Utah Symphony Announces Commission by Composer Nico Muhly to Write Music Inspired by Southern Utah

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The Utah Symphony is pleased to announce it has commissioned preeminent contemporary American composer Nico Muhly to write a piece of music for the Utah Symphony to be inspired by Southern Utah's national parks and landscapes. The commission will be performed during the 2015-16 season, coinciding with the 75th anniversary celebrations of the orchestra.

"We are honored that Nico Muhly will be composing a new musical work to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Utah Symphony. Maurice Abravanel started an amazing tradition of pursuing adventurous programming by introducing new music and composers to Utah's audiences, and I am excited that this dynamic and creative young composer will be continuing this great legacy," said Music Director Thierry Fischer.

The eclectic and prolific Mr. Muhly has composed for the Chicago Symphony, The Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, violinist Hilary Hahn, percussionist Colin Currie, and many other individuals and organizations throughout the world. He has worked in collaboration with Icelandic pop star Björk on the DVD single "Oceania" in 2004, and as an editor, conductor, and keyboardist for iconic American composerPhilip Glass, who found in Mr. Muhly "a curious ear, a restless listening, and a maker of works. He's doing his own thing." A story published about Mr. Muhly in The New Yorker in 2013 states: "There is no evidence that his pace will slow, and Muhly has so far managed to vacillate in a healthy fashion between composing for large-scale institutions like the Met and small-scale affairs among peers."

"I am so delighted to have been asked to write a piece of orchestral music to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Utah Symphony," said the Manhattan-based Mr. Muhly. "I've spent time in Utah and have an enormous affinity for the intensities of the landscape. I'm looking forward to joining the orchestra on their Mighty 5 Tour to see other corners of the state and to spend time with the musicians in advance of our work together."

Said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President and CEO Melia Tourangeau: "Nico Muhly is an incredibly well-regarded and respected composer with innovative thoughts and perspectives on music. His enthusiasm for this project has been contagious and we are thrilled that he has agreed to fit this into his busy schedule. Our vision is to create a work that not only celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Utah Symphony, but also extols the beautiful landscape of the state and therefore showcases Utah as well as the orchestra on the national and international stage."

This August 2014, the Utah Symphony will embark upon an ambitious tour of southern Utah, and perform four free classical music concerts with the full orchestra against a backdrop of the state's national parks, known collectively as the Mighty 5.

Ms. Tourangeau recalls discussions surrounding a "visual element to the commission that would capture the beauty of Utah with the musical creation." Mr. Muhly and interactive video installation designer Joshua Higgason will join the orchestra on this national parks tour, allowing for research and inspiration of hearing the orchestra perform in the red rock country for which southern Utah is known. The video installation will accompany Mr. Muhly's piece as an important visual element illustrating the symbiotic relationship between sound and landscape in the creation of the commission "I always say that the arts are a calling card for the quality of life in any given community, and this project is a perfect example of showcasing the Utah Symphony and the fantastic state that supports it," said Ms. Tourangeau.

Added Maestro Fischer: "I am also extremely pleased that Nico Muhly will be joining the orchestra on the Mighty 5 Tour to southern Utah, where he will undoubtedly draw musical inspiration from and feel the deep connection to the landscape that resonates within our organization and the communities that we serve."

This will be the fifth commission and world premiere presented under the direction of Maestro Fischer, who has made commissioning new works by contemporary composers a core of his artistic vision. Other composers whose works have been commissioned and premiered by the Utah Symphony include Michael Jarrell, Simon Holt, Augusta Read Thomas, and Andrew Norman.


Joshua Higgason, Video Designer

Joshua Higgason is a video and interactive media designer for live performances. Recent Designs include "Platonov" (directed and adapted by Jay Scheib; The Kitchen (NYC), La Jolla Playhouse WoW Festival), "Powder her Face" with composer Thomas Ades (directed by Jay Scheib; New York City Opera); "World of Wires" (directed and adapted by Jay Scheib; The Kitchen (NYC), Krakow; MAC (Paris), La Lieu Unique, ICA-Boston); "Bellona, Destroyer of Cities" (directed and adapted by Jay Scheib; The Kitchen (NYC), MAC (Paris), ICA- Boston); "Ich Kurbisgeist" (Big Dance Theater; Chocolate Factory); and "Slow Fade to Black" (with Carrie Mae Weems, Gerri Allen, and Esperanza Spalding at Celebrate Brooklyn!)

