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Aunt Elope

from Tuesday, April7th of the year2009.

I have been watching the movie Australia without the sound on for the last two hours and it looks Just Terrible. This is the end of that story. I’m on a plane from Iceland back to New York. Last night, as it was my last in Reykjavík, we all went out for a fancy meal and then out in a kind of epic sense; I lost track but at a certain point we were lured to an apartment with the promise of “live African music,” whatever that means, and instead found a tall composer wearing an orange shawl shuffling across his whitewashed floor. Fair Enough. The meal, though, brought something to the surface that I had noticed but had never really been able to articulate. They totally don’t have “ladies first” in Iceland. It’s weird: most fancy restaurants are totally into the Elaborate and Somewhat 90’s Rituals attendant to Fusiony Dining “” little cups of things, a slightly over-exaggerated wine service, dry ice etc. I ate with Valgeir and Sigga Sunna (male and female), and Valgeir ordered and tasted the wine, and they served me first? My girl Sigga Sunn was wearing, like, a party dress and makeup, too, so, I mean, she was clearly The Lady @ The Table. Weird.

The other totally outrageous thing that’s going on now in Iceland drives me crazy. A bunch of the fancier restaurants have these tasting menus. I usually attempt to perform restauranty things in Icelandic, but I noticed that in the English language menu, they have a Regular Tasting and an Icelandic Tasting. Now, I can understand it if they can focus all of the touristy things that people want to try into one menu ““ puffin, whale, whatever ““ but when I asked them what the difference was between the j0178697menus, the answer was that the Icelandic menu consists only of ingredients sourced from Iceland, and the main course in the Regular tasting has Antelope in it. Antelope, are you crazy? This country is about to fall into an ocean of debt and they’re trying to talk about antelope? Super confusing to me. I understand the exciting & exotic appeal of an imported ingredient ““ I et an urchin from Hokkaido the other day in New York ““ but there’s something odd about being able to choose between a locally sourced menu and a not-locally sourced menu.

I am now fully addicted to watching “Make Me A Supermodel;” I don’t have any idea how it even started but now I have, like, an entire hard drive filled with episodes of this shit. It’s kind of amazing. Somebody just did a gay intervention (“don’t say the word gay when you mean ‘bad'”) and just before, these models were walking down the runway holding ducks. Love a model with a duck:


Also love a wholesome blondie male model but hate a turtleneck sweater, wtf:


More importantly, though, I love a title with the first person pronoun in it. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the autobiographical nature of writing music; I’m paraphrasing David Lang, but he said once that the romantic project of composition is inherently narcissistic and autobiographical: if you write a sad, intellectual piece, you’re really saying, “look how sad and intellectual I am;” Lang’s response to this is his wonderful piece Cheating, Lying, Stealing, which in a sense confesses, “I cheat, I lie, I steal.” I’ve always accepted it as an inevitability that writing music was, to a certain extent, a look-at-me gesture (even though I’m not sure that it’s true); I’m entering a weird phase where everything I’m writing wants to be titled super-autobiographically: “I Know What You’re Up To,” “I Need You To Stop Talking,” or “I Know Where Everything Is” or something “” I’m interested to see how this unfolds. Titles are so awkward.

Here is David Lang’s Cheating, Lying, Stealing:

[audio:01 Cheating, Lying, Stealing.mp3]
David Lang Cheating, Lying, Stealing
I assume this is the Bang on the Can All Starz

There’s something so good about those rests. I think about those rests all the time. Also, David Lang is so wonderful. I blogged about The Little Match Girl Passion before (but then I ended up ranting about that hideous article about Joshua Bell in the subway or whatever) ““ but just now listened again to that piece and it really is so good.


  • Ha!

    I love that show!!! I like seeing all those ridiculously good looking humans!

    hey Nico, a few of “us” would like to know, what’s with this?!

    ppplease share!!!!!

  • “I Need You to Title Your Blog Entries (So the RSS Feed Doesn’t Get Screwed Up)”

  • Nico (Mr. Muhly? I hate being informal…then again I hate capital letters), speaking of titles, I have to ask, I bought Speaks Volumes on iTunes a while ago (when I saw your name whilst browsing the Met Opera website, they gave you a commission for an opera?..then I found your blog just now), and would like to know why you decide to give your pieces rather personal titles that are like sentences (“It Goes Without Saying”, e.g.). It seems composers usually give their pieces either systematic/literal (“Piano and String Quartet”) or slightly descriptive names (“Fearful Symmetries”) but a lot of your pieces’ titles are very sentence-like. I don’t really mind either way, but your titles sort of give a sense of familiarity to the songs (e.g. instead of being faced with “Music in Similar Motion”). I probably just answered my question but oh well.

    PS I’m absolutely dying to hear anything about your opera…but it’s probably under wraps. By the way, I’d like to know if you saw La Sonnambula at Met recently, the production was panned by NY Times (and the old people sitting around me, i.e. everyone in the audience but me) but I loved the modern…ness. It’d be nice to hear a young music-person’s opinion.
    Sorry for a long comment, I’m in typing mode due to school essays.

  • I love Baz, but you’re right… Australia was Just Terrible. Well, not only terrible but also awful.

  • Only when I’m really focused on lyrics that aren’t story-based does it bother me that they’re so “I I I.” Then I listen to some Deerhoof.

    Also, the concept of that show (which I also love and watch and rewatch) is confusing to me: aren’t there a ton of “super”models in the world that are immediately successful just because of their attractiveness, and regardless of personality and posing or walking ability? Being on a show for it is like wishing you were better-looking.

    That duck is totally screaming “AFLAC.”

  • To Nico Muhly:

    Hello, my name is Jordan and I’ve just started this immense illustrated online manual called THRIVE GUIDE– it’s not immense and large yet but it will be. I’m not sure how to get in contact with you other than THIS, which seems weird, but I’m attempting to do profiles/interviews with my favorite New Yorkers, like Isaac Mizrahi, Maira Kalman, Brini Maxwell, and you of course. My blog will give you an idea of what “it’s all about,” and I know you travel a lot, but even an email interview or SOMETHING would be fantastic.

    This message felt very awkward and forced, SO SORRY, perhaps there is a way we can talk more properly,

  • “Australia” is the campiest big-budget movie since “Showgirls” because it is so unintentionally, hilariously awful. I loved every frame of the stupid thing. I’m not sure what my favorite scene is, but Nicole Kidman confessing that “she’s not good with children” is one of them, since she gives such a glacial bad performance that one wants to add, “Forget children, she’s not good with humans.” I was afraid she was going to suck the soul out of Hugh Jackman as if she was starring in “Species: Down Under.”

  • how about ‘coffee, tea, or me?’

  • Dear Nico
    (I) know that (I) only read your blog
    to make (I) happy. because (you) are hilarious. I had a fobulous tete a tete with (your) mother last wednesday and (we) mostly talked about (you). (we) are your biggest fans I think. Although I must admit your music is way over my unwashed head and ears , your satire is absolutely divine. Incidentally (I) knew you were gay back when your mother made me print all those BEEF (in french) teashirts.
    yerz drooly

  • So you’re catching up with Make Me A Supermodel season one (according to the photos of Ronnie w/turtleneck + Frankie w/ duck…)? I was totally addicted to that, too. I hearted Frankie. Sadly I have been too busy to catch season two…

  • HEY. I never promised LIVE african music! Someone was misleading you. Probably that DJ.

  • does a boeuf reference require moderation maestro?

  • I just watched the latest episode of Make Me A supermodel…it’s season 2,do you watch it??
    Surprisingly knew you are a fan of this show,Nico