Listen Now: Seeing is Believing

Thomas Gould and the Aurora Orchestra with violinist Nicholas Collon

Monday, June 13, 2011

This audio is no longer available.
Nico Muhly has a flair for entrances. His 2007 album, Speaks Volumes, opens with a cello towards the apex of its register that quickly takes a multi-octave plunge. 2008’s Mothertongue launches with a repeated high-octane read-through of the alphabet. Last year’s I Drink the Air Before Me pierces with a series of staccato arrows paired with more luscious, ominous rumbles, while its sister release, A Good Understanding, is heralded by a bracing organ flourish.

Civitas sancti tui by William Byrd Varied though these opening salvos may be, they always signal a true listening experience. And with his newest disc for Decca, Seeing is Believing, Muhly does not let us (or our eager ears) down: A repeated arabesque on a violin curves and twirls as several other layers of strings and percussion are added to the dervish, at once complementing and contrasting the title work’s first four notes, culminating with the addition of winds. It’s not unlike the ever-expanding universe, the mapping of which inspired this concerto for solo electric six-string violin. For nearly 30 minutes, Muhly holds our rapt attention, referencing influences from former mentor Philip Glass to Stravinsky circa Rite of Spring and Ravel at his most impressionistic.

Muhly boasts a refined sophistication tempered with a cheeky sense of humor that allows the listener to trust his impulses and musical whims implicitly. For such an invigorating piece, it’s a comfort to be able to slip into Seeing is Believing and go along for the ride, not once worrying about missing a turn or stopping for gas. Thomas Gould and the Aurora Orchestra, in tandem with the composer, are in complete control of this transformative work, pairing it with a trio of shorter but equally engaging works, (Motion, By All Means and Step Team) that show Muhly to be an obsessive student of music history (By All Means is, for example, a response to Webern’s Concerto for 9 Instruments) but possessive of his own unique, and uniquely complicated, voice.

Seeing is Believing will be released June 21, 2011 but you will be able to hear it streaming on-demand here and at NPR Music: First Listen until then.


More in:

Comments [2]

The audio is still available at NPR/music,

the whole album or individual tracks,

Jun. 22 2011 09:31 AM

I wish my music vocabulary was more mature: This piece pulls, shoves, pokes and drives your mind and spirit on a fantastic adventure with the excitement being that you’re not sure where you’re going to end up. Outstanding, Nico!

Jun. 22 2011 07:09 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Q2 Music

Q2 Music is WQXR’s multiplatform home for musical discovery and dynamic new classical music from trailblazing composers, ensembles and leading New York new-music venues. Q2 Music's 24/7 stream lives online at and is accessible via the free WQXR app.


Follow Q2 Music