Nico Muhly is one of today’s most important composers.
This article is copyright protected, so just a few notes.
By VIVIEN SCHWEITZER
Published: November 4, 2011
“Mr. Muhly, 30, whose high-profile commissions include a work for the Metropolitan Opera, said that as a gay man he is particularly interested in the government’s role in personal relationships. He explores a longstanding fascination with polygamy in his chamber opera “Dark Sisters,” a story of a polygamist family in a Mormon offshoot whose children are removed by state officials concerned about child abuse.”
See the full article here.
Monday, October 10, 2011
“Nico Muhly has already managed to build not one, but around three or four careers for himself as a composer. With his work on movie scores and indie-rock albums, he has one toe inching towards pop-culture recognition, while keeping one foot firmly in the classical mainstream with a substantial body of pieces composed for the likes of the New York Philharmonic and the English National Opera. And then there are his pet projects, the pieces he and a circle of close friends—folksinger Sam Amidon, singer/keyboardist Thomas Bartlett, electronic artists Ben Frost and Valgeir Sigurðsson, and violist Nadia Sirota—create together in Valgeir’s studio and on tour. But closest to Muhly’s heart is the repertoire of sacred choral music he’s created, drawing on his experiences as a boy chorister to write for music for performance in both churches and concert halls.”
Listen to Nico Muhly introduce his works.”
See the full post and listen to some of the pieces here.
Celebrating gay and lesbian composers
“Usually, we remember where we were when national tragedy hits. However, I’m willing to bet that we’ll someday be telling our grandchildren where we were on the night of Friday, June 24, when the New York State legislature approved a gay marriage bill—becoming the sixth state of the union to legalize same-sex marriage.
I got the call when we were leaving the celebratory and life-affirming The Cunning Little Vixen at the New York Philharmonic. Friends in the audience for The Normal Heart heard the news announced from the stage and one friend discovered the passing when he went to take his dog out for an evening walk in the West Village. The amount of love passing around the city and Internet ether was flooring.
We’re continuing the love this week with a celebration of gay and lesbian composers. We kick off with the jubilant Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein, who, in Alex Ross’s words, was gay “on certain days of the week” and grappled with his sexuality at a time when society was closely closeted (one imagines that he tapped into his own personal struggles when penning his 1983 opera, A Quiet Place).
We also look at real-life musical partners like Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti or John Corigliano and Mark Adamo, and even go back in time to hear the radical musical leanings of such greats as Tchaikovsky and Benjamin Britten, while also setting the dial forward to hear works by Corey Dargel, Meredith Monk and Eve Beglarian.”
At the web page for this program, you will also find an “…archival interview (with music!) between this show’s regular host Nadia Sirota and composer Nico Muhly, which was produced as part of WNYC’s 2009 Homophony Festival.”
Nico Muhly’s new album, Seeing Is Believing is out today, available at Amazon. I listened to it at NPR/music and I loved it. I bought it today in .mp3. I am not a musician or a critic, so, no judgements here. You can still visit the NPR/music page to listen to the album.
Suffice it to say, Nico is probably the most important new New Music composer on the scene today. Nico is about 30 years old. If you want to see how prolific he has been, check him out on this page at Wikipedia. If you are a Q2 listener, you know you will hear plenty of his work.
Nico Muhly Provides Personalized Introductions to his Key Works
Friday, June 17, 2011
“Joining us from the BBC studios in London in advance of the world premiere of Two Boys, Nico Muhly also takes time to conduct us through a tour of the kaleidoscopic influences behind his already prodigious catalog.
From his musical awakenings as a boy chorister singing English verse anthems to throwing together dinners for close friends to the tone rows of Webern’s Op. 24, all manner of inspiration, both timeless and contemporary, sacred and secular, finds expression in his music. Through the ensemble of these exclusive introductions, we begin to appreciate the complexity of a compositional voice that is searching to define itself as both uncompromisingly modern and distinctive but also steeped in tradition and indebted to such elder statesmen as Steve Reich, John Corigliano, Philip Glass, David Lang, Christopher Rouse and David Rakowski.
Hear these introductions preceding the piece in question in Olivia Giovetti’s interview with Nico Muhly Monday at noon and throughout the entire five-day festival, ENO Does Nico, beginning Monday, June 20.”
Listen to over thirty tracks here at the web page.
“Nico Muhly has a flair for entrances. His 2007 album, Speaks Volumes, opens with a cello toward the apex of its register that quickly takes a multi-octave plunge. Mothertongue, from 2008, frenetically launches with a repeated high-octane read-through of the alphabet. Last year’s I Drink the Air Before Me pierces with a series of staccato arrows paired with more luscious, ominous rumbles, while its sister release, A Good Understanding, is heralded by a bracing organ flourish.
