Nico Muhly

November 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

I’ve been web following Nico Muhly for maybe a month now. Here is a run down wikipedia style. Nico Muhly (born August 26, 1981) is a contemporary Western classical music composer. He has collaborated with many musical artists including most notably Bjork and Philip Glass. Speaks Volumes is his first released album of composed works (2006), followed by Mothertongue (2008). He has been commissioned to write an opera that will debut at the Met in the 2013-2014 season. This is only a sprinkling of everything he has done/has going on.

I first became aware of Muhly watching the Philip Glass documentary “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts.” If you’ve seen it, he is the charming, suspectedly gay, fast-talking, very young assistant helping Glass midi a score for a film. From youtube videos I’ve watched, he is an incredibly engaging interviewee. He seems to truly, egolessly love what he’s doing. You kind of instantly wish you were his friend.

Really what I wanted to write a review of was the work Mothertongue on the album of same name. I’ve read at least one description of Muhly as a Philip Glass protoge, which I will refrain from doing (although I guess I just did in a way) because I don’t like the idea that an artist exists only as a protoge of someone else. But I think the music world is desparately looking for the next big future important modern composer given that Glass is pushing 75, not to sound too morbid or anything, Glass will probably be around for another thirty years.

I was suspect of Muhly’s success being in some way a function of his charm, which it may be to an extent (anyone’s “success” is this to an extent), but when I heard Mothertongue I stopped caring about that. Again, I hate using Glass as a reference, but it’s kind of like Einstein on the Beach in a Blender. Where Glass uses order, Muhly seems to have more of a tendency to use chaos. Here is Muhly performing a work on the Mothertongue album called Skip Town, a piano work with sampling, and I think the piano is prepared also, he is achieving a percussion effect somehow. It is fascinating in the way it is simultaneously melodic and chaotic.

The Mothertongue work itself is really fascinating and worth a listen to.

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The Deep Dip, The Middle-way, The Highness, The Highness Above the Highness, The Outward Regions by Kim Parko

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Witz by Joshua Cohen (Review)

October 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Here is going to be me writing my thoughts in a “review” of Witz by Joshua Cohen.

The language. Movement, with words similarlying other words close to gathering and happening into each other. Wordcollisions ala Finnegans Wake. Alliteration ala Gass. Allusionrich as G’s Rainbow. You’ve heard all this. This book was called Witz by Joshua Cohen. (Why?) The language is movement and often so playful it is often so difficult to grasp cruxes. Sheesh, this Yiddish! Does it work? Many sentences struck me as very brilliantly constructed, but the hurriedness of it all, the jokes that fell flat, stick in my mind as well. It’s as if, I felt, the reader is simply to ride the wave, that the details, don’t focus for too long, for too many lungs. A lot of it is it is very repetitive very (mensch for men, over and over, and over (again (hymn for hmm (?), over and over, (again))) and the allusions begin to fall into the background of the thing and contribute to the texture of the prose more than poke the intellectual curiosity of me, this reader. Like going to church to listen to the choir.

On allusions. So what. So they are there. So what. Gorgeous clever. Does it ever transcend clever? The importance of foreskin and its coming off of it: Well, sir, isn’t circumcision really the one real Jewish practice that has moved beyond it and become popular, sir, a thing most Christians do now? I’m sitting here writing this not Jewish and snipped. So what. So I make connections like these or I don’t. Who cares. The importance of re-birth! The important of religionspeak! The importance of something! Etc! How many times do you listen to a song before realizing what the lyrics of the song are about. Lazy listener. Listen and pay attention to the words of the song dammit!

A plot summary is at wikipedia including a half-assed ending (He turns into a cow? He turns into a woman? Santa Clause? Holy moly!) Read that it you want. That’s basically it.

So is Cohen just an arrogant futz? I felt a lot while reading (w)it(z) that man, this guy is antagonistically daring me to read this whole fucker. And you get closer and closer to the end and he hits you with the seventh like a pan in the forehead. Don’t even try to finish it. If you do, don’t even try to review it or have a coherent, a Cohenent conversation with someone about it. Jokes on you mthafcka for bothering. This book might be about this thing singular: Cohen declaring himself God.

The thing is this book is either a massive joke or a joke of massive greatness. Who knows. I don’t know if it moves far enough beyond Cohen’s own solipsistic intentions to last. Or maybe that’s the point? I’ve thought too much about all this really and am ready to move on and read a book I’ve been putting off called Tristram Shandy. The end.

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