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Whopper Virgins

from Wednesday, December3rd of the year2008.

So, for some reason I was reading USA Today, and I came across an ad that says, “Whopper Virgins.” This is not a joke, y’all. This is some kind of facacta campaign by Burger King involving taste-testing fast-food burgers on people in Greenland and rural Romania. Look at this amazing website, first of all, and second of all, be sure to have your speakers on because the music is AMAZING. Behold:

Whoa. In two other pieces of news, I got a lot of, like, dismissive and angry email about yesterday’s post in which I talked about a feeling of annoyance about an article in the Times re: surrogate mothers. Some of these comments include: “That’s the problem with blogs: too many opinions and too much prattery. Stick to your day job, Nico. G’bye.” and a kind of great one which is, “You are entirely out of your depth.” It’s interesting, this idea of An Area Where One Is Allowed to Be At and Other Areas Where One Is Out Of One’s Depth So To Be At. I guess my day job would only allow me to post music that I had written? Or maybe I’d be sufficiently above water if I posted music by other people, too? Even though I’m not a critic? Also I’m not entirely sure of what to make of somebody posting a comment on a blog saying that “that” is the problem with blogs: it’s kind of too meta for me. So, in the spirit of not getting into some whole fight here, I’m going to write about other people’s music.

It’s Advent! Here is, traditionally, the first piece of Official Advent Music you get to hear: an adaptation of Palestrina’s adaptation of Aspiciens a longe. This is such exciting music, especially if you imagine it being performed from a distance ““ like, behind the congregation. Very anticipatory.

I look from afar: And lo, I see the power of God coming,and a cloud covering the whole earth. Go ye out to meet him and say: Tell us, art thou he that should come to reign over thy people Israel?

High and low, rich and poor, one with another, Go ye out to meet him and say: Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep, Tell us, art thou he that should come? Stir up thy strength, O Lord, and come to reign over thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. I look from afar: And lo, I see the power of God coming, and a cloud covering the whole earth. Go ye out to meet him and say: Tell us, art thou he that should come to reign over thy people Israel?

[audio:01 I Look from afar (adapted from Palenstrina).mp3]
I Look from afar (adapted from Palestrina)
A Procession With Carols on Advent Sunday
King’s College, Cambridge

And: did everybody buy the Final Fantasy EP? Do it now! It’s so great. Here is just a wee excerpt:

[audio:03 The Butcher.mp3]
Final Fantasy The Butcher from Spectrum – 14th Century


  • RE: Surrogacy

    I’m in favor of letting Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have the last word on this controversial issue:

    And thank you for the music…please post as much as you can because I only listen to music during advent.

  • well, i loved the surrogacy diatribe, and i’m someone who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to have a child using an egg donor, in vitro and my own sperm. but reading your blog i thought, goddamit, we should have just adopted (we lost the baby). so whoever said you were out of your depth was just saying, i don’t like your opinion. if you’d written positively about the article, you wouldn’t have been out of your depth, of course. people are weirdly cranky, overly sensitive. everybody’s allowed to have an opinion about everything and put it in print and write it in the sky if they like, and anybody who doesn’t like it can do the same, goddamit. anyway, wish i’d adopted. now i hate children.

  • I found you tonight by way of hearing your colleague Mr Amidon briefly on Radio 3…here in Glasgow in Scotland. I looked him up then found your myspace page and have been playing your golden nuggets on a loop for the past two hours. To me your music sounds like it is being played under a catafalque whilst some purple funeral is being rehearsed like a reverse dictionary on a broken photocopier. It is so lovable and rather beautifully heard. Which brings me to your item about Burger King. It disgusts me that the owning class will plunder anything sacred in order to sell their shit…but you are right the music for that banal ad is fuckin stunning. As is the funeral music from “Tokyo Story” directed by Yasujiro Ozu in 1953…check it…If only for this ravishing snippet of sound! Before i go your musics are also making me think of the extraordinary cue that David Raksin helped Chaplin write for a dream sequence in the middle of “Modern Times”. Check it also if you can! The delicious music for this short sequence is so like Koechlin shot through with Lili Boulanger! All the more frustrating then as i have been unable to locate it anywhere on Cd…much like the Japanese Funereal Stuff. All the best from Bonnie Glasgow! P.S An American stranger recently sent me a CDr all the way from Ohio of a 1966 R.C.A vinyl B.S.O recording of Leinsdorf conducting Agon with Gunther Schuller’s Klee Studies whilst adding Craft’s CBS re-imaginings of the original chamber versions of Noces as filler…and all for nothing! I couldn’t beleive it! And all because he answered a desperate plea i posted on the Gramophone Magazine messageboard about a highly obscure recording of a work called “My Name Is” that Reich wrote and arranged for Orchestra in ’82 and which i have lost forever. That’s what i like about America…it has a big heart! However I digress. You impress me. That’s all. Cheers Ray

  • Kuczynski = blech. I can’t wait for the follow-up article on shopping for baby! And giving baby botox!

