by Nico Muhly

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Composer Nico Muhly's follow-up to his 2006 debut, Speaks Volumes, offers a very interesting set of cross-genre compositions. Call it post-classical if you will. The unifying thread on Mothertongue is language -- all three multi-part compositions feature singing or reciting voices. The use of electro-acoustics is also common to all three -- found sounds and field recordings pop up in all three, and not always gracefully or in a way that makes sense. Finally, and most importantly to his fans, his lush string textures are found throughout. The title track "Mothertongue" is a dense four-part piece where two female singers recite what sounds like numbers and addresses in a thick, multilayered texture, a cross between the puzzling numbers stations broadcasts and a Philip Glass tension-building device. The piece goes through a set of atmospheres that feel a bit disjointed but are nonetheless very lush. "Wonders" is more disconcerting, bringing together recitations, noisier textures, and strings. "The Only Tune" features Sam Amidon singing and playing banjo on two folk tunes that have been deconstructed to snippets, refracted through electro-acoustics, and paired with strings, vibes, and celeste, among other instruments. Throughout its 16-minute duration, Muhly keeps moving layers from foreground to background and back: Amidon's lead vocal, its refractions, the straightforward accompaniment, his lush orchestral arrangements, electronics -- creating all kinds of contrasting effects between the ancient and modern, "serious" and "folk" music, the simplicity of song and the endless possibilities available to the modern composer (i.e. one who embraces all instruments, not just the orchestral ones, and who is willing to use atonal playing and noise-like textures). That last piece is worth the price of admission to Mothertongue. That said, despite their shortcomings, the two other works are worth hearing, too.

Product Details

Release Date: 07/22/2008
Label: Brassland Records
UPC: 0632662556825
catalogNumber: 18

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Nico Muhly   Primary Artist,Percussion,Celeste,Keyboards
Sveinbjarnardóttir   Violin
Sam Amidon   Banjo,Guitar,Vocals
Valgeir Sigurðsson   Electric Bass
Þórarinn Már Baldursson   Viola
Árni Heimir Ingólfsson   Harpsichord
Helgi Hrafn Jónsson   Trombone,Vocals
Nadia Sirota   Viola
Zbigniew Dubik   Violin
Abigail Fischer   Mezzo-Soprano (Vocal)
Matthias Nardeau   Oboe
Andres Kleina   Violin
Monika Abendroth   Harp

Technical Credits

Sam Amidon   Adaptation
Mike Schmelling   Cover Photo
Ben Frost   Bass Programming
Nico Muhly   Composer,Programming,Adaptation
Valgeir Sigurðsson   Programming,Producer,Engineer,Audio Production

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