What You Compose in Your 30s

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They say you really hit your stride in your 30s. This week on the New Canon, we hear early works of Kaija Saariaho and Jennifer Higdon from this seminal time in their careers, as well as 31-year-old Nico Muhly’s latest collaboration with organist James McVinnie on our album of the week, entitled "Cycles."

Building on an already fruitful collaboration, organist James McVinnie’s latest album is entirely made up of compositions by Nico Muhly. The trajectory of the album explores the outer limits of the instrument’s capabilities, from the perpetual-motion drive of The Revd Mustard his Installation Prelude to the more magisterial and spacious Slow Twitchy Organs. Stream the entire album in full all this week.

Originally commissioned for the Kronos String Quartet by Lincoln Center in 1987, Kaija Saariaho’s Nymphéa for string quartet and live electronics draws from seemingly disparate sources: technology and impressionism. While the harmonies of the work are based on a computer analysis of the tone of a cello, then 35-year-old composer also cited Claude Monet’s paintings of water lilies as the inspiration for the symmetry and structure of this ethereal work.

At 35, Jennifer Higdon was similarly commissioned to write a brand new string quartet, which resulted in a work inspired by the colors and moods of the temperamental Colorado sky. We hear two movements from the energetic Sky Quartet, here performed by the Serafin String Quartet.