Muhly, Nico

Nico Muhly
Nico Muhly 2014.jpg
Nico Muhly in 2014
Born (1981-08-26) August 26, 1981 (age 36)
Vermont, United States
Alma mater

Nico Muhly (/ˈnk ˈmjuːli/; born August 26, 1981) is an American contemporary classical music composer and arranger,[1] who has worked and recorded with classical and pop/rock musicians. He currently lives in the Lower East Side section of Manhattan in New York City. He is a member of the Icelandic music collective/recording label Bedroom Community.


Early years

Muhly was born in Vermont and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. His mother, Bunny Harvey,[2] is a painter and teacher at Wellesley College, and his father, Frank Muhly, is a documentary filmmaker.[3]

As a child, Muhly sang in the choir at Grace Episcopal Church in Providence,[4] and he started to study piano at 10.[3]

Muhly went on to study at the Wheeler School in Providence. He then attended Columbia University where he received an undergraduate degree in English, and the Juilliard School where he completed a master's degree in music. He also studied composition with John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse.[5]

Musical works

In 2005, Muhly was commissioned by Colorado Academy, a private school in Colorado, to write a song for the opening of their new Fine Arts building.

Muhly worked in collaboration with Björk on the DVD single "Oceania" in 2004,[6] and he worked with Philip Glass as an editor, conductor, and keyboardist.[6]

In 2006, he released his first album of works, titled Speaks Volumes.[7] In 2008, he released his second album, titled Mothertongue.[8][9]

In 2009, Muhly did choral and string quartet arrangements for four of the songs on Brooklyn-based indie rock band Grizzly Bear's third album, Veckatimest,[10] and he worked with Antony and the Johnsons on the albums The Crying Light and Swanlights.

In a 2007 interview with Molly Sheridan on NewMusicBox, Muhly explained that while he considers himself a classical music composer, that does not preclude his working in a variety of musical genres: "It's essentially like being from somewhere. I feel like I'm very proudly from the classical tradition. It's like being from Nebraska. Like you are from there if you're from there. It doesn't mean that you can't have a productive life somewhere else. The notion of your genre being something that you have to actively perform, I think is pretty vile."[11]

Muhly worked on two commissions for the UK-based Britten Sinfonia, performed in January and February 2010. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival commissioned "Drones & Piano" for pianist Bruce Brubaker, which premiered in May 2010.[12]

Muhly's opera Two Boys, a collaboration with librettist Craig Lucas and directed by Bartlett Sher, premiered in June 2011 at the English National Opera and made its Metropolitan Opera debut on October 21, 2013.[13][14][15] According to a 2008 New York Times article, the opera is based on a late-1990s British case involving a 14-year-old boy taking on the online identity of women to try to get someone to kill him, without success.[16] However, in a 2008 interview with The Advocate, Muhly stated that the opera is based on the true story of an online friendship between two male teenagers, one of whom kills the other.[3] The opera was re-worked both before and after its 2011 premiere. The first recording of the piece, from the Met production, was released on Nonesuch Records in 2014.[17]

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Commissioning Club, Cantus, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Alfred P. and Ann M. Moore commissioned Luminous Body, also a collaboration with librettist Craig Lucas. The piece premiered on September 9, 2011.[18]

In 2013, he toured with Glen Hansard. They performed together with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Eindhoven and Amsterdam.

His 2008 musical collaboration, Confessions, with Faroese singer-songwriter Teitur was released in 2016 by Nonesuch Records.

