• Nico Muhly
  • Drones, Variations, Ornaments (2011)

  • St. Rose Music Publishing (World)

Commissioned by Crash Ensemble

Vibraphone (with bow) Tubular Bells
Bass Drum
Suspended Cymbal
(The suspended cymbal should be overturned on a towel, filled with lengths of chain, coins, and assorted metal objects. When struck, the effect should be of glass shattering.)
Large Tam-tam
(The tam-tam should be suspended normally on a rack, with lengths of chain, coins, metal beads, etc., suspended in front of it. When struck, the effect should be a long tam-tam stroke shimmering with a metallic halo. Think Jacob Marley’s ghost in China. It may help, particularly in the last section, to affix the beater to the instrument’s rack as well.)

  • pic(afl), cl(bcl), tbn, perc, egtr, pf, vn, va, vc, db
  • 14 min 21 s

Programme Note

First performance:
November 25, 2011
Crash Ensemble
Liberty Hall, Dublin

Drones, Variations, Ornaments is music in constant transformation. What begins as a simple, cloud-like sequence of string chords with a trombone melody slowly transforms into an agitated perpetual motion machine of winds, guitar, percussion, and piano. The machine spits out an incessant syncopated drone on middle-C, over which a fragment of a melody in the violin and trombone slowly turns into something more dangerous. The sound of breaking glass and assorted violent string pluckings slowly ushers in a decadent, syrupy melting texture in the strings, who accompany an alto flute solo. The piece ends in a suspended crystalline structure with a cello & trombone duet.

Nico Muhly


Preview the score