Lars Gotrich

Stephanie Richards' trumpet sounds like deep space wrapped around your head, a flood in the endless void.

Cecil Taylor encompasses a never-ending range of sound and emotion. On his way to the Piano Jazz studio in 1994, the avant-garde jazz pianist and his cab driver discovered that they went to the same high school, opening up a whirlwind of small worlds, and inspiring the improvised piece that opens this episode.

There is no one universe for Ben LaMar Gay, he just sonic booms from one sound to another. His solo debut, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, is really a patch-work of seven albums, recorded over seven years but never released. It moves from fuzz-caked weirdo-psych to mutant synth-funk to giddy electronics to progressive jazz at a seamless, whiplash-free warp speed.

This might very well be the ultimate lullaby. Right at the start of the 2018 SXSW Music Festival, Max Richter's eight-hour composition Sleep was performed overnight to an audience tucked into 150 beds. They — the audience, not the tireless group of musicians who performed the piece — slept, dreamed and sometimes snored through this trance-inducing experience.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Terry Riley's In C might be considered one of the seminal pieces of minimalism, but at its heart it's an open invitation. The score resides on a single sheet of paper with 53 phrases to be repeated by an indefinite number of musicians.

There is metal between those strings. In a video for "Limonium," Brooklyn-based composer Kelly Moran interrupts the stretched piano wire with corkscrews, forking the paths of sound.

This is some nasty, nasty jazz. Featuring saxophonist Matt Nelson (Battle Trance), bassist Tim Dahl (Child Abuse), and drummer Nick Podgurski (New Firmament, Feast Of The Epiphany), GRID's debut album bubbles up from the East River like a toxic monster amalgamated from New York's improvised and extreme music scenes.