“Tell the Way is a collection of songs about traveling, lying, murder, and drowning. I started this collection thinking about the travels of Sir John Mandeville, a chronicler of lies and also a semi-historical fact. The piece is held up by three characters we meet along the way: Bishi, Sam Amidon, and Bryce Dessner; each has contributed startling images, from a shallow-dug grave to the Eiffel Tower and an ecstatic vision of Greek Orthodoxy.” —Nico Muhly
Tell the Way was commissioned and developed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with funds from Meet the Composer and the Educational Foundation of America.
Nico Muhly – Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, RI, New York-based composer Nico Muhly graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English Literature. In 2004, he received a Masters in Music from the Juilliard School, where he studied under Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano.
A former boy chorister, Muhly has composed extensively for choir, including commissions from the Clare College Choir and Brooklyn Youth Chorus. New York’s St. Thomas Church commissioned and performed his Bright Mass with Canons, later recorded on their American Voices album and on the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s all-Muhly Decca debut, A Good Understanding.
His orchestral works have been premiered by the American Symphony Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra (Seeing is Believing), the Boston Pops (Wish You Were Here), the New York Philharmonic (Detailed Instructions) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Step Team).
Film credits include Muhly’s scores for Joshua (2007), and Academy Award® Best Picture nominee The Reader (2008). 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 (From Here On Out) and the Paris Opéra Ballet (Triade), and the Nederlands Ballet (One Things Leads to Another). He has also lent his skills as performer, arranger and conductor to the other musicians, including Antony and the Johnsons (The Crying Light), Björk (Medúlla, Drawing Restrint 9, Volta), Bonnie “Prince” Billy (The Letting Go), Doveman (The Conformist), Grizzly Bear (Veckatimest), and Jonsi from Sigur Rós (Go).
Among his most frequent collaborators are his colleagues at Bedroom Community, an artist-run label headed by Icelandic musician Valgeir Sigurðsson and inaugurated by the release of Muhly’s first album, Speaks Volumes (2007). Leading up to Speaks Volumes‘s American release, Muhly was invited to present concerts of his chamber music at both Carnegie Hall and the Whitney Museum. Since then, Muhly has released a second album, Mothertounge (2008), and worked closely with label mates, Valgeir, Ben Frost, and Sam Amidon on their respective solo releases. Valgeir collaborated with Muhly and performer Christophe Laudamiel to create the “scent opera” Green Aria (2009), which premiered at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and on the ballet I Drink the Air Before Me, commissioned by the Stephen Petronio Dance Company for their 25th anniversary and released on CD by Decca in the fall of 2010.
Recently, Muhly has begun composing for operatic voices. Carnegie Hall commissioned his song The Adulteress for soprano Jessica Rivera’s 2009 Carnegie debut, and that same year, countertenor David Daniels and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields performed his Vocalise and Drones on arias by Handel. 2010 saw the premiere of Impossible Things, a new song cycle for tenor Mark Padmore, violinst Pekka Kuusisto, and the Britten Sinfonia, and for 2011, the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater Opera/Theater Commissions program co-commissioned Two Boys (libretto by Craig Lucas, directed by Bartlett Sher), Muhly’s first full-scale opera to be premiered in a co-production with English National Opera, follwed by Dark Sisters (a libretto by Stephen Karam and directed by Taichman), co-commissioned by the Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
American Contemporary Music Ensemble – Led by artistic director and cellist Clarice Jensen, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) is dedicated to the outstanding performance of masterworks from the 20th and 21st centuries, primarily the work of American composers. The ensemble aims to present cutting-edge contemporary literature by living composers, alongside the “classics” of the contemporary. Known for their work with the Wordless Music Series as well as indie music icons such as Grizzly Bear, ACME’s dedication to cutting-edge contemporary literature extends across genres, and has earned them a reputation among both classical and rock crowds. Time Out New York calls them “one of New York’s brightest new music indie-bands.” ACME has performed at (Le) Poisson Rouge, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Tenri Cultural Institute, the Noguchi Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Flea Theater, and Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, among others.
Since its first New York concert season in 2004, the ensemble has performed works by John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Caleb Burhans, John Cage, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Jacob Druckman, Jefferson Friedman, Philip Glass, Charles Ives, Donald Martino, Olivier Messiaen, Nico Muhly, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Arnold Schoenberg, Ryan Streber, Toru Takemitsu, Kevin Volans, Charles Wuorinen, Iannis Xenakis, Chen Yi, and more.
