Monday, 25 January 2010

Nico Muhly - Roundhouse

Nico Muhly appears on stage in a flash. He wants to get on with things. Dressed in various layers of black, slightly at odds with his sunny disposition, he launches into Philip Glass's solo piano piece Mad Rush. Clearly included as a nod of respect to his one time teacher, it's a less than enthralling start to a concert by America's new composing wunderkind. Fortunately things pick-up significantly with the arrival of vocalist and guitarist Sam Amidon, one of many non-classical artists Muhly has worked with of late. And a great combination this has turned out to be. While Amidon sings his folky songs, Muhly's imagination is given full reign with his orchestral backdrops (complete with sinister sound effects) that never overwhelm but change the colour and drama of what's being sung by stealth. It's almost hallucinogenic in its effect.

The concert concluded with Steve Reich's City Life which sounded a little pedestrian by comparison. But it soon found its noisy New York groove, serving as a useful reminder the debt the promising Muhly owes to the elder statesman of American music.

The Roundhouse is used for the BBC's Electric Proms. How about using it for the Proms proper? As was clearly demonstrated last night, there is a large and mostly young crowd out there with broad tastes who like new music and ideas for the sake of it. Maybe the Proms should think of ways to cater for this audience who thankfully don't seem to have hang-ups about music categorisation.

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