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Chamber music, vocalists, and found sounds on tape

Nico Muhly: Chamber Music, works from “Mothertongue,” with Helgi Hrafn Jónsson, Valgeir Sigurðsson & Abby Fischer
Philip Bimstein: “Casino,” “Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa,” with The Curiously Strong Winds

Merkin Hall
at Kaufman Center, 129 W. 67th Street
(between Broadway and Amsterdam)
» Tickets
» New Sounds Live 2007-2008 Concert Season

Hear what happens when digital sampling and live electronics are applied to chamber music in the latest installment of our New Sounds Live concert series, featuring works by environmentalist/politician/ composer Phillip Bimstein and composer/arranger/linguist/blogger Nico Muhly at Merkin Hall on May 8, 2008.

Muhly has worked with Philip Glass and Björk, and has written a choral mass for the Saint Thomas Church. He’ll present works from his forthcoming release, “Mothertongue,” at times an unsettling exploration of layered sounds and twitchy chamber music, like a mezzo-soprano voice singing all the addresses at which she has ever lived on top of recordings of another friend taking a shower, eating toast, and frying an egg. Plus, Muhly will be sure to trot out some of the same DJ effects and processing that you might hear in the clubs of Europe, since one of his select soloists and collaborators is the Icelandic musician and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson.

Two-time Springdale, Utah Mayor Phillip Bimstein is perhaps best known for his electro-acoustic compositions, in which instrumental performers share the aural canvas with storytellers and entertaining sound samples. Bimstein cleverly weaves these elements into his music, pitting an oboe against a chorus of chirping frogs in “Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa.” He also serves up a vivid experience of gambling in “Casino” using the sounds of gaming in Las Vegas – dice rattling and slot machines ker-chunking – all wickedly fused with narration by a former craps dealer originally trained as a priest. Both of these pieces by Bimstein are on the program and this performance will be taped for later broadcast on 93.9 FM WNYC.

Nico MuhlyNico Muhly
Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Nico Muhly graduated from Columbia University in 2003 with a degree in English Literature. In 2004 he received a Masters in Music from the Juilliard School, where he studied composition under Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano.

Muhly’s orchestral works have been premiered by the American Symphony Orchestra, the Juilliard Orchestra, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Orchestra , the Boston Pops, and the Chicago Symphony. In 2005, the Clare College Choir broadcast Muhly’s evensong canticles live on BBC3, and New York’s Saint Thomas Church commissioned and performed his Bright Mass with Canons, a work that has entered their regular repertoire. With designer/illustrator Maira Kalman, he created the "finely wrought" (New York Times) cantata on Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style that premiered in the New York Public Library, landing him on 2005 year’s-best list of New York magazine.

Film credits include his scores for Choking Man (2006) and Joshua (2007), and he has worked extensively with Philip Glass as editor, keyboardist, and conductor for numerous film and stage projects. Recently, he conducted excerpts from Einstein on the Beach for a new ballet by Benjamin Millepied at the Opéra de Paris. In October, 2007, the American Ballet Theater premiered Muhly and Millepied’s collaboration From Here On Out, a commission for their 2007-2008 season, and in October of 2008, the Paris Opéra ballet will premiere Triade, a newly commissioned collaboration between Muhly and Millepied.

He has also lent his skills as performer, arranger and conductor to other musicians, including Björk, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and Antony of Antony and the Johnsons. His work with Antony has included performances in Arnhem, Leeds, and New York City, and in February 2007, they worked together on a new Shakespeare setting for The Sonnet Project, a program curated by Gavin Bryars for Opera North and the Royal Shakespeare Company. 2008 saw the release of such collaborations as Ekvílibríum, the highly anticipated solo debut of Icelandic musician Valgeir Sigurðsson, and All Is Well by American folk singer Sam Amidon. Sigurðsson released both discs on his own Bedroom Community records, a label he inaugurated by producing Muhly’s first album, Speaks Volumes (2007). In the months leading up to Speaks Volumes’ American release, Muhly was invited to present concerts of his chamber music at both Carnegie Hall and the Whitney Museum. Future recording projects include a second solo record, titled Mothertongue, due out in July 2008 on Brassland Records.

Phillip BimsteinPhillip Bimstein
Alternative classical composer Phillip Bimstein lives in Springdale, Utah, where he also served two terms as mayor. A recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, American Composers Forum and Austria's Prix Ars Electronica, Bimstein's music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Bang on a Can Festival, the Aspen Music Festival and London's Royal Opera House.

Ensembles who have performed Bimstein's works include Relâche, Turtle Island String Quartet, Modern Mandolin Quartet, Present Music, Abramyan String Quartet, Sierra Winds, Equinox Chamber Players, the California E.A.R. Unit, the Robin Cox Ensemble and Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues.

In 1997 Bimstein was awarded Meet The Composer's largest grant, the three-year New Residencies, during which he composed music that celebrates and explores the intimate relationship between the landscapes of the desert southwest and the many cultures that have inhabited the area. Described by Outside Magazine as "America's only all-natural politician-composer," as mayor he was an outspoken advocate for protection of the environment and he has testified twice before Congress in support of Utah’s wilderness.

In 2000 Bimstein received a Continental Harmony grant from the American Composers Forum, the National Endowment for the Arts and the White House Millennium Council to write The Bushy Wushy Rag, a work celebrating baseball and the city of St. Louis. It was featured in a nationally broadcast PBS special in October 2001.

A Starkland CD of Bimstein's music, Garland Hirschi's Cows (1997), garnered rave reviews internationally, and in 2006, Starkland released a second CD of Bimstein's compositions, Larkin Gifford's Harmonica. In 2007 Bimstein composed Cats in the Kitchen for flute, oboe, meows, purrs, cracked eggs, sliced onions, buttered toast, sizzling skillets, spoons, knives, pepper grinder, toaster oven, pots, pans, draining dishwater, and pretty much everything else in the kitchen "sync."

Additional Resources:
» Nico Muhly’s site
» Nico Muhly’s MySpace
» Rebecca Mead’s portrait of Muhly in the New Yorker
» Phillip Bimstein’s site
» Phillip Bimstein’s MySpace
» New Sounds Live 2007-2008 Concert Season
» Merkin Hall