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For Immediate Release


The commission features a video installation designed by Joshua Higgason

In preparation for their new work, Mr. Muhly and Mr. Higgason
join Utah Symphony on its Mighty 5® tour this August, allowing them to
research and draw inspiration from hearing the orchestra perform
in southern Utah’s five national parks and red rock country

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (June 26, 2014)—Music Director Thierry Fischer and the Utah Symphony have commissioned American composer Nico Muhly to write a work for the Utah Symphony, using the national parks and red rock country in southern Utah for inspiration. The commission will be performed during the 2015-16 season, which coincides with the 75th anniversary celebrations of the orchestra. Mr. Muhly’s new work will feature a video installation by interactive media designer Joshua Higgason.

This will be the fifth commission and world premiere presented under the direction of Mr. Fischer, who has put commissioning new works by contemporary composers at the core of his artistic vision. Other composers whose works have been commissioned and premiered by the Utah Symphony under Mr. Fischer are Simon Holt, Michael Jarrell, Andrew Norman, and Augusta Read Thomas.

This summer, Mr. Muhly and Mr. Higgason will join Utah Symphony, August 11-17, on its tour of the national parks in southern Utah—collectively known as the Mighty 5®—during which the orchestra will perform free open-air classical music concerts against the natural backdrop of the red rock arches, spires, and canyons for which southern Utah is known. Constituting the Mighty 5® parks are the Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Zion national parks. Mr. Higgason will record footage for the video installation that will accompany Mr. Muhly’s piece as the visual element illustrating the symbiotic relationship between sound and landscape.

“We are honored that Nico Muhly will be composing a new musical work to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Utah Symphony. Maurice Abravanel started an amazing tradition of pursuing adventurous programming by introducing new music and composers to Utah’s audiences, and I am excited that this dynamic and creative young composer will be continuing this great legacy,” said Mr. Fischer.

During the Mighty 5® tour, Mr. Fischer leads Utah Symphony in symphonic works that include Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture”, movements from Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, Bizet’s Orchestral Suite from Carmen, and Gershwin’s An American in Paris, as well as vocal selections featuring soprano Celena Shafer, a Utah native and Utah Symphony 2015-16 artist-in-residence, performing Johann Strauss II’s Frühlingsstimmen, Puccini’s “Quando me’n vo” from La Bohème, and Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.

Added Mr. Fischer, “I am also extremely pleased that Nico Muhly will be joining the orchestra on the Mighty 5® Tour to southern Utah, where he will undoubtedly draw musical inspiration from and feel the deep connection to the landscape that resonates within our organization and the communities that we serve.”

“I am so delighted to have been asked to write a piece of orchestral music to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Utah Symphony,” said the Manhattan-based Mr. Muhly. “I’ve spent time in Utah and have an enormous affinity for the intensities of the landscape. I’m looking forward to joining the orchestra on their Mighty 5® tour to see other corners of the state and to spend time with the musicians in advance of our work together.”

Said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President and CEO Melia Tourangeau, “Nico Muhly is an incredibly well-regarded and respected composer with innovative thoughts and perspectives on music. His enthusiasm for this project has been contagious and we are thrilled that he has agreed to fit this into his busy schedule. Our vision is to create a work that not only celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Utah Symphony, but also extols the beautiful landscape of the state and therefore showcases Utah as well as the orchestra on the national and international stage.”

“I always say that the arts are a calling card for the quality of life in any given community, and this project is a perfect example of showcasing the Utah Symphony and the fantastic state that supports it,” said Ms. Tourangeau.


Nico Muhly, composer
Nico Muhly has composed a wide scope of work for ensembles, soloists and organizations including the American Ballet Theater, American Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, Carnegie Hall, Chicago Symphony, percussionist Colin Currie, countertenor Iestyn Davies, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, violinist Hilary Hahn, Gotham Chamber Opera, designer/illustrator Maira Kalman, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, Music-Theatre Group, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Paris Opéra Ballet, soprano Jessica Rivera, The Royal Ballet, Saint Thomas Church in New York City, Seattle Symphony, and artist Conrad Shawcross. Muhly has also lent his skills as performer, arranger and conductor to Antony and the Johnsons, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Doveman, Grizzly Bear, Jónsi of the band Sigur Rós, and Usher.

In 2011, Muhly’s first full-scale opera, Two Boys, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Theater and the English National Opera. Two Boys, which—with a libretto by Craig Lucas and direction by Bartlett Sher—chronicles the real-life police investigation of an online relationship and ensuing tragedy, premiered in London in spring 2012 and had its U.S. premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 2013. A chamber opera, commissioned by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Music Theatre Group, and the Gotham Chamber Opera premiered in New York in fall 2012.

