Article by Nick Delgaudio
Artwork by Bridget McCormick

A loose definition of Modern Classical led me down this path of lightly pressed piano keys and swelling strings. I’ve always found the cinematic nature of these pieces and records to be so perfectly transportive during the quarantine. If I can’t leave my house, I may as well close my eyes, put on my headphones and let my mind be whisked away to other worlds. 

A Winged Victory for the Sullen - s/t (2011)

A match made in heaven collaboration between Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie and Modern Classical mastermind Dustin O’Halloran that delicately walks the line between sparse ambient and eloquent orchestral instrumentation, extracting the best elements from each world. A record that plays of pure beauty, wide open sounds, and cinematic depth. My favorite record of all time.

Max Richter - The Blue Notebooks (2004)

Composed as a meditation on violence in response to the 2003 invasion of Iraq featuring spoken word passages taken from Franz Kafka’s notebooks. As pretentious as that may sound, this record is worth it for “On the Nature of Daylight” alone -- a theme so perfectly poignant and effortlessly gorgeous.

Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians (1978)

A 60 minute pulsating, shape-shifting, organic piece of music. Though over 40 years old, it stands completely unrivaled in it’s momentous and uplifting energy. A cleanse for the brain. An absolute masterpiece.

いろのみ [Ironomi] - Niji (2015)

A long meditation of twinkling keys and crescendoing strings. Evocative and diverse, yet blissful throughout; three hours is nothing when you have nowhere to go.

Eluvium - Pianoworks (2019)

A series of short pieces that listen like short stories composed over the entirety of Matthew Robert Cooper’s career. Each one a simple passage, a sketch of clean paint strokes and blended colors. These vignettes are comforting and rich companions to any endeavor.

Philip Glass - Glassworks (1982)

Takes the fundamental ideas of Reich’s masterpiece above and molds, contorts, and ultimately chops it up into digestible stories. The cleansing repetition no longer meanders and is now purposeful, as we jump from landscape to landscape, each with their own identity and character. Structural minimalism turned pop music.

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Englabörn (2002)

The Icelandic composer came out of nowhere with such a powerful statement and clear vision of where Modern Classical and film scores would go over the next two decades. A landmark collection of visceral and heart wrenching compositions combining both orchestral and electronic elements. A true masterwork of the genre by a legend who will be remembered forever. May he rest in peace.

Jonny Greenwood - Phantom Thread OST (2018)

Because when reality gets difficult, transportive music becomes so important. Because if I'm stuck inside all day I can at least imagine that my morning tea is taking place in a monumental victorian mansion instead of my bland suburban domicile. Because the soundtrack to designing dresses for upscale Londonites sounds as stunning as ever.

Moondog - Moondog (1969)

A record so undeniably adventurous by a man so undeniably mysterious. Though going blind at a young age has to be a devastating event to cope with, donning a viking outfit and loitering on NYC streets for years on end seems like an unconventional response. I somehow feel like we have everything to learn from him nonetheless.

Morton Feldman - For Bunita Marcus (1985) [performance from 1994]

Not as outwardly pretty as the other records on this list (and may elevate the anxiety of the quarantine, sorry!!), Morton Feldman’s “For Bunita Marcus” is an exposition on tempered sounds and idiosyncratic voices. The dissonance and atonality are at the forefront, but the anxiety doesn’t swell -- he never surprises you. Across this 70 minute performance, you get sucked into this hypnotic world of whispers and uncertainties and once you begin to find your way in this world, it all seems to make a little more sense… maybe.

And a couple of honorable mentions from the rest of the Natural Music Team

Fox Capture Plan - Butterfly 
Philip Glass - Mishima
Terry Riley - Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector
Bing and Ruth - No Home of the Mind
Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Music from Penguin Cafe
Nils Frahm - Spaces
Hauschka - A Different Forest
George Winston - Autumn

If you enjoyed this piece make sure to check out the other article in our quarantine series, 10 Ambient and Drone albums to get you through quarantine.

And follow us on Instagram where we post daily, or take a peek at our Best of March 2020.

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