Nico Muhly on Music as Language and Writers in Paris
Part Two of the Composer's Conversation with Paul Holdengraber
In part two of their conversation composer Nico Muhly and Paul Holdengraber discuss the transcendence of great writing and the claustrophobia of a certain way of thinking about Paris. Head here to listen to part one.
Nico Muhly on friend Stephen Karam’s Tony-Award-winning play The Humans…
It’s something where the text itself—the acting has to keep the text afloat, there’s no silver bullet that, “Oh, this is the kind of virtuoso acting part that just needs to cut through the thing like a shark.” Everyone is working in tandem and working inside the space that David Zinn created. It really does feel like the claustrophobia of family. It’s not multi-generational Shakespearean dysfunction, it’s: We’re all in three rooms together, suffering and suffering.
Nico Muhly on the claustrophobia of Parisian writers…
Thinking about a lot of French writing about homes and Paris and how space works, it always feels like what they’re describing is a set of cigarette-infused Hollywood Squares, closed off environments where everyone’s really dysfunctional and Whoopi Goldberg is about to pop out somewhere, and it feels like there’s always a gridded claustrophobia to it.
Nico Muhly on thinking of music as a language…
The way I think about music [is] it starts with the friction of one sound against another, one pitch against another pitch, or one tiny gesture against another tiny gesture, and just the grain of language is really appealing to me. And when you look at, or when your read, or when you process, or when you memorize great text, and it can be anything—you can find great writing in the New York Times, you can find great writing in graffiti, you can find great writing in books. But when you find it, and it goes on, and it’s kind of virtuosically deployed, it feels to me like this incredibly musical thing, where it’s not an accidental friction that makes the spark between two words, or two sounds, or two even just parts of speech.
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