Compositions and projects

Arrangements and orchestrations


  • 2007 – Speaks Volumes (Bedroom Community HVALUR1) (Includes Clear Music; It Goes without Saying; Honest Music; Quiet Music; Pillaging Music; A Hudson Cycle and Keep in Touch)
  • 2008 – Joshua (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by various artists (Moviescore Media)
  • 2008 – Mothertongue (Bedroom Community HVALUR5CD / Brassland (North America only)) (Includes Mothertongue I: Archive; Mothertongue II: Shower; Mothertongue III: Hress; Mothertongue IV: Monster; Wonders: I. New Things & New Tidings; Wonders: II. The Devil Appear'd in the Shape of a Man; Wonders: III. A Complaint against Thomas Weelkes; The Only Tune: I. The Two Sisters; The Only Tune: II. The Old Mill Pond; and The Only Tune: III. The Only Tune)
  • 2009 – The Reader (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by various artists (Lakeshore Records)
  • 2010 – I Drink the Air Before Me (Bedroom Community HVALUR10, Decca/Universal Classics 478 257)
  • 2010 – A Good Understanding by Los Angeles Master Chorale (also includes five other choral works) (Decca/Universal Classics 478 250)[24]
  • 2011 – Seeing is Believing by the Aurora Orchestra (Decca/Universal Classics 478 273. Released 10 June 2011.
  • 2012 – Drones with Bruce Brubaker (piano), Nadia Sirota (viola) and Pekka Kuusisto (violin) (Bedroom Community HVALUR16)
  • 2013 – Cycles with James McVinnie, (organ), Nadia Sirota (viola), Chris Thompson (percussion) and Simon Wall, tenor (Bedroom Community HVALUR19)
  • 2014 – Two Boys from the Metropolitan Opera production (Nonesuch Records 541941)
  • 2016 – Keep In Touch by Nico Muhly & Nadia Sirota (Bedroom Community HVALUR26)
  • 2016 – Confessions by Nico Muhly & Teitur (Nonesuch Records 556783)
  • 2017 – Planetarium with Bryce Dessner, James McAlister, and Sufjan Stevens (4AD 4AD0009)


  1. ^ Nico Muhly Biography,, retrieved 2012-12-06 
  2. ^ Bunny Harvey
  3. ^ a b c Richards, Charlie. Boy Wonder, The Advocate, 12 August 2008, Retrieved on 11 February 2010
  4. ^ Muhly, Nico. "Choral sex", The Guardian, April 27, 2007. Retrieved from on 2 March 2008
  5. ^ Ross, Alex (November 28, 2011). "The Long Haul: Nico Muhly's first two operas". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Davies, Lucie (August 20–27, 2008), "Nico Muhly", Now, pp. Vol. 27, Number 51, retrieved 22 May 2009 
  7. ^ Speaks Volumes
  8. ^ David MacFadden-Elliott (2008). "Nico Muhly". Crawdaddy!. Archived from the original on December 30, 2008. 
  9. ^ Mothertongue
  10. ^ Muhly, Nico (1 March 2009), The Latest News, Nico Muhly, retrieved 5 March 2009 
  11. ^ "Defining Nico Muhly", NewMusicBox, March 2007]
  12. ^ Nico Muhly work to be given world premiere at Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, Muso, 29 April 2010, retrieved 31 December 2010 
  13. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (2010-02-13). "Muhly and Lucas's Opera First Met-Lincoln Center Project". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  14. ^ "Sher to Stage Lucas-Muhly Opera at the Met and English National Opera". 2010-02-12. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  15. ^ "Does Nico Muhly's new opera live up to the hype?" by Michael White, The Daily Telegraph (28 June 2011)
  16. ^ Wakin, Daniel (27 August 2008), "Pop Singer Drops Plan to Compose for the Met", The New York Times, pp. E1, retrieved 13 October 2008 
  17. ^ "Recording of Metropolitan Opera Production of Nico Muhly's Two Boys Out Now on Nonesuch". Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  18. ^ Luminous Body (world premiere, SPCO commission), Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, 9 September 2011 
  19. ^ Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra program notes,
  20. ^ "Honest Music, Nico Muhly". Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  21. ^ "Suspended Domain". Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  22. ^ Wood, Mikael (20 January 2009), "Review: Antony and the Johnsons' The Crying Light", Boston Phoenix 
  23. ^ "Run Rabbit Run | Asthmatic Kitty Records". 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  24. ^ "Culture Monster". The Los Angeles Times. 18 June 2010.