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Your Face and Hair

from Friday, December17th of the year2010.

This last two months has been, without any doubt, the most productive — just in terms of the physical number of minutes of music written — such period in my life. It’s been exciting! I took on a few projects with very quick turnaround times, which is to say, not planning three concert seasons in advance. There are those things too, but it was fun to work on things that will be played in the same month of their completion. I wrote a Christmas carol for Tewkesbury Abbey, a piece for eighth blackbird with voices up in it, and an Advent carol for the combined choirs of Jesus College, Cambridge. Very satisfying. One of the best ways to combat all the yammering about the War on Christmas is by reminding everybody that it is, in fact, Advent, which, liturgically, is an infinitely more exciting period than the 12-day long thing that Christmas actually is. In this spirit, I wrote a set of seven organ preludes for Westminster Abbey based on the great “O” Antiphons for Advent. They are happening Sunday; everybody go.

eighth blackbird are so good, I love them so much. But it makes me insane the lower-case-ness. Why are people still on this? Where does it end? I hosted a show on Q2 for the New York Philharmonic’s CONTACT! series, and between the title of the series, and every other piece having nonsensical lowercase letters, I was in a serious typographical crisis by the end of the day. Was I meant to point out the fact that things were lower-case? Does it matter? Composers: can we call a halt to the lowercase titles?

What a week, what a month, what a year! I am reeling. The other night, I went with A to see Peaches Christ Superstar, which is, exactly as promised, Peaches, singing the entire score to Jesus Christ Superstar. Here is what I learned:

Jesus Christ Superstar has one of the best opening songs ever.

[audio:1-02 Heaven On Their Minds.mp3]

Jesus Christ Superstar has a really good counting song, just like all good modern operas:

[audio:2-08 Trial Before Pilate.mp3]

Also. Peaches? If you don’t know her; she’s amazing. But she also went ahead and did the entire thing from memory, all the parts, all the voices. Everybody needs to calm down — especially opera singers — about memorizing. If I try hard enough to write music as awesome as this score, will you relax about the prompter?

A caveat. This is, mysteriously, the only thing of its nature that Andrew Lloyd Weber ever wrote. Everything after this makes me totally insane. I can’t bear Phantom or Cats or any of that, but there is something so fiendishly exciting about Superstar to me. I know every word, every weird accompaniment gesture. I think about it often and with a great big open heart; there are not many pieces about which I feel the same kind of excitement.


  • You’re so lucky; 8bb, NY Phil. Wow.
    I want to hear Detailed Instructions, but I can’t since I’m “up in the +44” and all that and iTunes says NO – I hope it be hearr: ?

    You’re so great.

  • I agree that Jesus Christ Superstar is surprisingly awesome, given the rest of Lloyd Webber’s output. I played in a pit band for it and loved it. What do you think of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? That’s the other one of his I can actually stand, but I don’t know if it’s because I imprinted on it as a kid.

  • The only contender for best opening song of a musical is from Sweeney Todd. But I think JC Superstar still wins.

  • […] Muhly, ställer en mycket berättigad fråga på hans blogg idag. Composers: can we call a halt to the lowercase titles? Jag är […]

  • Evita has some okay stuff too. Other than that, nul.

  • […] for eighth blackbird, but he’s actually just going to write about the unfortunate lack of capitalization in the contemporary music […]

  • The comments about Jesus Christ Superstar jostled some memories loose in my mind. I was a young teen playing with the catholic Schumacher family, towheaded army brats with a mean mom and an absent father. One of the older boys had received the soundtrack to the movie (not the original production). It became the only music in their house – played repeatedly whenever I was visiting, searing the songs into my memory bank. Later, my older brother was in a community theater production of Superstar, dressed in torn up bed sheets as shepherds robes, counting out the lashes of the whip and shouting “Crucify him!”. As a young boy, the radio single “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” sung by Yvonne Elliman, was the slow dance staple for the older teens in the neighborhood. Andrew Lloyd Webber as teen background music – who knew? Thanks for bringing this up.

  • We will be starting a petition for Peaches to do Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Peachcoat next, fyi.

  • Perhaps the lower-case-ness is an homage to cummings? k.d. was all up in that shit first.