• Nico Muhly
  • Step Team (2007)

  • St. Rose Music Publishing (World)

Commissioned by Chicago Symphony Orchestra MusicNOW and Cliff Colnot, conductor

  • 10011.0.1+btbn.0pf,celstr(1.0.1.1.0)
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Stepping is a form of almost militaristic dancing involving the entire body as well as the voice. The routines are highly choreographed and precise but maintain an expressive freedom that comes out of the energy required to pull off the moves. In writing this piece for the Chicago Symphony MusicNOW, I wanted to avoid too much delicate, pointillistic writing and instead focused on making the nine players function as one team with a singular rhythmic agenda. Whenever the Chicago Symphony comes to New York, I am always impressed with the massive steakhouse-style proportions of the brass sound, so, this score features the bass trombone as a guide for the harmonic and lyrical material.

At a certain point in the piece, the rhythmic unisons begin to break down, and individual players or groups of players start slowing down or speeding up against the pulse. The bass trombone works as a unifying element here, announcing the changes between sections. Some scattered pulses ensue, and the brass section continuously shepherds the other instruments back into line. Step Team ends with a duet between the bass trombone and the piano, with a series of ornaments from the other players.

Nico Muhly

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