Recently, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Decca released an entire disc of Muhly’s choral music, A Good Understanding. The Aurora Orchestra recorded his Seeing is Believing, and with choreographer Stephen Petronio, Muhly created the evening-length I Drink the Air Before Me, both of which were also released on Decca. Among Muhly’s most frequent collaborators are his colleagues at Bedroom Community, an artist-run label headed by Icelandic musician Valgeir Sigurðsson. Bedroom Community was inaugurated in 2007 with the release of Muhly’s first album, Speaks Volumes. Since then, Muhly has released a second album, Mothertongue, and worked closely with labelmates Sigurðsson, Ben Frost, and Sam Amidon on their respective solo releases. In 2012, Bedroom Community released Muhly’s three-part Drones & Music, in collaboration with pianist Bruce Brubaker, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, and violist Nadia Sirota. Muhly’s film credits include scores for Joshua (2007), Margaret (2009), Best Picture nominee The Reader (2008), Sundance selection Kill Your Darlings (2013); all have been recorded and released commercially.

Beginning with his sophomore year of college, Mr. Muhly worked for six years as a MIDI programmer, editor, conductor, and keyboardist American composer Philip Glass, who found in him “a curious ear, a restless listening, and a maker of works. He’s doing his own thing.” A 2013 story about Mr. Muhly in The New Yorker states, “There is no evidence that his pace will slow, and Muhly has so far managed to vacillate in a healthy fashion between composing for large-scale institutions like the Met and small-scale affairs among peers.”

Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Muhly graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English Literature. In 2004, he received a Masters in Music from the Juilliard School, where he studied under Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano. His writings and full schedule can be found at

Joshua Higgason, video designer
Joshua Higgason is a video and interactive media designer for live performances. Recent designs include Platonov (directed and adapted by Jay Scheib; The Kitchen (NYC), La Jolla Playhouse WoW Festival), Powder Her Face with composer Thomas Adès (directed by Jay Scheib; New York City Opera); World of Wires (directed and adapted by Jay Scheib; The Kitchen (NYC), Krakow; MAC (Paris), La Lieu Unique, ICA-Boston); Bellona, Destroyer of Cities (directed and adapted by Jay Scheib; The Kitchen (NYC), MAC (Paris), ICA- Boston); Ich Kurbisgeist (Big Dance Theater; Chocolate Factory); and  Slow Fade to Black (with Carrie Mae Weems, Gerri Allen, and Esperanza Spalding at Celebrate Brooklyn!)

He has toured nationally and internationally with experimental theater companies The Builders Association (Continuous City; Jet Lag; House/Divided; and Sontag: Reborn), Big Dance Theater (Comme Tu Jour; Supernatural Wife; Ich Kurbisgeist), Jim Findlay/Bang on a Can (Steel Hammer; George Crumb Festival), and musician Sufjan Stevens (Age of Adz). He has worked with Jim Findlay, Technical Artistry, Deborah Johnson/Candystations, Jeff Sugg, Pig Iron, and Theater for One/Christine Jones. His work has also been seen at Carnegie Hall, BAM, MassMoCA, Theatre National de Chaillot (Paris), the Planetarium at AMNH, Philly Live Arts, The Atlantic, Sotheby’s, The Public, The Park Avenue Armory, The Box (NYC), and The Performing Garage. Upcoming projects include Planetarium (des. Deborah Johnson, BAM Opera House; Disney Concert Hall), Sontag: Reborn (scenic design; NYTW) and Dream of a Red Chamber (director Jim Findlay).

He has taught interactive video workshops at LIU Digital Media for Performance MFA program, Princeton University, NYU, and MIT. He is a co-founder of WORKHORSE, a video and interactive design company creating unique live experiences for events, concerts, opera, and theater. More information is available at

About the Utah Symphony
Founded in 1940, the Utah Symphony is dedicated to providing Utah residents and visitors with performances which connect the community through great live music that engages and inspires. Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, the orchestra’s parent organization, reaches 450,000 residents in Utah and the Intermountain region, with educational outreach programs serving more than 155,000 students annually. The orchestra presents more than 70 performances each season in Abravanel Hall, participates in the Utah Opera’s four annual productions at the Capitol Theatre, in addition to numerous community concerts throughout Utah and the annual outdoor summer series – the Deer Valley® Music Festival –in Park City, Utah. With its many subscription, education, and outreach concerts and tours, the Utah Symphony is one of the most engaged full-time orchestras in the nation. For more information, visit

Season Sponsor for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.

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