Ever wondered what your favourite artists listen to? As part of our new regular series, we’ll be asking our performers to curate a GuestMix for Barbican Radio – a place where we get to share what we’re listening to, whether it be artists soon appearing on our stages or just those songs we can’t get out of our heads…
In our first GuestMix, Nico Muhly talks us through some of his favourite tracks…
‘I organised this playlist around three central themes: Mountains & Bodies of Water, Canada, and Organ Music.’
mountain, David Lang
David Lang’s mountain was commissioned by Bryce Dessner’s MusicNOW festival last year. It is essentially a static piece of orchestra music, designed to evoke the idea of an unchanging mountain looming in the distance.
‘Ocean Chorus’ from The Death of Klinghoffer, John Adams
John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer has seven choruses in it, four of which explicitly depict nature: Ocean, Night, Desert, and Day. ‘The Ocean Chorus’ is the slowest and most mysterious of the four, its text, by Alice Goodman, contains this powerful vision: ‘Here is a semblance of the first man; sinewy, translucent, thick with life, superficially violent, inwardly calm.’
‘I thought after all this intense orchestra music it would be nice to have a single voice singing a sad song…’
Poke a Pal, Mugison
Mugison is an Icelandic singer-songwriter whom I love, and this song is brilliant, and I thought after all this intense orchestra music it would be nice to have a single voice singing a sad song.
‘Is there a chorus better than this chorus?’
Lewis takes off his shirt, Owen Pallett
Owen Pallett begins our Canadian explorations. I love this song the most. Sonically, it’s sort of curious and almost aggressive, but always ecstatic. Digital noises fade in and out of a texture of expensive-seeming strings and possibly electronic drums — here, as in many places in Owen’s work, the contrast between the digital and the analog is deliberately fugued. Is there a chorus better than this chorus?
duet for heart & breath, Richard Reed Parry
Richard Reed Parry, featured in various guises in Mountains & Waves, is not, as far as I can tell, playing the simplest iteration of his large project ‘Music for Heart and Breath’, in which the speed of the performers’ heartbeats and breathing patterns informs the way the composition unfolds in live performance. This is the composer himself, with violist extraordinaire Nadia Sirota.
‘I can never figure out if his music is adequately appreciated in England…’
Moondog! He wrote for the organ sometimes! Moondog is great. I can never figure out if his music is adequately appreciated in England; I feel like a few years ago I couldn’t open a door without Joanna MacGregor, OBE, and the Britten Sinfonia bursting through with a new Moondog arrangement for piano and small ensemble, but I haven’t seen it in a minute.
Gelobet Seist Du, Jesu Christ, Dietrich Buxtehude
Then, a bit of Buxtehude because he is the 17th century organist whose playing was so delicious that Bach evidently walked 400km just to hear him play.
In C, Terry Riley (Shanghai Film Chinese Orchestra)
Then, to finish off, we have Terry Riley’s seminal In C, but here played by Chinese instruments, which is alluringly thrilling for those of us used to playing it with our pianos and clarinets.
Nico Muhly joins Richard Reed Parry, eighth blackbird, Bryce Dessner and more to perform Terry Riley’s In C at Mountains & Waves and hear the premiere of Muhly’s Alan Turing inspired opera, Sentences with Britten Sinfonia on Saturday 6 June.
Photo: Matthew Murphy