Nico Muhly; New York-Based Composer Nico Muhly Has Worked with Composers Ranging from Philip Glass to Bjork, and Has Written Pieces for the American Ballet Theatre and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His Compositions Have Debuted at Venues Such as New York's Carnegie Hall, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Kitchen. Mothertongue, His Second Album, Will Be Released in July

Artforum International, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview
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Nico Muhly; New York-Based Composer Nico Muhly Has Worked with Composers Ranging from Philip Glass to Bjork, and Has Written Pieces for the American Ballet Theatre and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His Compositions Have Debuted at Venues Such as New York's Carnegie Hall, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Kitchen. Mothertongue, His Second Album, Will Be Released in July


1. LUISE BOURGEOIS (TATE MODERN, LONDON) First of all, she is ninety-five years old, which is incredible. Second, this survey was the most expensive art show I have ever been to; it was ten pounds and worth every penny. I have always found Bourgeois's giant spider sculptures (one of which, exhibited at the Tate, appears to be laying eggs over a giant cage containing a chair from her New York home and scraps of tapestry from her childhood) to be arresting, moving, and terrifying.

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2 MARK OVERDEN, TRANSIT MAPS OF THE WORLD (PENGUIN, 2007) When I was a kid, I was completely fascinated by subway lines, particularly by the maps and diagrams derailing how they connected. Ovenden claims this book brings together "every urban train map on earth," and I have no reason not to believe him. It has, for example, many, many maps of the Moscow system, including one from 1977 that looks like an octopus made out of chopsticks. There are also some wonderful biological-looking maps of the Tokyo system.

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3 PAUL SLOCUM, YOU'RE NOT MY FATHER (HTTP://TRANSITION. TURBULENCE. ORG/WORKS/NOTMYFATHER/). 2007 This great video comprises clips of people reenacting the same brief scence from the television show Full House played in succession over the original audio. In addition, a second sound track, composed of short samples of the original incidental music, plays on loop and crascendos over two iterations of the video set. What you get is an intricate layered piece reminiscent of early Steve Reich, but made with synthesized 1980s sitcom music. The oboe holding a high A throughout and the repetitive guitar are two of the most satisfying sounds I have heard in a long time.

4 STEVE REICH, DENIEL VARIATIONS, 2006 Commissioned by Carnegie Hall, this twenty-minute vocal piece--ostensibly in memorian Daniel Pearl, the journalist kidnapped and murdered by Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan-uses only four statements as its lyrics. Particularly effective is the second movement, which centers around a sentence, "My name is Daniel Pearl," spoken by Pearl to his captors as they videotaped him. By having the performers repeat this line slowly, Reich makes the naming do all the work that a story could. In his obsessive manipulation of simple phrases, he elegantly questions our desire to make sweeping narratives about terror and war.

5 THE-DREAM (FEATURING RIHANNA), "LIVIN' A LIE" I am obsessed with this song, which has a few things in it that are emergency-good. The length of the bass notes, for one, is very special; each is slightly longer than half a beat (see transcription below)-- a subtle detail that makes the song feel urgent, even though it's not particularly fast.

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6 DAVID LANG, THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION, 2007 This piece won the Pulitzer Prize in music this year, but I would vote for it for prime minister if I could.

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Nico Muhly; New York-Based Composer Nico Muhly Has Worked with Composers Ranging from Philip Glass to Bjork, and Has Written Pieces for the American Ballet Theatre and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His Compositions Have Debuted at Venues Such as New York's Carnegie Hall, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Kitchen. Mothertongue, His Second Album, Will Be Released in July
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