Nico Muhly

"Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English composers of religious music, in particular William Byrd and John Taverner, are among Muhly's (Nico Muhly, the 26-year-old American classical and electroacoustic composing prodigy) chief influences, though he also draws musical inspiration from the spare repetitions of Philip Glass and Steve Reich and from the off-kilter rhythms of songs by Björk, whose recordings he has worked on. ... "

Philip Glass, for whom Muhly has worked since his sophomore year of college, at Columbia, says that he finds in Muhly 'a curious ear, a restless listening, and a maker of works. He's doing his own thing.' (Although Muhly is much in demand as a composer in his own right, he still has a day job, which includes feeding Glass's film-music manuscripts into a computer program that can play the scores.)

Following the model of Glass, Muhly prefers to have his work performed as often as possible, and in as many different contexts as possible, rather than refining his compositions within the academy. In the past year, American Ballet Theatre staged a ballet, 'From Here on Out,' on which Muhly collaborated with Benjamin Millepied; the Boston Pops premièred his composition 'Wish You Were Here'; and he made his Carnegie Hall début as a composer, when a program of his works, which he paired with Renaissance choral music, was performed in Zankel Hall. ..."

When Muhly composes, the last thing he thinks about is the actual notes that musicians will play. He begins with books and documents, YouTube videos and illuminated manuscripts. He meditates on this material, digesting its ironies and appreciating its aesthetics. Meanwhile, he devises an emotional scheme for the piece-the journey on which he intends to lead his listener. ..."Muhly usually composes on sheets of manuscript paper, though sometimes he also uses an electronic keyboard, which sits on his desk next to two large computer monitors. One afternoon when I was watching him at work, one screen displayed two pages of a score, and the other showed his e-mail inbox and several open instant-message chats with friends. (Muhly does not require silence or seclusion while working and, in addition to conducting multiple online conversations while composing, often has several online games of Scrabble under way.) ..."

Muhly started to play the organ in addition to the piano; one day when he was ten, his mother took him to Trinity Church, in Boston, where she knew the assistant organist, ... [who] asked if he would like to play something. He sat down and his feet couldn't even reach the pedals. He said, 'I am going to play some Bach,' and this big sound came roaring out of the organ. There were all these people taking a tour of the church who were saying, 'Who's playing?,' because he was only four feet tall. That afternoon, [she] recalls, Muhly started composing his first piece of music, a setting of a Kyrie for choir, on a napkin at a coffee shop in Harvard Square. 'He wrote it vertically- all the parts simultaneously,' she says. 'He was thinking in chords, rather than in individual lines. He said, 'That's how I hear it.' ' "Rebecca Mead, "Eerily Composed," The New Yorker, February 11 & 18, 2008, pp. 74- 78.