Varied though these opening salvos may be, they always signal a true listening experience. With his newest album, Seeing Is Believing, Muhly doesn’t let listeners down: A repeated arabesque on a violin curves and twirls as several additional layers of strings and percussion are added to the spiral, at once complementing and contrasting the title work’s first four notes, culminating with the addition of winds. It’s not unlike the ever-expanding universe, the mapping of which inspired this concerto for solo electric six-string violin. For nearly 30 minutes, Muhly commands rapt attention, referencing influences from former mentor Philip Glass to Stravinsky, circa Rite of Spring, and Ravel at his most impressionistic.”
Nico Muhly Seeing Is Believeing
Released via Decca Records
See the full article, and listen to the whole album or individual tracks here.
Nico Muhly: Gaming One’s Way Into Classical Music
“I want to offer a slightly more obscure but, I think, much more popular (in terms of numbers) counterexample. Although my parents had classical music on LP’s in the house, the childhood music I remember the most vividly is fragments from either live performances or, strangely, video games at my friends’ houses.
For me, living in the country, playing a video game was sort of like music minus one: The actions of my hands informed, in a strange way, the things I heard. Collect a coin, and a delighted glockenspiel sounds. Move from navigating a level above ground to one below ground, and the eager French chromaticism of the score changes to a spare, beat-driven minimal texture. Hit a star, and suddenly the score does a metric modulation. All of these things come to bear in a later musical education; I’m positive I understand how augmented chords change an emotional texture because of Nintendo music.
These are private musical revelations that happened in the manic, parched late-night of a sleepover, but then came to bear later in the context of actual chamber music.”
See the full article here.
I maintain two blogs, one on Music, one on Science. This post will appear in each blog.
Short and sweet.
Combining my two interests: Nico Muhly…
should write music for Brian Cox’s next “Wonders…” project
So, here it goes.
Copyright protected, so just a taste-
The Pop Scene
“Nico Muhly with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus
St. Ann’s Warehouse
38 Water St., Brooklyn
By ANDY BATTAGLIA
“A singular character who composes stately classical music when not writing arrangements for indie rockers or tapping away at his deliciously histrionic blog, 29-year-old Nico Muhly enjoys rare reach for an artist who could actually, meaningfully, dream up new music for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Such was the commission that led to Tell the Way, which will receive its premiere here.
See the full piece here.
Bruce: The BOSS (of Piano) Live from (Le) Poisson Rouge on August 9, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010 at Cued Up on Q2
“It’s rare to encounter musicians who are as devoted to teaching as they are to their performing careers — or vise-versa. Pianist Bruce Brubaker manages to straddle the worlds of performance and pedagogy with equal measure.
At home on international stages or in his New England Conservatory studio where he’s been the piano chair since 2005, Brubaker’s intelligent and questing approach to the piano repertory has won high marks from audiences and students alike. In this performance at (Le) Poisson Rouge, Brubaker gives the New York premiere of a piece by Nico Muhly in addition to works by John Cage, Alvin Curran and Philip Glass.
Unlike many instrumentalists working under the classical music umbrella, Brubaker is passionate about both the new music specialist camp and the traditionalist camp, shedding light on some surprising perspectives. In an interview from New York Pianist, Brubaker recalled a Taiwanese youth’s account of the social implications of classical music during a tour of Asia: “If I tell my parents I’m going to hear a concert with Beethoven in it, that’s very modern,” said the young music fan to Brubaker.
Brubaker explains that this is “because fifty or sixty years ago in Taiwan nobody was interested in Beethoven so it really has a very different cultural meaning. There’s a very different read for it there than there is for us. I think a lot of young people in Asia are interested in classical music, but it’s weighted with a lot of meaning. It’s a sign of social aspiration and cultural aspiration.”
This Sunday, December 26th at 2p.m., listen to Bruce Brubaker’s full live concert recorded on August 9, 2010.
“Pre-game for this weekend’s New York Philharmonic CONTACT! series by listening to composer and CONTACT! alum Nico Muhly host a witch’s brew of selections from the New Music series, featuring world premieres commissioned by the NYP from seven composers on the international contemporary-music scene.
Alan Gilbert conducts the NYP through some heart-stopping works by the exciting young cast of Lei Liang, Marc-André Dalbavie, Arthur Kampela, Arlene Sierra, Matthias Pintscher, Sean Shepherd and Muhly himself.
