April 1, 2012  |  Music

“Inspired,” “Cool,” “Busy” and “Collaborative” … these are words I would use to describe Nico Muhly.

I listen to a wide variety of music — Brahms, The Cure, Stravinsky, Radiohead, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald — with the same enjoyment.  I think this is one reason I appreciate the unique collaborations that Nico Muhly seeks out in his own compositions.

Recently, I’ve been reading Nico Muhly’s blog and catching up on what he’s been doing at nicomuhly.com.  He is similar in some ways to Yo-Yo Ma in that he is a classically trained musician and composer that likes to collaborate with musicians from a variety of genres including Sufjan Stevens, Jónsi from Sigur Rós, Björk and Son Lux.  He composed the film score for “The Reader” and has several recordings out of his concert music including  “I Drink The Air Before Me” and “Mother Tongue.”  Last year his opera “Two Boys” premiered in London.

I was particularly struck by “I Drink The Air Before Me.”  It is an “evening-length score for Stephen Petronio’s dance piece bearing the same name.”  This is what Nico Muhly wrote about the instrumentation:

I wanted the ensemble to be a little quirky community of people living by the edge of the sea: a busybody flute, a wise viola, and the masculine, workmanlike bassoon, trombone, and upright bass. The piano acts as an agitator, an unwelcome visitor, bearing with it aggressive electronic noises and rhythmic interruptions.

Below is a video of a movement from “I Drink The Air Before Me” that features the bassoon, “Salty Dog.”

I love this next collaboration between Nico Muhly and Jónsi – Live at Bethnal Green.   Jónsi is the lead singer for an Incelandic band Sigur Rós, a favorite band of mine.

Go sing, too loud
Make your voice break- Sing it out
Go scream, do shout
Make an earthquake…

Below is a video of “Go Do.”

Nico Muhly is a musician and composer that is doing the kind of creative collaboration that I’m interested in.  He adds his unique musical voice to more traditional concert music and in collaborations with indie rock and pop artists.  His work has been inspiring to me and I look forward to hearing more of his projects in the future.  Create Beauty!