the best this composer has to offer, and if I like it, too, I can move further with it.


  5. I get asked this, so regarding Kalvos & Damian:

    Shows #1 to #374 (May 27, 1995 – August 3, 2002) use RealAudio codecs that are no longer updated for Macs. Older Macs and Windows (at least through XP-SP3) play them fine.

    Shows #375 to #537 (August 10, 2002 – September 17, 2005) are encoded in both MP3 and RA. From #538 to #554, only MP3 is used.

    (Our partner program Noizepunk & Das Krooner has only used MP3 for their 41 shows.)


  6. Adds to guy-centric list:

    Mary Jane Leach: O Magna Vasti Creta
    Pauline Oliveros: The Well
    Linda Catlin Smith: Versailles
    Ann Southam: Re-Tuning
    Laurie Spiegel: Cavis Muris
    Julia Wolfe: Four Marys
    Anne La Berge: fixiation
    Maria de Alvear: En Amor Duro
    Diamanda Galas: Panoptikon
    Joan LaBarbara: as lightning comes, in flashes

  7. Yeah, even keeping the name, “The 1Gb playlist section” would be a completely awesome criteria — it’d keep out the riff-raff.

    If sequenza21 would also put links to itunes etc. next to the name of the piece so we can listen to clips and buy if we want, they could even make a few cents off of it maybe.

    How about it, guys?

  8. That’s a great idea Jonathan. We’ve had lists as conversation starters on the homepage in the past. It’s something I occasionally incorporate into columns over at File Under ? (

    When I was at Splendid (, we had a weekly column of playlists, often humorous or op/ed oriented.

    The Wire frequently does listening lists, as does WNYU (avant-pop rather than c. classical).

  9. Is there anywhere online that has similar lists, such as Top 100 contemporary classical pieces or something?

    If not it would be great to have something on this site, or if more people could post it here that would be great, I subsequently bought some of the music listed (which some of it is quite good).


  10. Re Kurtag, quite right Tom, sorry I should have looked more carefully, at least the mistake resulted in some more Kurtag recommendations, or something, cough, ahem, etc.

  11. (That should have been, “I once had a friend ask for a list of *ten* essential works…”)

  12. I did have some Kurtag, actually (the second book of the Kafka Fragments).

    I missed Nancarrow – oops! And Carter, too!

    I think any list you make is going to be terribly flawed, in some way. (I once had a friend ask me for a list of essential works of 20th c. music. I just laughed at him.)

    All you can really do is give people threads to pull – if you like this piece, check out more by this composer, or similar composers…and I would worry less about going for accessible than for vivid.

  13. Great lists thus far.Yeah, Kurtag would be a good candidate for inclusion! I’d want to include the new David Lang and Nancarrow CDs too!

  14. No Kurtag anyone?.

    Surely one of the more ‘approachable’ post war composers, pieces such as Hommage A R. Sch, Ommagio a Luigi Nono, Officium Breve in Memoriam Andreae Szervánszky, Stele.

  15. Here’s a list of stuff no earlier than 1967 from my collection that fits in 1 GB.


    Pierre Henry, Agnus Dei – Messe De Liverpool
    Jean Barraqué, “Symbole de nuit” – Le temps restitué
    Harrison Birtwistle, from “Proclamation III” to “Nightmare” – Punch and Judy
    George Crumb, Book I, no. 1 – Madrigals
    Mario Davidovsky, Synchronisms No. 5
    Per Nørgård, second movement of Voyage into the Golden Screen


    Peter Maxwell Davies, Act 1 Dances – Points and Dances from Taverner
    Leonard Bernstein, “Sing God a Simple Song” – Mass
    Barbara Kolb, Solitaire
    Steve Reich, Part 3 – Drumming
    David Del Tredici, “Hymn to the Queen” – Vintage Alice
    Lou Harrison, Strofo 7, “Mantro kaj Kunsonoro” – La Koro Sutro
    Ben Johnston, String Quartet No. 4
    Luciano Berio, Points on the curve to find…
    Alvin Curran, “Crystal Aires” – Songs and Views of the Magnetic Garden
    Witold Lutoslawski, Les Espaces du Sommeil
    Bernard Parmegiani, “Points contre champs” – De Natura Sonorum
    Philip Glass, “Building” – Einstein on the Beach
    Gérard Grisey, “Modulations” – Les Espaces Acoustiques
    Arvo Pärt, Cantus In Memory Of Benjamin Britten
    Walter Zimmermann, 10 Fränkische Tänze
    Jo Kondo, An Elder’s Hocket
    Paul Lansky, “her song” – Six Fantasies on a Poem by Thomas Campion
    Ellen Taafe Zwilich, Chamber Symphony


    Francisco Guerrero, Antar Atman
    Jonathan Harvey, Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco
    Tristan Murail, Gondwana
    Ezra Sims, All Done From Memory
    John Adams, “Wild Nights” – Harmonium
    William Duckworth, “Hebrew Children” and “Sardina” – Southern Harmony
    Brian Ferneyhough, Superscripto
    Laurie Anderson, “O Superman” – Big Science
    Scott Johnson, Part I – John Somebody
    Daniel Lentz, Wolf Is Dead
    György Ligeti, Andantino con tenerezza – Horn Trio
    Hans Otte, Part 2 – Das Buch der Klänge
    Paul Dresher, Channels Passing
    Peter Garland, “accented, towards tranquility” – Sones de flor
    György Kurtág, Teil II – Kafka-Fragmente
    Larry Polansky, B’rey’sheet
    Terry Riley, “The Magic Knot Waltz” – The Harp of New Albion
    Carl Stone, “Shing Kee” – Stone Mom’s
    Galina Ustvolskaya, Piano Sonata No. 5
    Judith Weir, Act III, Scene 1: Prisoners’ Chorus – A Night at the Chinese Opera
    John Zorn, For Your Eyes Only
    Glenn Branca, 5th Movement – Symphony No. 6 “Devil Choirs At The Gates Of Heaven”
    Rhys Chatham, Allegro – An Angel Moves Too Fast to See
    Stephen Montague, Tigida Pipa
    Pauline Oliveros, Nike – Deep Listening
    Bent Sørensen, Fluente e luminoso con molta trasparenza – Shadowland


