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Honest Music

from Speaks Volumes by Nico Muhly

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about

HONEST MUSIC is a studio beast, never intended specifically for the concert stage. On the page, the violin part recalls something like Terry Riley’s In C, insofar as it’s a collection of discrete, modular phrases to be recombined in “performance,” or in this case, by the electronic manipulation of the recording--but these aren’t Riley’s musical Lego blocks; most of these are long, expressive, idiomatic gestures, combining Nico’s soaring English-choirboy diatonicism with Romantic, violinistic leaps and slides up and down the fingerboard. As these figures pile on top of each other, the close-miked, aberrant fiddle timbre comes to seem, as per the title of the piece, brutally candid. The other fragments, imitated in character by the sputtering harp and percussion of the accompaniment, sound more like scraps swept from a cutting-room floor somewhere--all false starts, warm-ups and afterbeats--and the glitchy, staticky noises in the background contribute to the sense of something rough, half-finished.

The result is to suggest that all of Honest Music is an out-take, a rehearsal for another, wholly imaginary piece. But the gravity and authority of Lisa’s performance, and especially of the harmonies (those low drones!) lend this an authentic drama in its own right: the sad beauty of things coming together and things falling apart.

— Daniel Johnson

credits

from Speaks Volumes, released September 10, 2006
Lisa Liu, violin
Nico, harmonium & wurlitzer
Monika Abendroth, Harp

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Nico Muhly New York

Nico Muhly is a composer of orchestral music, stage works and sacred music. His work for film includes scores for for The Reader and the BBC adaptation of Howards End. Recordings of his works have been released by Decca and Nonesuch, and he is part of the artist-run record label Bedroom Community, which released his first two albums, Speaks Volumes and Mothertongue. ... more

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