|Composer Nico Muhly|
Photo: Ana Cuba
“Muhly, a renowned artist, took advantage of the USUO-contracted theme of Utah’s southerly landscape by accompanying the orchestra on their Mighty 5 tour of Utah’s national parks last year. Muhly illustrates the parks’ “interactive state” with people—whether it be early settlers’ industriousness in reaction to the severity of the landscape or our current stewardship to protect it—hence the name “Control.” Noting that an orchestra is a “big organism,” Muhly regards this commission as “a big orchestra piece with a bunch of zoomed-in sections,” he says. “It’s massive—it’s a very vertical piece of music.” In the five movements of “Control,” Muhly underscores particular instruments, citing a section “where all it has to do with is trombones” and “30 flutes and a glockenspiel going” in another section as examples.
Where Muhly considers viewing this “alien landscape” as the main activity by which to absorb it, “Control” simulates the human activity of “peeking in on a process” of expansive geology. “There’s a lot of movement; there’s a lot of gestural content,” he says. “There’s a lot of chunky things to get involved in.” That’s not to suggest that “Control” offers 1:1 aural representations of the landscape, but that the listening experience should be akin to “working the land” as early Utah settlers did to survive it. With other sections, however, “Control” will exhibit a “dramatically narrative” sense of itself to evince the virtual limitlessness of this natural process. “I’m really interested in creating unexpected sonic shifts where there’s something enormous and there’s something tiny, and they’re all coexisting,” he says.
Labels: Alexander Ortega, DawnToDust, Nico Muhly, Slug Magazine, Utah Symphony