    Alvin Lucier, Nothing Is Real
    Lois Vierk, Go Guitars
    Louis Andriessen, Instrumental I – Andriessen M is for Man, Music, Mozart
    David Behrman, “Witch Grass” – Unforeseen Events
    Allison Cameron, Gibbous Moon
    Meredith Monk, Travel Dream Song – Monk Atlas
    Toru Takemitsu, Fantasma/Cantos
    Charles Dodge, Viola Elegy
    Paul Dolden, “In a Bed Where the Moon Was Sweating. Resonance #1” – L’ivresse de la vitesse
    James Tenney, Form 4 (In Memoriam Morton Feldman) – Four Forms
    Frank Zappa, “G-Spot Tornado” – The Yellow Shark
    Arnold Dreyblatt, “Point Rotation” – Animal Magnetism
    Kaija Saariaho, “Dry Mountain Stream” – Six Japanese Gardens
    George Tsontakis, “Serene, yet disturbing” – Eclipse
    Gerald Barry, Piano Quartet No. 2
    Diamanda Galás, “Headbox” – Schrei X
    Mikel Rouse, “Prelude: We Deliver” – Dennis Cleveland
    Kevin Volans, This Is How It Is
    Noah Creshevsky, “Ossi di morte” – Hyperrealism
    Ingram Marshall, Kingdom Come
    Frederic Rzewski, “Der Pianist führt” – Scratch Symphony
    Michael Gordon, Movement Three – Weather


    Francis Dhomont, “La muraille d’épines” – Forêt profonde
    Georg Friedrich Haas, fourth movement – Torso
    Thomas Adès, Brahms
    John Luther Adams, Red Arc/Blue Veil
    David Lang, part III – the so-called laws of nature
    Magnus Lindberg, Clarinet Concerto
    Gérard Pape, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa
    Hans Reichel, You Can Dance With Me – Yuxo
    Evan Ziporyn, Frog’s Eye
    Robert Ashley, Love Letter Part 1 through Love Letter Part 2 – Celestial Excursions
    Wim Mertens, Swirling Backwards – Skopos
    Eric Whitacre, A Boy and a Girl – Cloudburst
    Nico Muhly, Wonders/New Things & New Tidings – Mothertongue
    Missy Mazzoli, i am coming for my things – A Door into the Dark

  16. OK, just a start (everybody chime in at will!). I’m starting just at /after WWII, and this is a partial list of “safer” works — things that don’t head into Babbit, Xenakis or Lucier territory, and all have some connection to the broader world of music that a non-classical generalist might already know. My point is to suck them in with the sensuous, and if they want to go harder and deeper afterward (though most of this stuff is plenty complex in its own way), great:

    Messiaen: “Chant d’amour 2” from the Turangalîla Symphony; “Louange à l’éternité de Jésus” from the 4tet for the End of Time.
    Stravinsky: “In Memoriam Dylan Thomas”; “Requiem Canticles”
    George Crumb: Makrokosmos III – Music for a Summer’s Evening
    György Ligeti: Lontano; Etudes, Book 1
    Gerard Grisey: Les Espaces Acoustiques
    Robert Ashley: Music Word Fire (And I Would Do It Again)
    John Zorn: Spillane
    Morton Subotnick: Touch
    Frederic Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated
    Karlheinz Stockhausen: Tierkreis
    Krzysztof Penderecki: St. Luke Passion, Part 1
    Steve Reich: “Eight Lines”; “City Music”
    Mauricio Kagel: Ludwig Van
    Luciano Berio: Folksongs
    Evan Ziporyn: Pondok
    Michael Gordon: Weather
    Philip Glass: “Knee Play 5” from Einstein on the Beach; Akhnaten, 1st act
    Peter Garland: Matachin Dances
    Terry Riley: The Book of Abbeyozzud
    John Adams: Harmonielehre
    Daniel Lentz: Missa Umbrarum
    Ingram Marshall: Fog Tropes; Gradual Requiem
    Meredith Monk: Dolmen Music
    Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel

  17. Okay Steve.

    Contemporary classical meaning closer to our lifetime. Let’s try circa Reich forward rather than circa Debussy.

    Any bit-rate you like. Go!

  18. Come on Christian, you’ve got to give us a little more… Are we talking “music appreciation” contemporary — i.e., Debussy ’till now — or like maybe closer to our own lifetime? If it’s the first then it’s pretty cut and dried; if the latter, things start getting interesting. And of course 1 GB doesn’t mean much without knowing what encoding rate we’re talking about. You can pack a LOT more music on there with 128 or 160 kbps files rather than 256 or higher.

  19. slow news day? 😉

    An idea would be to visit and look up John Cage. On that page is the option “John Cage Radio.” I believe it plays for a couple hours from Feldman to Ligeti and so on. Its a good place to start taking down notes for what to DL.

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