He has toured nationally and internationally with experimental theater companies The Builders Association ("Continuous City"; "Jet Lag"; "House/Divided"; and "Sontag: Reborn"), Big Dance Theater (Comme Tu Jour; Supernatural Wife; Ich Kurbisgeist), Jim Findlay/Bang on a Can (Steel Hammer; George Crumb Festival), and musician Sufjan Stevens ("Age of Adz"). He has worked with Jim Findlay, Technical Artistry, Deborah Johnson/Candystations, Jeff Sugg, Pig Iron, and Theater for One/Christine Jones. His work has also been seen at Carnegie Hall, BAM, MassMoCA, Theatre National de Chaillot (Paris), the Planetarium at AMNH, Philly Live Arts, The Atlantic, Sotheby's, The Public, The Park Avenue Armory, The Box (NYC), and The Performing Garage. Upcoming projects include "Planetarium" (des. Deborah Johnson, BAM Opera House; Disney Concert Hall), "Sontag: Reborn" (scenic design; NYTW) and "Dream of a Red Chamber" (director Jim Findlay).

He has taught interactive video workshops at LIU Digital Media for Performance MFA program, Princeton University, NYU, and MIT. He is a co-founder of WORKHORSE, a video and interactive design company creating unique live experiences for events, concerts, opera, and theater. www.workhorse-ny.com.

Nico Muhly, Composer

Nico Muhly (b. 1981) is one of today's foremost composers with a wide scope of work written for soloists, ensembles, and organizations including pianist Emanuel Ax & mezzo-soprano Sophie von Otter, countertenor Iestyn Davies, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, American Ballet Theater, Paris Opéra Ballet, Barbican Centre and Wigmore Hall.

Film credits include Muhly's scores Best Picture nominee "The Reader" (2008) and the Sundance selection "Kill Your Darlings" (2013). With designer/illustrator Maira Kalman, Muhly composed a vocal work based on Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style", and he has worked with choreographer Benjamin Millepied to create new pieces for the American Ballet Theater, the Paris Opera Ballet, and the Nederlands Ballet.

He has also lent his skills as performer, arranger and conductor to other musicians, including Antony and the Johnsons (The Crying Light), Bjork (Medulla, Drawing Restraint 9, Volta), Bonnie "Prince" Billy (The Letting Go), Doveman (The Conformist), Grizzly Bear (Veckatimest), and Jonsi from Sigur Ros (Go).

Recordings of his work can be heard on a variety of labels including Bedroom Community, which he co-founded in 2007 with Icelandic musician and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson. Muhly's first full-scale opera, "Two Boys", had its U.S. premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 2013.

Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Muhly graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English Literature. In 2004, he received a Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School, where he studied under Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano. Beginning with his sophomore year of college, he worked for Philip Glass as a MIDI programmer and editor for six years. His writings and full schedule can be found at www.nicomuhly.com.

About the Utah Symphony

Founded in 1940, the Utah Symphony is dedicated to providing Utah residents and visitors with great performances which engage, educate and enrich lives. Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, the orchestra's parent organization, reaches 450,000 residents in Utah and the Intermountain region, with educational outreach programs serving more than 155,000 students annually. The orchestra presents more than 70 performances each season in Abravanel Hall, participates in the Utah Opera's four annual productions at the Capitol Theatre, in addition to numerous community concerts throughout Utah and the annual outdoor summer series - the Deer Valley® Music Festival -in Park City, Utah. With its many subscription, education, and outreach concerts and tours the Utah Symphony is one of the most engaged full-time orchestras in the nation. For more information visit www.utahsymphony.org.

Season Sponsor for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

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