Composers Festival Spotlight: Nico Muhly

Nico Muhly

It’s a great pleasure to have Nico Muhly as one of the two guest composers for the 2014 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

One of the most talked-about individuals on the contemporary music scene, often provocative and occasionally controversial, Muhly will work with the MICF’s eight resident composers both as a group and individually during the festival.

He’ll give a free public presentation on his music at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday in the Fine Arts Building on campus, and also will be present at the Missouri Theatre for performances of his “Seeing is Believing” by Alarm Will Sound on Thursday and “I know where everything is” by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble on Friday.

(For more about Muhly at Mizzou, read this interview he did with the Columbia Daily Tribune‘s Aarik Danielsen that was published on Sunday.)

Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Nico Muhly earned a degree in English Literature from Columbia University and a Masters in Music from the Juilliard School, where he studied under Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano. From his sophomore year of college, Muhly worked for Philip Glass as a MIDI programmer and editor for six years.

Muhly has composed for the Chicago Symphony, The Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theater, violinist Hilary Hahn, percussionist Colin Currie, and many other individuals and organizations throughout the world. He worked with Icelandic pop star Björk in 2004 on the DVD single “Oceania,” and also has lent his skills as performer, arranger and conductor to Antony and the Johnsons, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Doveman, Grizzly Bear, Jónsi of the band Sigur Rós, and Usher.

In 2011, Muhly’s first full-scale opera, “Two Boys,” was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Theater and the English National Opera. With a libretto by Craig Lucas and direction by Bartlett Sher, “Two Boys” chronicles the real-life police investigation of an online relationship and ensuing tragedy; it premiered in London in spring 2012.

In more recent news, earlier this year Muhly’s score for the revival of “The Glass Menagerie” won a Drama Desk award for “Outstanding Music in a Play,” and he recently received a commission to write a piece of music for the Utah Symphony, using Southern Utah’s national parks and landscapes as inspiration. The work will be performed during the 2015-16 season, coinciding with the orchestra’s 75th anniversary.

Recordings of Muhly’s work include “A Good Understanding,” an entire disc of his choral music from the Los Angeles Master Chorale; “Seeing is Believing,” by The Aurora Orchestra; and the evening-length “I Drink the Air Before Me,” all released on Decca.

Among Muhly’s most frequent collaborators are his colleagues at Bedroom Community, an artist-run label headed by Icelandic musician Valgeir Sigurðsson, which was inaugurated in 2007 with the release of Muhly’s first album, “Speaks Volumes.” Since then, Muhly has released a second album, “Mothertongue,” and worked with labelmates Sigurðsson, Ben Frost, and Sam Amidon on their respective solo releases. In spring 2012, Bedroom Community released Muhly’s three-part “Drones & Music,” in collaboration with pianist Bruce Brubaker, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, and Alarm Will Sound violist Nadia Sirota.

Muhly’s film credits include scores for “Joshua” (2007), “Margaret” (2009) and Best Picture nominee “The Reader” (2008); all have been recorded and released commercially.

For more about Nico Muhly, read the interviews published recently by the Boston Globe and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, along with Muhly’s response to the latter, and check out the videos in the embedded windows below.

An Evening With Nico Muhly, ‘Two Boys’ And Other Works

Nadia Sirota and Valgeir Sigurðsson performing “Varied Carols” from “I Drink The Air Before Me” during Iceland Airwaves 2011.

Vasily Petrenko leads the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in the London Premiere of Muhly’s “Gait” at the 2012 BBC Proms.

Nico Muhly interviewed by NPR’s Ira Glass at the New York Public Library