Seeing Is Believing by Nico Muhly

NPR story about “Seeing is Believing” and Nico Muhly

Seeing is Believing references the exciting and superstitious practice of observing and mapping the sky; while writing it, I wanted to mimic the process by which, through observation, a series of points becomes a line ““ this seemed like the most appropriate way to think about a soloist versus an orchestra. The electric violin is such a specifically evocative instrument and has always reminded me of the 1980′s, and I tried, at times, to reference the music attendant to 80′s educational videos about science, which always sounded vast and mechanical “” and sometimes, quite romantic.

The music begins and ends with the violin creating its own stellar landscape through a looping pedal, out of which instruments begin to articulate an unchanging series of eleven chords which governs the harmonic language of the piece. Three minutes in, the woodwinds begin twittering in what seems to be random, insect-like formations. Eventually, the piano and solo violin “map” them into the celestially pure key of C major; rapturous pulses ensue. A slightly more stylized and polite version of the insect music appears, and the violin sings long lines above it. After a brief return to the first music, slow, nervous music alternates with fast, nervous music. The fast music takes over, pitches are scattered around, the violin calls everybody back to order with forty repeated notes; rapturous pulses again ensue. The piece ends as it began, with looped educational music depicting the night sky.

Instrumentation: Solo Six-String Electric Violin, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet in Bb, Bassoon, Horn in F, Trumpet in C, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Percussion (1 Player) Marimba, Vibraphone, Metal Pipe, Woodblock, Bass Drum, Claves, Piano / Celesta, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass (with extension)
Premiere January 7, 2008
The Royal Academy of Music, London

Links:

Nico Muhly, Website

Return To Projects