Friday, November 28, 2008

Nico Muhly

Nico Muhly is the benefactor of an improbably popular genre - serial minimalism. He played with Philip Glass and is the defacto arranger of strings for things among the indie elite, and through that, his album Mothertongue (lala), a scintillating piece of post-Robert Ashley glittering wonder garnered a review in Pitchfork, albeit a less than charitable one. What, does he need a Brooklyn mailing address and pants that don't reach his ankles to pass muster? But, I can see why they (used loosely to denote a general aesthetic, I know they have different writers writing from different viewpoints) didn't like it - they seem to like it when you ride out on a tricycle and hit them with a giant inflatable banana and then guilelessly drone "Ha I just hit you with a giant inflatable banana..." - in other words, they like transparency. Mothertongue is secretive and quietly difficult while being imminently appealing - everything I want out of modern composition, and life in general.

Part of the first movement of Wonders sounds a lot like that harpsichord song by Joanna Newsom, which my daughter Maya and I heard last night at the sandwich place. She smiled started mock-singing with the elfin harpist minx and remarked "This sounds like one of those terrible Disney princess songs, like 'yaaaaaaaaa, ya YAAAAAAAA' - not the good ones, but the terrible ones." I predict my bloodline will be trashing art for limited returns and a laugh for generations to come.

Most of the material on Mothertongue burbles like a signal coming through everyday appliances, a distress signal being transmitted by the coffee pot on an otherwise lazy morning perhaps. It sounds not unlike the similar qualities practiced by Radiohead, but Muhly's surface is shimmers more than theirs does, and the occassional dive under in which he leads the swimming listener reveals a glimpse of gorgeous coral reefs and the occassional menacing octopus before ascending back to the sun. It is hard to imagine this as art music because it is so effortless and fun to listen to , but art it most asuredly is.

And of anyone I've encountered, I am deeply envious of his mad blogging skills.

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