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Keep in Touch (2005)

for Nadia Sirota
Viola & pre-recorded CD, 12'

Keep in Touch is a lament, a sort of chaconne divided up into sections by more freely-composed cadenzas for the viola. But the chaconne, a musical form based around a repeated cycle of chords, is not only the domain of composers like Bach and Purcell””one is as likely to hear the form on a Nina Simone record, and Antony Hegarty, the bluesily androgynous vocalist we hear in the electronic component of this piece, is a performer from the Simone school.

Every dimension of the piece accentuates what Muhly calls the “in-betweenness” of these two strange voices: Antony’s singing and the equally sweet falsetto of the viola. The solo part, with its bow-scrapes and awkward passagework, affectionately emphasises the instrument’s flaws, its unevennesses of tone, and its idiosyncratic character as the neglected middle child of the fiddle family. (Even the percussion on the electronic track is constructed from the little noises a violist usually makes only by accident.) And Antony’s voice, so stately on his own records, is here reduced to abrupt, extemporaneous gestures””mirroring, not alleviating, the viola’s isolation. – Program Notes © 2007 Daniel Johnson

Performance Notes
It is important that the viola be lightly amplified in order to achieve a good balance with the pre-recorded materials. Although the best results have been with a microphone clipped to the bridge, anything to subtly boost the viola’s volume is appropriate provided that both the viola and the pre-recorded elements come out of the same speakers.

Because it is usually cumbersome for the violist to trigger the tape start in bar 46 herself, an assistant and/or engineer should be on hand.

Additional Program Note
The complete title of this work is Keep in Touch (Three Missed Calls for Holy Week). The title should only be listed in a program as such if it is performed during Lent; during other times of the year, Keep in Touch is sufficient.

Keep in Touch is recorded on Bedroom Community Hvalur 001 (Nico Muhly Speaks Volumes).

[audio:07 Keep In Touch Excerpt.mp3]

nico_nadia.jpg nico_nadia2.jpg
Nadia playing Keep in Touch in Reykjavík in October, 2006.

Recording Keep In Touch at the Looking Glass Studios in April 2005, with Valgeir reflected in the control room window.


  • HI Nico,
    I like the brief sounds of the viola/CD piece and I am wondering if the alto saxophone might sub for the viola in this piece. Might this substitution be possible? It maybe interesting to have the saxo juxtapose with the viola on the CD, making a kind of trio texture.

    Just a thought, would like to hear more of this piece.


  • Hello,

    I wanted to let you know that I recently performed Keep in Touch for my recent guest recital at Ball State University and plan to perform it on the New Music Cafe Series at Illinois Wesleyan University. Plans are already underway to have several performances here in Chicago.

    Audiences love the piece and I really enjoy the work’s emotional ride and its kinetic energy. Several of my college students are already asking to learn the piece for their recitals. Thanks for sharing the work.

  • Hi Nico,

    Once again I played Keep in Touch. This time at the Chicago Academy for the Arts. Once again, it was the audiences favorite piece on the program.

  • Just got the music for Keep in Touch and there was no CD included – is there a place to download a sound file or is the CD a rental item? I’d love to do the piece here in Portland, Oregon in late-Winter, early-Spring. Thanks!