If you can ignore Aled Jones, listen to the Muhly music

Aled Jones has a wonderful skill: no matter what the subject matter is, about which he is discoursing, he always manages to sound as though it’s all about himself. I’m nore sure how he accomplishes this feat; it’s a tricky one to pull off, when you’re not actually discoursing at length about, well, yourself.

If you can get past his involvement in the programme, though, then listen to ‘The Choir’ on Radio 3 iPlayer from yesterday, for a chance to hear an interview with, and music by, composer Nico Muhly.

Steeped in the English choral tradition, Muhly writes some transclucent gems for choir – several sections of his ‘Bright Mass with Canons’ are featured in the broadcast, as well as ‘Archive’ from Mothertongue, which explores (as Muhly indicates in interview) the emotional associations people can have with mundane collections of letters and numbers such as area postcodes and telephone numbers.

Muhly comes across as lively, garrulous and full of vibrant enthusiasm for music; he’s a terrifically articulate guest, who readily trounces the idea of the composer as Romantic master scribing giant masterpieces; there’s a moment where, when asked about the future of his music, he negates the idea that, as a mdern composer, he is looking to ‘take over the world with my next symphonic gesture… I’d rather go home and pat the dog.’

Such a down-to-earth and readily communicative personality should not belie the fact that Muhly writes some of the most exciting and colourful compositions around at the moment in a musical language which combines accessibility with sheer joy in inventive writing, whether the skirling patterns of Motion or the dynamic rhythmic punch of Step Team, or the evocative string instrument soundworld behind the tenor soloist in Impossible Things.

The whole programme is online for a week here.

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