Featured in the episode is Chinese-born Lei Liang’s Verge for string orchestra. You can hear a textural know-how in his writing that evokes electronic music without the use of electronics, all while echoing a ritual of the distant past. Not surprisingly, he studied with the early electronic music pioneer, Mario Davidovsky, who also knew a thing or two about channeling electronic sound with only acoustic instruments. The program begins with Verge on Sunday, December 19 at 2 p.m., so don’t be late.”
First, I am not nor have I ever been a musician. I am simply an avid listener, a passionate New Music and Jazz listener, with a computer. I cannot even type very well.
But, is it really so bad? Not for some, who have taken the D.I.Y approach, formed new groups, sometimes with interchangeable members, and put themselves out in the public view.
Maybe this dynamic goes back to the seminal D.I.Y group, Bang On a Can, “Formed in 1987 by composers Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe. B.O.A.C “is dedicated to commissioning, performing, creating, presenting and recording contemporary music.” B.O.A.C even has its own label, Cantaloupe Music. And, of course,there are the Bang On A Can All-Stars.
Bang On A Can All-Stars.
While B.O.A.C paved the way, there are now a number of other very worthy groups who have formed up to present themselves to the public.
First to my mind is ACME, The American Contemporary Music Ensemble
Then, there is ICE, International Contemporary Ensemble, mentioned in the article.
Check their web site and look at their concert schedule. They range far and wide and frequently.
A group about which I only recently learned is yMusic, “an expandable group of performers actively engaged and equally comfortable in the overlapping classical and pop music world.”
Do you know the group Ethel, this string group has been around since 1998. It is safe to say that thye are world famous.
There are two common threads here, and they are both very important: these groups are basically smallish new music and contemporary music groups; and I leafrned about all of them at Q2 , WQXR’s 24 hour “New Music” web stream.
So, is it really so bad for freelance musicians, probably, although even most professional journalists are capable of some hyperbole. But maybe the lesson is, what my father did, start your own business.
Gte your group together, get some compositions that either members of the group compose, or existing works, and go out and sell yourselves. Can you do it alone? Sure, if you are Maya Beiser. But, she is pretty rare.
On May 14, 2010, at the great New Music blog Sequenza 21, the question was raised: Is Nico Muhly really all that great? To be exact, “…Is Nico Overrated? ” The site Comments showed that there were 67 responses.
First, I need to state that I am not am musician. I am not a critic. I have zero musical background, not even any appreciation courses in college. I am simply a passionate listener and a Public Radio zealot.
At the time that I saw the Sequenza 21 piece, I had only heard a bit of Nico Muhly. I mostly knew his name from his connection to the violist Nadia Sirota.
So, just a bit on Ms. Sirota. I knew of Ms Sirota from her work as a commentator first on WNYC and now as the host of “Nadia Sirota on Q2”, the 24 hour New Music stream from WQXR. I believe that Nadia was pulling the over night air shift for WNYC, and did the same at WQXR when that station became part of the Megalith New York Public Radio. Since I am not up in the middle of the night, I first became aware of Nadia when she served as a commentator on documentary projects at WNYC and then WQXR. I do believe that she did a lot of work on the WNYC John Cage Project 24’33”, a 24 hour John Cage marathon documentary and music lesson. The name is based on the John Cage piece 4’33’, a silent piece. But, I cannot point you to the programming. I just cannot find it. I also remember Nadia as being a big part of the WNYC “Remembering Lenny” project, which celebrated the legacy of Leonard Bernstein. I wish that I could give links to these various sources, but I cannot. The WNYC and WQXR web sites have become such a massive jumble and jungle that I simply cannot ferret them out. Suffice it to say that I was smitten with a great desire just to hear Nadia speak about music. She is Juilliard trained. She is bright, witty, simply brilliant. So, anyone with whom she is associated I needed to know more about. Nadia is a member of ACME, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. She also is one of the “satellite” players who augment the work of the Bedroom Community group described below.
Nico Muhly with Nadia Sirota
At WQXR, I watched the video Keep In Touch, a duet with Nico on piano and Nadia on viola. That was my first experience at seeing and hearing Nico Muhly.
I purchased Nadia’s album First Things First; and Nico’s albums, Mothertongue, Speaks Volumes, and The Reader (music for the film of the same name). But, I still knew very little about him.
