December 06, 2012
Nico Muhly interviews David Lang
Nico Muhly in Bomb Magazine:
David Lang is one of the most thoughtful composers working today. His music is consistently probing, emotionally urgent, strange, and beautiful. It is also getting simpler as the years roll on—a sign that the mind behind it is undergoing a kind of ritualistic purification. I’ve been obsessed with David’s music since I bought a recording by mail order of his piece cheating lying stealing when I was in high school, and I have written a piano piece called David Lang Needs a Hug.
Nico Muhly So you’re going to San Francisco?
David Lang Yes, I’m doing one of these Iron Man things where I’m leaving at five in the morning, going to rehearsals of music that I wrote for a new production of Sophocles’s Elektra, and then taking the red-eye back.
NM Oh, Jesus.
DL Otherwise I just don’t have time to do anything. I’m trying to live your life, you know.
NM There you go! I had something awful happen to me yesterday. I met with my publishers, and they showed me something I’ve never seen: a list of everything I’ve written. It’s really scary.
DL Because it’s so long?
NM Yeah! Have you ever seen these things?
DL I like them, actually. You’re littering the world—
NM —with your shit. (laughter) Do you have physical copies of your list? I don’t.
DL I don’t either. I don’t even have hard copies of my music; they’re on my computer.
NM I remember when I first saw that giant wall at Philip [Glass’s] house, his shelves full of work, and went, Maybe some day! My idea was maybe someday I’d have a wall that big.
DL I bet you’ll figure out something better to fill it with than music.
NM So what is the piece with So Percussion called?
DL It’s called man made.
NM And what happens in it?
DL It’s a kind of concerto for four solo percussionists, four orchestral percussionists, and a large orchestra commissioned by a bunch of great international orchestras. It premiers with the BBC Symphony next May. I wanted a role for the percussionists in the orchestra along with So Percussion, so that it’s not like a concerto for people coming in from out of town. Actually, I was thinking about Phil’s Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra. Do you know what a brilliant idea it is to bring somebody from the outside and not insult the local guy? It honors the person who’s already there.
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