Bruce Brubaker's Choice of the Unexpected

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One of the most celebrated pianists on New York's new-music scene, Bruce Brubaker has premiered works by Philip Glass, Nico Muhly and John Cage, published writings about music in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and has taught at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory.

In this week's episode of Mixtapes, Brubaker offers an hour of music ranging from Meredith Monk to Missy Mazzoli to Django Reinhardt's Quintette du Hot Club de France. Below, read about Brubaker's playlist, which he titles "Unexpected."


"Unexpected" by Bruce Brubaker

Art that completely fits our expectations might not be art; it might not really do anything, or tell us anything. Perhaps communication of any kind only happens when something is conveyed that we don't know?

This music surprises me sonically (in timbre, range, sound production techniques) as well as temporally. It manages to do something, using sound as artistic medium. Included is a range of sounds from Curtis Curtis-Smith's Rhapsodies, entirely acoustic and played by one pianist, sometimes bowing the piano's strings, to Mari Kimura's ALT (yes, the unmodified violin can make those low pitches). 


  • Curtis Curtis-SmithRhapsodies (Curtis Curtis-Smith, piano)
  • William Duckworth: "Windham" from Southern Harmony, Book 3 (Greg Smith Singers; Greg Smith, conductor)
  • Glenn Branca:  Symphony No. 6 "Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven" (1st movement)
  • Jason MoranTime into Space into Time (Jason Moran, piano)
  • Mari KimuraALT, 3rd movement (Mari Kimura, violin)
  • Meredith Monk: Volcano Songs: Hips Dance (Meredith Monk and Katie Geissinger, voices)
  • Missy Mazzoli: Cathedral City (Victoire with Missy Mazzoli)
  • Quintette du Hot Club de France: Bricktop
  • Philip Glass: "Knee Play 4" from Einstein on the Beach (transcribed for solo piano by Bruce Brubaker)
  • György Ligeti: Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes (excerpt) (Françoise Terrioux, metronomes)