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Pillaging Music (2005)

for Valgeir
Percussion, piano, celeste, & pre-recorded CD

Muhly names Pierre Boulez as the inspiration for Pillaging Music, and it’s easy to hear the influence of pieces like Sur-incises and Répons on this metallic piano/percussion texture, with its wild, electronic antiphony. But where Boulez’s music wears, self-consciously, the sheen of the new, Pillaging Music has been painstakingly distressed. The percussion is complemented by a battery of found instruments, household objects chosen to approximate the pitches of the other instruments without matching them exactly. And the tape component was edited (by the composer and Valgeir Sigurðsson) with an ear-popping ruthlessness. More obviously, where Boulez’s convulsive rhythms and atonal harmonies reject the familiar, inhabitable spaces of classical music”””He takes the gargoyles,” composer Ned Rorem complained after hearing Répons, “and leaves the cathedral”””Muhly is willfully humane, pushing the drama of his tonal language across the threshold of camp. The aggression is ritualised, mitigated by an excess of style. A hushed, reverent interlude demonstrates that Muhly could never leave the cathedral too far behind, before the instruments literally race””Nancarrow-like””to the piece’s rhythmically virtuosic conclusion. – Notes © 2007 by Daniel Johnson

Pillaging Music is recorded on Bedroom Community Hvalur 001 (Nico Muhly Speaks Volumes).

[audio:05 Pillaging Music Excerpt.mp3]
Sam Solomon, percussion
Nico Muhly, keyboards


Nico & Sam during Pillaging Music rehearsal, Zankel Hall, 2007


Sam recording Pillaging Music in Brooklyn, 2006

Nico & Valgeir, Pillaging Music, Rotterdam

Nico & Valgeir playing Pillaging Music in Rotterdam, April, 2007

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