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An Young Woman

from Sunday, January4th of the year2009.

Oh, awesome! The Mail in England has a headline, “Boozy Britain’s bloody New Year: A 999 call every seven seconds in alcohol-induced mayhem.” And! An amazingly strange article with genius pictures. Look at this:

Their caption is, “Officers stop and question a drunken male about his facial injuries in Newcastle.” His hair is sort of perfection, and I am really feeling his grey shirt. How great is this:

An [sic] young woman helps a friend who has almost certainly had too much to drink.

Almost Certainly. Right before Christmas, I had a piece played and sung in the Rótunda of the Guggenheim Museum: a new Christmas carol setting two texts: Senex Puerum Portabat and Hodie Christus Natus Est. A live recording (complete with coughing and a fire alarm, and too much time at the end) is below.

[audio:01 Senex Puerum Portabat Edit.mp3]
Vox Vocal Ensemble & the Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble, George Steel, Conductor
Live Recording 12/21/08

Text & Translation

Senex puerum portabat:
puer autem senem regebat:
quem virgo peperit,
et post partum virgo permansit:
ipsum quem genuit, adoravit.

Hodie Christus natus est:
Hodie Salvator apparuit:
Hodie in terra canunt Angeli,
laetantur Archangeli
Hodie exsultant justi, dicentes:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
An old man carried the child,
yet the child ruled the old man.
Him whom the virgin had borne
– after which she remained for ever a virgin –
she herself worshipped.

Today Christ is born:
Today the Savior appeared:
Today on Earth the Angels sing,
Archangels rejoice:
Today the righteous rejoice, saying:
Glory to God in the highest.

My basic scheme was that the first part (Senex Puerum Portabat) was a series of pulses anchoring the texture, and then at the second part, we encounter an ecstatic brass band which then explodes into free-form speaking-in-tongues at “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” I like Christmas music very much, although I’m somewhat saddened that a lot of the standards are Really Majestic (O Come All Ye Faithful) or Really Still (Silent Night ““ more on this in a second). There is an ecstatic mania about Christmas too that you get in some Sweenlinck but not really ever in audience participatory-settings. It would be unseemly, maybe, to have a whole church filled with people doing some (highly controlled!) babbling. In any event, I think Silent Night is just about the worst thing that ever happened, or, at least, singing along to it is. The worst part is:

It’s too high for people! It’s out of control! And to try to do it quietly ““ it’s just not gwine happen. This moment always reminds me of that moment in Angels in America where Belize says:

The white cracker who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word ‘free’ to a note so high nobody can reach it. That was deliberate. Nothing on earth sounds less like freedom to me.

Indeed. Also this is pretty amazing:

In entirely other news, Sasha Frere Jones blogpost or whatever this thing is reads like “me me me me I I I I me me me me I I I I my my my my.” I’ve decided that he reminds me of those seagulls from Finding Nemo who can only say “mine” all the time.

I want somebody to explain this poster from my neighborhood to me:


  • What a thrilling and beautiful piece!

  • I don’t think you’re giving Sasha Frere-Jones enough credit. Because, that year-end list? Is a Twitter. You know, like how they do Twitters, on the internet?? The man has his finger on the pulse.

    Also! Auto-Tune: here to stay.

  • You love that bloody Brit so much.

  • Playing the flute at Madison Square Garden (that is where the Knicks play, right?) does require quite a hefty pair, so a well done is in order. Secondary thoughts run along the lines of ‘who could have possibly thought for one second that that was a good idea?’

    I’m fairly certain that the vocal stylings of Henrietta and Merna will be right up your alley as well.

    Happy New Year!

  • For a long second I thought the bloody Brit WAS you.

    Also, you should write that fire alarm into the score for subsequent performances.

  • I think yours sounds like Mathis der Maler without all the shit, and if it took time to enjoy itself. I was listening too hard to hear the coughing and alarm, but think I hard a baby cry, which was appropriately Christmas-y.

    Furthermore, homegirl’s real good at the flute. But can’t you just sign up for those things for free, and without any creds? She needs a different forum.

    AND (to the composer of “Really Still”): the alto line should be working harder for the first syllable of “heavenly”; at least give them an Eb to help out. Kind of set in stone tablets, I guess.
    Long comment.