    Meanwhile, the burger menace continues to spread it’s oddly marketed tentacles, i.e.

  • I saw the Whopper ad this weekend and was actually shocked, in the way that prompts one to launch into a tiresome 20 minute lecture to young children about why this is wrong and imperialist and soul-sucking, which, when translated to their age appropriateness sounds only like “no more Krappy Meals” for you.

    I’m not convinced yet that it’s not a deeply well-funded and brilliant bit of subversion from the Yes Men.

    Then, the NYT Mag cover caught my 8-year-old daughter’s eye, and I had to get into why that was wrong too, citing the Arkansas adoption rate you noted. Either lots of things are absurd out there, or finger-wagging is starting to feel good. Or both.

  • Great. Let’s feed people who are not used to high-fat, high-calorie foods to people who are not used to eating a Western diet. Congratulations Burger King. You win the award for Corporation Most Responsible for Spreading Diabetes and Obesity Around the World…one Whopper at a time.

  • This is for Raymond (I would just contact him directly, but I don’t have “a myspace”):

    The Buddhist ritual music you seek can be heard on a lovely old Smithsonian Folkways album, which, like every Smithsonian Folkways album of all time, you can now buy online. The recording is also nearly contemporaneous with Tokyo Story, for what that’s worth. I think there’s a more recent disc with similar music, but I’m too lazy to look for it right now.

    Also, it seems that you’ve already found it, but you can hear Reich’s “My Name Is” from a live concert streamable on It was also included in a collection called “Steve Reich: Lost Pieces 1966-2002” on the Orpheus label.

  • For my two cents’ worth, Nico, I thought a lot of your surrogate diatribe was spot on. I won’t climb up on that particular soapbox, but the whole oops I’m 45 and my biological clock is ticking, and I have the money, so I’ll buy my way to parenthood trip has gone up my arse sideways since I was a much younger woman than I am now. Ditto for rich yuppies whose idea of downsizing is selling one of their five vacation homes. Grrrrrr…not opionated at all, am I? LOL.

  • I would probably like seal meat better too.

  • Re: the high drama of that NYTimes mag article (and Nico’s Outrageously Out of His Young Gay Depth comments), I highly recommend this week’s Times mag with all the letters! People have had some real strong reactions to that story and the nefarious pictures: the black nanny photo!, the barefoot and pregnant (a letter called her “lovely but bovine”!!!!) surrogate photo! What fascinated me most about the letters was the level of rich people guilt and self-loathing visible in so many. There is a lot of affluencionado embarrassment at Alex K’s story of hiring another woman to play mother for her. Yet—hey Nico can I borrow that soap box? Thanks!–I find a lot of that to be, you know, belated. After all, wealthier white women have been doing that shit for centuries (once again presenting: black nanny photo!). As for the adoption argument, I agree whole-heartedly but it will be a cold day in hell before wealthy and powerful people overwhelmingly choose to adopt instead of doing what they do as a matter of course: pay to have their way. I don’t mean that judgmentally at all. And I don’t mean to be flippant about something so serious. Biotech makes all our evil eviler, and nastier, and yes, in the case of Alex’s story, tackier. But biotech is not making us into creatures we were not to be begin with. I’m just saying: we are all well within our depths–and should feel compelled–to think and write and argue about this most fundamental fuck up we call our socially constructed paradigm of human reproduction and child rearing. Incidentally, I think it behooves us to be critical precisely because we are pontificating about the 2000 year old meaning of the word “marriage” and attending related meanings (family, parent, spouse, etc), while straight people show no regard for the alledged sanctity of a good goddamn thing: not marriage, the way they break that shit up, and certainly not reproduction, the way they rock that shit out if they can afford it. Again, no judgment. So I think if you have DNA in your body, you get your soap box right now! Most older (?) people who told Nico to mind his business are unaware that the world is much more like Nico sees it, and like my 8 year old will come to see it, than the way they see it. One can wrap oneself in the self-righteousness of wise old age like Tom Cruise in Katie Holmes’s placenta, but that ain’t really an argument, is it? Nico knows what the fuck he’s talking about. Plus he’s funny and writes well. Sincerely, A Mother; age 32, who gave natural, vaginal birth to a multiculturally adorable half african half latino american millenial generation baby of immigrant descent, and raises him alone, while barely affording rent and getting shitty public education from a government that takes a third of her income (I felt I had to like, present aaaaall my credentials, lest I be told to shut up and mind my day job, )

  • [Nico’s response, below. Also: Nico’s emphases, in Bold. I normally wouldn’t wave my pen around in somebody’s comments, but homeslice has busted out some SATII words here - puerile! – so I feel the need to defend myself slightly more aggressively. Also, for what it’s worth, everybody should totally buy Rorem’s diaries.]