The next thing that happened was that I learned about The Whale Watching Tour for 2009. This takes a bit of explanation. Nico is part of a group associated with the Icelandic music production company called Bedroom Community with Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sam Amidon, and Ben Frost. I sort of got wind of this tour and watched some of their videos. The tour included the four major players just noted, plus four other musicians including Nadia Sirota. Now, I was hooked. These four guys and their associates just blew the doors off the place. I got on Bedroom Community’s mailing list. When Nico’s album I Drink The Air Before Me was available in .mp3, I bought it at the Bedroom Community web site. I normally buy music at Amazon in .mp3. But, this album I wanted to buy from the source, if I paid more for it, I did not care.
So, that was pretty much it, until yesterday. Some alert I had set on the computer, WQXR or WNYC, popped up a 2008 New Yorker piece by Rebecca Mead, Eerily Composed – Nico Muhly’s sonic magic . Eight pages of dense prose. Now a fan, I read every word. There is a huge amount of material here about Nico Muhly’s background.
[Message to Nico: I went looking for some "public domain" information about you. Naturally, I went to Wikipedia. There is an article; but it is sparce, mostly taken up with lists of your prodigious output. You should go to Wikipedia, read Ms Mead's article, and flesh out the Wikipedia entry. Ms Mead probably knows more about you than know about yourself. You can do it. All you need do is register. I am registered and I even wrote an article, The Sourland Mountain Preserve, a place where I go hiking. So, give it a shot.]
If you are able to access the article via the internet, I recommend it. I do not know what the rules are at the New Yorker web site. I am a subscriber to the print and digital editions, so when I visit one or the other, I am automatically “logged in”. I see the whole of any article I find. Material in The New Yorker is protected by copyright, or I would reproduce the whole article here for those who are unable to see it. But, I think it is O.K. to just give a couple of snippets. I think that these comments will well answer the question raised back in May at Sequenza 21.
” Philip Glass, for whom Muhly has worked since his sophomore year of college, at Columbia, says that he finds in Muhly ‘a curious ear, a restless listening, and a maker of works. He’s doing his own
“Muhly formed alliances with a number of musicians who have become regular collaborators, including Nadia Sirota, a violist. Sirota says of Muhly, ‘He is different from a lot of composers his age in that he prefers a kind of old-school way of approaching string playing, from the style of the forties and fifties, with lots of vibrato, and very romantic. ‘ ”
At Juilliard, where he was studying with the composers Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano, Muhly was unusually productive. ‘He would bring in thirty or forty pages of music a week, and if twenty-five of them didn’t work out he would have no problem with that,’ Corigliano says. ‘We worked on structure, but the skill of writing virtuosically for winds, brass, percussion, strings—he came in the door with that.’ ”
“Philip Glass told me, ‘The great anxiety among young composers is, when are you going to hear your own voice? But the real problem is, how do you get rid of it, how do you develop? Nico hasn’t got to that yet. There is a lot of rapid growth in one’s twenties, but the big challenge is to keep that alive over the long stretch, for the next forty years, and not let it get stifled by the meanness of the world we live in. ‘”
John Adams, who curated the Zankel Hall series in which Muhly’s work appeared last year, says that Muhly’s music is ‘eclectic, nondenominational in the world of contemporary classical music, which tends to split off into lots of different orthodoxies. He obviously shows influences from the minimalist composers, but his music is not nearly as rigorously designed. It is very much like him: it is open, it is attractive, it is pleasing.’ Adams says that he hears his own influence on Muhly’s work—‘It’s like meeting a twenty-year-old who looks strangely familiar, only to discover he’s your long-lost son’—but adds that he finds it oddly untroubled. ‘I could use a little more edge, or a little more violence,’ Adams says. ‘At times, there is a surfeit of prettiness in Nico’s music, and I am not sure it is a good thing for someone so young to be so concerned with attractiveness.’ ”
Neal Goren, the artistic director of Gotham Chamber Opera, which plans to commission a work from Muhly, says, ‘Nico is not one of those composers who writes music to hide who he is.’ “
Now, these are just quotes. They do not begin to flesh out the story told by Ms Mead. So, I hope that anyone interested – and, you should be interested – will try to get Ms. Mead’s article.
But, look who the people are who are quoted: Philip Glass, John Corigliano, John Adams. While I am most often not brave enough for Mr. Corigliano’s music, I certainly am aware of the respect he is shown. Regarding Philip Glass and John Adams, I have large libraries of their music. Just in case I do not get enough of them on Q2.
I have been enjoying Nico Muhly’s music for some time now. Even so, the thing at Sequenza 21 nagged at me. My own comment had been: “Nico is very important. It is widely accepted that he is a gifted composer. Beyond that, what he is doing is showing that it is still possible for a young musician/composer to make a difference in all of the noise that is around the New Music world today. That is especially important for other younger talented people to see.”
