Nonesuch Records releases Confessions, a collaboration between the acclaimed American composer Nico Muhly and the Faroese singer/songwriter Teitur, on October 21, 2016; the vinyl edition is due November 4. The two musicians began work on the project when Muhly was composer-in-residence at Muziekgebouw Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The songs' lyrics were inspired by or culled from video and commentary the pair found on YouTube. Muhly and Teitur will perform songs from the album with New York Baroque Incorporated at New York's (le) Poisson Rouge on Friday, October 21, and with British Sinfonietta at Cadogan Hall in London on Saturday, October 29.
"We came up with this premise of boring videos, home videos," Teitur explains. "It was a time when everyone was posting these meaningless videos. It was just fascinating when we started watching them … The more you watched them the more you started to wonder, 'What is behind this? Why are people doing this?' They are really saying, 'This is really beautiful, this is really sick, this is me,' people confessing things. And that gave us the title for the record."
"Teitur took a lot of these things," continues Muhly, "and looked at the comments and imagined the world that these people inhabited. We also solicited some anonymous Dutch videos, people telling us things that are unexpected, including this woman who said 'I love the smell of my printer in the morning.' It made me so happy. That smell is so specific. These are not confessions in a dirty way but more like if you went over to a friend's house 10 minutes before they expected you and you got a glimpse into something private. As a songwriter, Teitur focuses on a little detail or a little gesture, and then one can divine bigger content."
Holland Baroque's mission is "to convince a large and varied audience of the flexibility and vitality of (Baroque) music." As Muhly notes, "They perform standing up, and they are as old school as you'd like, but they chewed into this material really gleefully. It was a kind of magic project actually."
When he began his tenure at Eindhoven, Muhly says, "I knew I wanted to work with this Baroque ensemble. The distance between contemporary listening and Baroque music is one of the most heartbreaking and interesting things. Most of the music I like is from the 17th century or before. It's a tradition that never stopped—a small tradition, a specific one. There is something incredibly direct about Baroque music and Baroque instruments." He continues, "But it also posed a different challenge. Baroque musicians aren't accustomed to the sorts of rhythms attendant to contemporary music, and that brought another interesting tension to the project."
The original four songs from Eindhoven worked so well that Teitur and Muhly continued writing. By 2009, they had a concert-length piece comprising the 14 songs onConfessions. Muhly, Teitur, and Holland Baroque toured the Netherlands, performing the piece with the videos that inspired it projected behind the players; they recorded the songs at the end of the tour.