  • The deal with Stille Nacht is that it wasn’t meant to be a big sleepy choral number, but a brisk Tyrolean Waltz, originally written for two tenor voices and guitar. Try the version on Andrew Parrott’s “The Carol Album” and suddenly all will be revealed.

  • Beautiful piece!
    Are there other good live-recordings of your compositions?

  • wooooow

  • woooooooooow

  • … love that Nico signature on the piece!
    I must share a hilarious moment that happened long time ago, it was Nico and Philip Glass…. so.. Philip is walking in to his studio, while walking on the hall way that leads to Nico (Nico socializing at the admin desk).. and it goes like this

    Philip: Nico ! when?
    Nico: When What!?
    Philip: What do you mean, when what?!
    Nico: What did you say?
    Philip What do you mean when what?! ..WHEN?
    Nico: When , what? what did I hear? ..
    Philip: !? WHAT ?!
    Nico: What are you asking ?
    Philip: When Will you be done !
    Nico: I’m done with huu, with one scene… or what do you mean, the sound of the voice?
    Philip: Yhea

    well, as you can see the communication is so sooooo weirdly funny, any way…. Nico, correct me if I am wrong…… ok, I had my laugh now I must continue with work… addio!

  • the woman with the flute managed to sound exactly like Kenny G

  • I hope part of China’s 400 odd billion infrastructure investment involves improving my Internet connection so I can listen to your piece sometime.

    Unfortunately the Chinese on the sign failed to translate ‘creep’ and just says ‘if you see this man call 911’. I think probably best translated as 卑鄙小人。

  • in february’s town&country, nico, you’re pictured under music: as february must -sees. you’ll be @ the lincoln center. a great blurb. check it out.

  • Regarding “Silent Night,” I’ve noticed that a lot of evangelical churches that fancy themselves on the cutting edge of Contemporary Christian Music have taken to rocking it up (and oddly enough they like to turn the majestic ones into whispered meditations over a barely strummed acoustic guitar). It’s not the worst idea, but they also have this drive to turn it into 4/4. Incidentally I’m sure you’ve noticed that people love to 4/4ize the Star-Spangled Banner now, also (the tune of which was apparently taken at a ponderously dirge-like tempo before being appropriate in the anthem.) But at least a rockin’ Silent Night lets people really go for it on the high note. I endorse the Tyrolean Waltz concept, for sure.

  • What happened to the link to hear your new Christmas Carol? I came back to listen to it again and the link was gone.

    Very nice carol. I would like to hear it again.

    Was preveleged to hear your Pater noster last Summer. Very nice piece. Was wondering if you ever were able to hear it?

  • Nice piece, Nico. Good combination of vocal minimalism, brassy pedal points, free-for-all and tonal anchoring. Shame about the ‘noises-off’ but that’s increasingly hard to avoid these days.

    Reminds me a bit of the 2008 prom premiere of Tom Ades’s ‘Tevot’: a breathtaking and very ‘philosophical’ orchestral piece marred by coughings and splutterings probably deliberately engineered by the anti-modernists who invariably occupy the front rows of the promenaders.

    Happy New Year!

  • I mostly enjoyed your Christmas music! Not a fan of the rabbly parts. And, I share your disdain for Silent Night. It is looped perpetually in hell.
    The chippy flute confection was invigorating, but it can’t top the Whitney Houston deliverance of same. Nothing tops that.
    Over Christmas, I was thinking that the sonorous chanting of monks makes the best Christmas music. I decided that a chant version of Donna Summer’s recent hit, Stamp Your Feet, would make a sturdy Christmas song suited to the vocal ranges of all the faithful. Maybe next year.

  • Who Rótunda Is? I have a non-configurable, flared-sleeve Rick Faux’ins garment to show you!

  • I’ve visited this post twice now because it makes me laugh a lot… for many reasons… none of which are the track you posted, which I really like.

  • I LOVE Jethro Tull…err, I mean Andrea Fisher!

  • Yo Brother,

    I’m not a huge fan of him as a critic, but why so hard on SF Jones?

    What does your BLOG read like . . . . .
    (the odd me me I, perhaps?)

    Nico Responds: yeah, I know, my blog is all about me me me. But with him, I never see his words pointing at the subject; they all point back to his own person. Anyway, hi.

  • OMG I totally thought of Jethro Tull too…haha!

  • 4:25 –> Like whoa.