ACME’s dedication to presenting new music extends across genres—the ensemble has collaborated with bands and artists including Grizzly Bear (in concert and on their best-selling album, Veckatimest, featuring strings by Nico Muhly); electronica duo Matmos (on The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast, with strings by Jefferson Friedman); Craig Wedren (former frontman of the avant-rock band Shudder To Think); prepared-pianist Hauschka; composers/performers Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran, and Micachu & The Shapes.
Other recent highlights include ACME’s Carnegie Hall debut performing the world premiere of Timothy Andres’ Senior with the New York Youth Symphony in Stern Auditorium; opening the TriBeCa New Music Festival at the Flea Theater performing works by young American composers Jefferson Friedman, Caleb Burhans, Ryan Streber, and Nico Muhly; and a month-long residency at the Whitney Museum presented by the Wordless Music Series, for which ACME tailored a contemporary classical program to complement the indie-rock or electronica performer sharing the concert.
In addition to a January tour with chart-topping pianist Simone Dinnerstein, 2010 concert highlights included a performance of Gorecki’s String Quartet No. 2 opening for Polish electroacoustic musician Jacaszek; a concert of music by John Luther Adams and Kevin Volans; and a performance of the music of Louis Andriessen, all at (Le) Poisson Rouse. In 2011, ACME performs in a concert curated and sponsored by the contemporary classical web community Sequenza 21; with Brooklyn Youth Chorus at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Nico Muhly’s new work Tell the Way in February; at The Kitchen during April’s 21c Liederabend produced in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects, Opera On Tap, and VisionIntoArt; and as part of the MATA Festival in May.
Sam Amidon – Born in 1981 and raised in Vermont by folk-musician parents, Sam Amidon’s albums are Solo Fiddle (2001), But This Chicken Proved Falsehearted (2007), All Is Well (2008), and I See The Sign (2010). About I See The Sign, Pitchfork magazine said, “He has managed to meld the rural and the urban, the organic and the synthetic, the oral tradition and the written score;” and in response to All is Well, Rolling Stone said that “in an era of overheated Nick Drake comparisons, Amidon is eerily close to the real thing.” Sam frequently collaborates with producer Valgier Sigurdsson, Thomas Barlett, Shahzad Ismaily, Beth Orton and Nico Muhly, for whom Sam premiered the piece Two Sisters at Carnegie Hall in 2009. Having been based in New York for the last 10 years, he went through a phase of itinerancy and now spends a lot of time in London. His last NYC appearance was his November 2010 solo show Home Alone Inside My Head at The Kitchen. Whenever it gets to be around October, Sam misses Vermont – maybe he’ll get to go back there next Autumn, that would be nice!
Bishi – “The most wonderful part of Bishi’s appeal is that she appeals to so many.” (The New York Times) Singer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ Bishi was born in London to a Bengali musical family; her mother is an EMI signed artist to this day. She has studed Sitar at The Ravi Shankar School for Music and has a passion for English Folk, the Avant Garde and Progressive Pop.
Her first alubm, Night at The Circus, was critically acclaimed and nominated for a number of awards. An exploration of urban life seen through a tapestry of East London’s folklore, social politics and dramatic history — it received a warm reception from a wide audience and was performed in its entirety by The London Symphony Orchestra.
With long term collaborator Matthew Hardern she has presented multimedia shows in concert halls and art galleries internationally. Recently, they have been exploring the musical and performance potential of interactive technology. With great support from print media, radio, and TV, she is recognized as one of the most promising new talents from the UK.
Bryce Dessner – Bryce Dessner is a composer/guitarist based in New York City, best known as the guitarist for the acclaimed rock band The National. Their albums Alligator (2005) and Box (2007) were need albums of the decade in publications throughout the world. Their most recent release, High Violet (2010), debuted at #3 on the US Billboard chart and at #4 on the world album charts. In 2010, The National won album of the year at London’s prestigious Q Awards. Dessner has also received widespread acclaim as a new music composer and guitarist. His recent commissions include ongoing collaborations with the Kronos Quartet and The Long Count, a song cycle for the 2009 BAM Next Wave Festival. In 2001-12, Bryce will present new work for the American Composers Orchestra, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Bang on a Can All-stars, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the Calder String Quartet. As a guitarist Bryce has performed and/or recorded with some of the world’s most creative musicians including songwriters Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver and Antony Hegarty, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly and Michael Gordon, and visual artist Matthew Ritchie. Bryce is the founder and artistic director of the Music Now Festival in Cincinnati, now in its sixth season.
“The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, whose haunting, cherubic voices provide both foundation and grace note for the songs, is joined onstage by Muhly and his three collaborators, as well as the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.” —The Last Magazine
“More than any thematic thread, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus gave the evening consistency, as did American Contemporary Music Ensemble, who performed as a string quartet with a trombonist and a percussionist attached.” —Brooklyn Vegan