Q-Tip is one of hip hop’s greatest MCs and producers. As a member of A Tribe Called Quest, he helped to shape the sound of hip hop throughout the ’90s. The group’s exceptional run of full-lengths became a blueprint for MCs looking to balance the literate and the absurd, as well as producers searching for the perfect (and unexpected) break—Tribe’s influence is pretty much unmatched in hip hop circles. Since Tribe’s split in 1998, Q-Tip has kept busy with a solo career that has included four albums as well as countless productions and guest appearances in places both expected (Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, and Jay-Z) and improbable (Chemical Brothers, R.E.M.). He has also honed his DJ chops, spinning regularly in New York City and beyond.
One of the greatest American composers at the 2013 Red Bull Music Academy in New York.
Along with Steve Reich, Philip Glass’ minimalist compositions transformed the world of classical music and, eventually, popular music in general. Glass’ early epiphanies occurred in Paris during his time in the mid-’60s studying under Nadia Boulanger and working with Ravi Shankar. Throughout the ’70s Glass refined his work, resulting in career-defining compositions like Music in 12 Parts and Einstein on the Beach. In the process he became a popular sensation, a serious composer who wasn’t willfully obscure or too difficult to understand. Glass’ stunning soundtrack work for films like The Thin Blue Line and The Hours has only elevated his standing as one of America’s greatest living composers.
Arranger, composer and American eccentric Van Dyke Parks in New York at the 2013 edition of the Red Bull Music Academy.
Parks may perhaps be best known for penning the lyrics to a certain lost classic by the Beach Boys, but that’s not even the half of it. His first arranging job was on The Jungle Book (where his addition, “The Bare Necessities,” scooped an Academy Award nomination); he once sang “Stille Nacht” to Einstein; and back in the ’70s he started the world’s first record-company video department at Warner Bros. This dynamo of expressive, idiosyncratic musical ideas shows no sign of running out of juice—more recently he’s woven his expressive arrangements around the music of Rufus Wainwright, St. Etienne, and Joanna Newsom, for whom he orchestrated her second album, Ys.
One of experimental music’s most exciting new talents on the lecture couch at the 2013 Red Bull Music Academy in New York. Classical and not-so-classical-at-all: Julia Holter’s music lies at a crossroads similar to the one where artists like Arthur Russell or Laurie Anderson reside. It’s the sound of an artist who has clearly been trained—in this case at Cal Arts with Michael Pisaro—and one that has no problem forgetting everything previously learned, if needed. Holter’s songwriting stems from a mythological reverence of that which is incomprehensibly beautiful. Her 2007 EP Eating the Stars was a first attempt at musically transcribing this feeling, and Holter’s 2011 debut album Tragedy embraced similar strains of shimmer. But it was on 2012’s Ekstasis where everything came together. Critically beloved, it’s the culmination of her young career, a record whose motivating character was best described by Holter herself: Ekstasis reflects, she says, a “desire to get outside of my body and find what I can’t define.”