At the time I wrote this, I knew really very little of Nico’s background. Now, with the benefit of Ms. Mead’s piece, I have a much better understanding of Nico as a composer. The answer is no, no and emphatically no, Nico is not overrated. I am sure that I will be acquiring a lot more of his work as it becomes available.
Thank you Nico. And, thank you Nadia for giving me Nico.
Out today and available at Bedroom Community is a new Album, I Drink the Air Before Me
About the work, Nico tells us, “” I Drink the Air Before Me is an evening-length score for Stephen Petronio’s dance piece bearing the same name. Inasmuch as it was celebrating Stephen’s company’s 25th anniversary, the piece wanted to be big, ecstatic, and celebratory. Our initial meeting, in which we discussed the structure of the work, yielded a sketch: a giant line, starting at the lower left hand side of a napkin, and ending in the upper right. Start small, get big! The rules: a children’s choir should begin and end the piece. The work should relate to the weather: storms, anxiety, and coastal living. A giant build-up should land us inside the center of a storm, with whirling, irregular, spiral-shaped music and irregular, spiral-shaped dancing. Using these rules, I divided up the piece into a series of episodes all hinging around spiral-shaped constellations of notes. These are most audible in Music Under Pressure 3, and least audible when they are absent, in the diatonic, almost plainchant music that the choir sings at the end, the text of which comes from Psalm 19:”
Alex Sopp Flute
Seth Baer Bassoon
Michael Clayville Trombone
Nico Muhly Piano
Nadia Sirota Viola
Logan Coale Bass
Young People’s Chorus of New York, Choir, Francisco Nuñez, director
Programming by Valgeir Sigurðsson (Jagged Pulses) and Ben Frost (Salty Dog, Storm Center)
I am listening through for the second time as I write this. I rarely make critical comments, first because i am not qualified to, and second because these days interested people can always get to some web site to listen to samples. But, hey, i had nothing better to do, it’s after 4:00PM, so Nadia is off at Q2, so i am listening. this is a wonderful musical experience. give yourself a treat an listen to some really listenable New Music, from the Downtown New york New Music scene with an Icelandic tinge.
This is a Bedroom Community Record
And, hey, Nadia Sirota plays viola on the project.
BEDROOM COMMUNITY – Four Musicians and Their Musician Friends
I do not know a lot about this group. I know of one of the “musician friends”, Nadia Sirota, from her work on WNYC and now WQXR. Presently, she hosts “Nadia Sirota on Q2”, a four hour themed program streamed at noon and midnight on Q2, the New Music audio stream of WQXR.
I know of Nico Muhly really though Nadia.
At their web site, they tell us,“..,Bedroom Community is an Icelandic record label/collective formed in 2006 by Valgeir Sigurðsson, with Nico Muhly and Ben Frost…
“…Like-minded, yet diverse individuals from different corners of the globe who all creatively orbit around an inconspicuous building and its inhabitants on the outskirts of Reykjavik Iceland- Greenhouse Studios where the music is mostly created….”
I found found six videos – pretty good quality, I must say. I am watching and listening over and over to get a sense of their scene. If I make comparisons, they are personal, my opinion only. I hear bits of Celtic, Appalachian, some times a hint of Brendan Perry (Dead Can Dance). This is the closest group I have seen resembling something like the Bang On A Can All-stars.
I really like this group. I am not going to try to write much here, I do not know enough. I could scoot all around the internet and copy stuff out, that would be sort of dishonest and, here, not necessary.
I just suggest that you visit the site, watch and/or listen, and then if you like the music, buy it, either at the Bedroom Community site or Amazon. And, I suppose, iTunes.
The Bedroom Community is (thank you, Nadia)
Ben Frost – electric guitar, Australian, now based in Reykjavík, Iceland
Nico Muhly – piano and keyboards – Vermont, New York City
Valgeir Sigurosson – electronics and percussion, Iceland
Sam Amidon – Banjo and guitars Vermont
Daníel Bjarnason – Iceland
Nadia Sirota is probably the most important person to hit the New Music scene in New York City in the last ten years.
Nadia is not only a wonderful violist, but also brings her musical erudition to us at Q2. Nadia is a member of ACME
You can see Nadia in performance any time at http://www.wqxr.org/articles/wqxr-video/2009/apr/30/nadia-nico-muhly/, performing with the gifted composer Nico Muhly
You can read about Nadia any time.