Drone in music is a sustained tone or sound, and Nico Muhly has used sustained sound as a harmonic foundation for the four compositions on this album. Each is carefully crafted and consists of simple embellishment overlaying the drones which produce very relaxing and ambient music.
Other composers have used drones. In particular, La Monte Young, an early pioneer of minimalist music, has used drones as an integral component of his work. Some of his compositions just consist of the drone itself, played for extended periods, and these are still performed live today in avant-guard installations. Brian Eno is an example of a composer who has used drones extensively, particularly in his ambient music.
Nico Muhly manages to integrate the drones with the melody producing coherent beautiful music, using the background noise of everyday life as his creative inspiration for these compositions.
It's great to have these three EP releases together on one album. For my money Nico Muhly is one of the most talented young composers at work in the listening world today. The title 'Drones', although to some degree accurate, given his sustained use of long-breathed string passages as a foundation for the piano parts which float above and interact with them, does not quite do this complex and captivating music justice. The end results are positively enchanting.
The block-like solidity of the piano parts creates a palpable sense of nervous tension in inventions such as 'Part I' of the first five- part work, in wonderful contrast to the haunting quasi-Medieval theme of 'Part V'. There is simple beauty too in the fragile miniature of 'Part III Material With No Tricks' in the second group of pieces and aching melancholy when a violin takes the lead against Mr Muhly's shimmering keyboard ostinato on 'Part I Material in Eb' in the third.
Yet another captivating release from an artist of true musical vision.
(Do listen to his 2011 recording 'Seeing Is Believing' while you're at it).