Friday, June 29, 2012

CCC 035 - Nico Muhly

Nico Muhly is one of the youngest composers featured on the Consonant Classical Challenge. Born in 1981, this talented young man has built an impressive career in both the classical and rock worlds. Although Muhly writes in an eclectic style, "post-minimalist" seems the best description.

Like the minimalists, his harmonies use simple chords to bind everything together. And he also uses tonal melodies and melodic fragments as his compositional building blocks.

Unlike the minimalists, Muhly isn't as concerned with rigorously working out the slowly shifting phases of melodies slightly out of sync. Rather, his melodies do sometimes interact with each other, but contrast and change happens much more rapidly. Muhly is a composer who wants to get to the point.

Music Under Pressure has that aesthetic. There's not a lot of dissonance in this ballet score, and most of the melodies are quite simple in construction. And yet Muhly takes these basic building blocks and creates something unique (and accessible)

This is a Record of John has an appealing arrangement of early music. It reminds me a little of Resphigi's Ancient Aires and Dances which also reinterpreted older music for modern instruments. But the arrangement is in Muhly's unique voice.

Motion is a work that quotes older music, while presenting original material by Muhly. I think its a work that has appeal both to lovers of traditional classical music and those just coming to it through other genres.

I suspect bluehairs might find Nico Muhly too modern, but middle-aged audiences should find a lot to like in his work. And for concert programmers trying to attract new listeners, Muhly should be an easy choice. While speaking the musical vernacular of the day, he still says things musically that are significant and reward the careful listener.

Recommended Recordings

Seeing Is Believing

Nico Muhly: I Drink the Air Before Me

Nico Muhly: A Good Understanding

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