    I was amused by the phrase “Nico knows what the fuck he is talking about.”

    This “from the mouths of babes” justification is trotted out by complacent parents the world over to justify the rants of their inexperienced, cossetted children when the other adults in the room start checking their watches and edging toward the door!

    Yes, he has a flair for writing — just like scores of creative writing majors the world over. He’s not a writer; but he IS a serious composer and a good one. He appears to be far on his way to earning a living at that. I commend to him Ned Rorem’s diaries, begun and published when he was scarcely older than Nico.

    Rorem’s fearless, exquisitely crafted journals are consistently outrageous and a welcome window on a brilliant mind. Nico’s blog gives me a picture of an intellectually self-indulgent youngster whose [SIC] been encouraged to shoot his mouth off. Has he nobody in his life who expects better of him as a writer of prose? I am not critical of Nico’s publishing his opinions on the Internet, I just think he might be a little more careful to think through what he is saying, since he does come across as puerile much of the time — especially when shooting from the hip about an issue as personal and complex as female fertility.

    I guess the question is who does Nico think he is writing for? Does he want his blog to be literature or is he content to have it be on the level of cocktail party banter or the sort of earnest silliness that undergraduates blather at one another when they are stoned and sitting on the floor talking about the Big Issues in the freshman dorm?

    He’s capable of excellent writing. He’s being encouraged to blather. I do hope he thinks about the fact that serious people are actually reading his blog and spend more time self-editing.

    I’m sort of burning out on his blog, I’m afraid, and that is sad for me.


    Nico responds: My darling creature, you realize that you are addressing me, and if you have something to say, you may as well use the second person. Also: I have all of Ned Rorem’s diaries on a shelf five feet from where I write this blog at home in New York; this space is not a diary. If I’m going to sit around jotting congratulatory notes to Gore Vidal, I don’t think I need to publish it for the whole Internet to see. What I’m aiming for is quickly written éclats: I read an article, I think about it, I write about it. The space is not itself an article. For that, I have more appropriate outlets: The Guardian, for one, and others will start next year. I’m sorry that my one diatribe on fertility offended, though. It was conceived and written in haste. I will promise to edit my writing better in the future, and I certainly won’t make any whose/who’s mistakes, as you have done, above. If you are in town and are in the mood for something Christmassy and Explicitly Puerile, may I invite you to the Guggenheim Museum tomorrow (Sunday) or Monday? I wrote a new Christmas anthem for choir and brass, whose text is: Senex puerum portabat, puer autem senem regebat. (The old man carried the child, but the child governed the old man).

  • Darling Creature (in exactly the same tone as your use of the salute):

    Lovely response; worthy of a direct riposte. Truly. It serves you well, except for the smidgen of cattiness about whose/who’s (an example of your persistently puerile self-indulgence as a writer).

    I am glad you have Rorem’s diaries on your shelves, trust that you have read them and digested the lessons about the dangers of the examined life in print that they teach, and sense with satisfaction that you received (and are thinking about) the point I made in my post to your blog. I’m afraid I don’t understand what Gore Vidal has to do with anything except that I know that Rorem knows him, but then you expressed yourself carelessly there.

    You are an easy target because you are very quick. I think you are smart enough to know that quickness or cleverness should not be confused with intelligence. Do you regularly ask yourself: am I really as smart as I think I am? (And if the answer is “yes,” then keep asking the question until it is “no!” LOL.)

    You do yourself (as a professional composer and someone who seems to want to be a professional writer, too) a dis-service by whipping out these “quickly written éclats.” Do you speak French? Do you realize that you are agreeing with my criticisms of you by characterizing your posts as such? (“Honey, I was just shooting my mouth off; don’t hold me to what I said!”) I am charmed (read: heartened) to think that you just may.

    I am glad that you heard my affectionate admonishment: Just. Be. More. Careful. About. What. You. Say. No. Matter. Where. You. Publish. I apologize for indulging in giving you a piece of advice: Continue to remember that there are always things going on in the room that you can neither understand or imagine. (Please trust me: I know what I am talking about. These blogs are going to turn around and bite you in your bottom down the road a spell.)

    That said, I’ll drop the matter, and promise to keep reading your blog. Onward, Nico Muhly!

  • Thank God for thinking, reasonable, intelligent and worthwhile Americans like the ones who often appear here. Otherwise those of us in the rest of the world might be tempted to think that the cultural imperialism/vandalism as evidenced in the Whopper clip was representative of you all. That piece of frightening video, dressed up as a pseudo-documentary shot in a ‘feel-good’ way was the most saddening thing I’ve seen in a long time. The depth of insensitivity displayed was truly awesome. No, I take that back – I think the film-makers/advertising agency displayed great sensitivity to the issue. That’s why they went to such great pains to sugar-coat the vileness of what they were actually doing. They knew how bad what they were doing was, so they went out of their way to actively encourage us to feel the opposite. Vile, vile, vile.

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