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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: September 9, 2011 Archive

The SPCO Helps Nico Muhly to Learn From Himself

Posted at 4:50 PM on September 9, 2011 by Hans Buetow


Tonight, composer Nico Muhly will debut a new piece, Luminous Body, with Cantus and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul.

Yesterday, Muhly wrote an essay on his website about the frustrations of composing for orchestras. His contention centers around the problems associated with obtaining a recording of a piece from the orchestra. Often, when rehearsals or concerts are recorded by orchestras, those recordings are severely restricted in their distribution, which means that even the composer, whose music was featured by the ensemble, cannot hear what was played. As Muhly illustrates, these restrictions are not only frustrating, but are damaging to a composer's ability to grow and learn from his or her experience of composing for an orchestra.

As a contrast to the severe restrictions imposed by most professional orchestras, Muhly cites his experience working this week with the SPCO on Luminous Body, and how he "walked into the St Paul Chamber Orchestra just now and immediately signed a waiver saying that [he] can get a high-quality CD of the piece as long as [he doesn't] put it online!"

This attitude displayed by the SPCO towards cooperative rights with composers and media partners is one of the shining examples in the orchestra world. MPR has a relationship with the SPCO that goes back to our first recording of a concert in 1967. We are currently working with the SPCO to digitize all of the old reels we keep in our archive, and will hopefully be able make them publicly available to everyone, a project that has no precedent in the orchestral or radio world.

To see what a difference it makes to work with a group like the SPCO, check out the Classical MPR Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra page on the Classical MPR website. There, you can stream a huge number of concerts, each recorded and broadcast in partnership with MPR.

To hear Luminous Body, tune in to Classical MPR on Saturday, September 10th at 8pm CT for a live broadcast of the concert, hosted by MPR's Alison Young.

WARNING: Nico Muhly uses a few words of strong language in his essay.

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