Ear Supply: Obsessive and Ecstatic

The latest from one of America's busiest young composers.

It's emblematic of Seattle Symphony conductor Ludovic Morlot's devotion to new music that the first commission of his tenure (co-sponsored with orchestras in Manitoba and Ontario) was given to Nico Muhly—arranger for Björk and amanuensis to Philip Glass, among other resume highlights—who's surely the highest-profile composer of his age (30) today. It speaks to Morlot's desire to keep SSO audiences abreast of classical music's newest and most buzzed-about names and developments. After spending years birthing two operas (the second, Two Boys, premiered in London in June and is slated for a Met production in 2013–14), Muhly had stored up ideas for this project—a sort of bucket list for a work in which he could do whatever he wanted without being tied to a libretto. The result is the 17-minute So Far So Good, which the SSO will premiere this weekend. "I knew there were a couple things I wanted to do in the piece—all my weird obsessions." he says. "I've never written anything big for trumpet, so I knew there was going to be a big trumpet thing. There's also a kind of obsessive drone section where all the pitches just kind of collapse into one note." Muhly also relished the opportunity for "large sonorities, where everyone's playing the same chord . . . almost like listening to a crowd of people speak, a kind of ecstatic mumbling, and that's sort of how it ends." (The title refers to a process of constant unfolding and transformation, a central concept of the piece.) 

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