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Nico Muhly

Publisher: Chester Music

My Days (2012)
Work Notes
Commissioned by Wigmore Hall and Fretwork Ensemble.
St. Rose
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
16 Minutes
Countertenor, 2 Tenors, Bass

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Programme Note
Nico Muhly My Days (2012)
My Days is a ritualised memory piece about Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), written for two ensembles whose recordings informed so much of my musical development. I feel like I spend half of my life trying to trick string players to play like Fretwork, and vocalists to sing like the Hilliard Ensemble, so it was with enormous pleasure that I composed this piece. The text is derived from Psalm 39, which Gibbons himself set, as well as an account of Gibbons's own autopsy, which is a poignant 17th century semi-anonymous text. One of the most thrilling things about the sound of five violas da gamba playing together is the sense of their phrasing being derived from vocal music, but made, somehow, electric and ecstatic through ornamentation and the friction of the strings. The piece has an idée fixe based on a minor scale with two possible resolutions, and many ornaments. In between iterations, the voices, in rhythmic unison, intone the psalm. It isn't until the autopsy text arrives that the voices begin to split into more elaborate, ‘Gibbonsy’ verses and responses. A series of semi-improvised fragments on the text "Take thy plague away from me" introduces the third section of the piece, where plucked strings create a halo around the text, "hear my prayer, O Lord." The piece ends with the ornaments, wildly exploded, over the voices singing two words, endlessly repeated.

I'd like to enthusiastically thank Liam Byrne for all of his help both before and after I wrote My Days.

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