I Drink The Air Before Me

by Nico Muhly

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" I Drink the Air Before Me is an evening-length score for Stephen Petronio's dance piece bearing the same name. Inasmuch as it was celebrating Stephen's company's 25th anniversary, the piece wanted to be big, ecstatic, and celebratory. Our initial meeting, in which we discussed the structure of the work, yielded a sketch: a giant line, starting at the lower left hand side of a napkin, and ending in the upper right. Start small, get big! The rules: a children's choir should begin and end the piece. The work should relate to the weather: storms, anxiety, and coastal living. A giant build-up should land us inside the center of a storm, with whirling, irregular, spiral-shaped music and irregular, spiral-shaped dancing. Using these rules, I divided up the piece into a series of episodes all hinging around spiral-shaped constellations of notes. These are most audible in Music Under Pressure 3, and least audible when they are absent, in the diatonic, almost plainchant music that the choir sings at the end, the text of which comes from Psalm 19:

One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.

I wanted the ensemble to be a little quirky community of people living by the edge of the sea: a busybody flute, a wise viola, and the masculine, workmanlike bassoon, trombone, and upright bass. The piano acts as an agitator, an unwelcome visitor, bearing with it aggressive electronic noises and rhythmic interruptions. "

Nico Muhly


released September 6, 2010

This is a Bedroom Community Record

Also available on CD:
Nico Muhly A Good Understanding - with the Los Angeles Master Choral (Decca 2010)
Nico Muhly Mothertongue (Bedroom Community 2008)
Nico Muhly Speaks Volumes (Bedroom Community 2006)

released 06 September 2010
Produced by Dan Bora and Valgeir Sigurðsson

Alex Sopp Flute
Seth Baer Bassoon
Michael Clayville Trombone
Nico Muhly Piano
Nadia Sirota Viola
Logan Coale Bass
Young People's Chorus of New York, Choir, Francisco Nuñez, director
Programming by Valgeir Sigurðsson (Jagged Pulses) and Ben Frost (Salty Dog, Storm Center)

Engineered by Dan Bora
Recorded at Clinton Recording Studio, New York City
Studio Engineer: Bryan Smith
Assistant: Tim Mitchell
Mixed and mastered at Greenhouse Studios, Reykjavík by Dan Bora
Studio manager: Sturla Mio Þórisson
Assistant: Paul Evans
Interns: Clément LeMennicier, Ben Cosgrove

Cover photography by Sarah Silver
Artwork by Pierre Marly

Many thanks to Ryan Kelly for helping making this work exist live. Many thanks to Stephen Petronio for his beautiful explosion of these notes.



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the Bedroom Community record label

Bedroom Community is an Icelandic record label/collective formed in 2006 by Valgeir Sigurðsson, with Nico Muhly and Ben Frost, later adding Sam Amidon, Daníel Bjarnason, Puzzle Muteson and Paul Corley to the intimate roster.

"...the best record label in the whole of Iceland and maybe even the entire world" -Drowned in Sound
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