Composer Ben Frost, Brian Eno, & host John Schaefer ((WNYC/Caryn Havlik))
If Brian Eno is your guy, you are in good company.
Thanks, John, for 30 great years. I just caught PGM 2067, the 20th anniversary show, on my Zune. It used to be a lot of work to get those shows, recording them. Now, with RSS feeds to tell us what is going on, and downloads, it is a snap.
“Ben Frost and Daníel Bjarnason are two composers used to shrugging off the distinction between experimental sound-art and deeply felt melodies. Frost’s vast, blackened post-industrial works often crystallize in moments of quiet beauty before disintegrating in pure visceral noise; Bjarnason’s orchestral music marries brutal modernism to classical aesthetics one moment and soaring ethereal harmonies the next. And yet here, on the tail of two widely acclaimed releases; Bjarnason’s PROCESSIONS and Frost’s BY THE THROAT, we are given something altogether new. A unique collaboration, SÓLARIS is a quiet, stilled and all consuming symphonic suite at once as affecting and uncanny as the science- fiction classic that inspired it.”
SOLARIS Bedroom Community HVALUR12 Releases November 07 2011
1. We Don’t Need Other Worlds, We Need Mirrors
2. Simulacra I
3. Simulacra II
6. Cruel Miracles
7. Hydrogen Sulfide
8. Unbreakable Silence
9. You Mean More To Me Than Any Scientific Truth
See the full exploration of this project here.
“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.
Puzzle Muteson En Garde
Bedroom Community HVALUR11 (6.6.11)
The news: “‘It’s really a tremendously warm and uplifting listen, blessed with just divine orchestration from [Nico] Muhly, and recommended to lovers of timeless songcraft everywhere.’ – Boomkat
‘With Muteson’s quavering tenor aided by the delicate production of [Valgeir] Sigurðsson, En Garde plays out a spellbinding and hauntingly evocative fairytale of emotions of one man’s imagination.’ – Folk Radio UK
We are happy to announce our newest offering; Puzzle Muteson is an islander of a different breed and today he steps forward with his debut album En Garde. Purchasing En Garde from the Bedroom Community online store comes with an instant download of the album + a bonus track. The record is available as digital download and CD digipak, with artwork by Chris Bigg.
From the Bedroom Community bio sheet:
“Puzzle Muteson is the alter ego of an enigmatic songwriter from the Isle of Wight, rendering his music in a tremulous tenor over a finely spun web of fingerpicked guitar. Born in London, Isle of Dogs, the southern English island provided unexpected shelter for the shuddering transformation into one-man band Puzzle Muteson. His grade-school music teacher was first to recognise his unrivalled vibrato, and a little while later a parade of chance and coincidence led him to inhabit Puzzle Muteson, and start shaping a body of songs. Puzzle has since toured Ireland and the U.K., opening up for the likes of The Fruit Bats, Death Vessel and Sub Pop darling Daniel Martin Moore.
After obsessively listening to Puzzle Muteson’s own raw tapes, producer- arranger duo Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly nurtured the songs that now inhabit his debut recording En Garde, released via Valgeir’s Bedroom Community label. The record shimmers with the signature value of Puzzle’s collaborators who have previously worked with the likes of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Antony (& the Johnsons), Sam Amidon and many others.
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.
Sam Amidon is written up in the Wednesday November 17, 2010 Wall Street Journal.
Read the full article here.
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.