One of the frustrations of my life is dealing with institutional PR imbalances. A good example is this gig at the Roundhouse. It is, by far, the most “high-profile” of all of the three shows—people are tweeting and blogging about it, half of my inbox is Roundhouse-logistics. But in terms of the actual work for me involved, it’s pretty minimal. It’s older works; I have to re-learn Mad Rush which is hard, I have to conduct City Life which is hard, during which you sort of have to think about 9/11 never 4get but! Compare that, which is a fun, fabulous, glamorous one-off, to the work of writing a thirty minute new work for violin and tenor! There are so many chores involved in doing that—you have to choose the text, in this case, newly translated Cavafy Poems. You email back and forth with the translator, you make crazy sketches, you write down the words ‘Alexandria’ and ‘Homosexual’ in nine different colors. You skype Finland. You buy every single recording Mark Padmore has ever made. You ask everybody in Christendom & the Caliphate what they think about Mark Padmore’s Voice. You sort through those emails. You buy Ian Bostridge’s thesis for six hundred dollars, high on ambien. You cut a poem. You add another. You make diagrams of the structure. You figure out that Mark Padmore has a very handsome e-flat. You fall down an internet wormhole about e-flat. You figure out that Pekka Kuusisto plays Sibelius better than anybody and avoid calling him asking him to play “that note from the second movement of the Sibelius concerto” over the phone and then doing the same to Hilary Hahn. You call the translator in Germany and ask if he means savoir or pouvoir. You fend off an email asking for programme notes before you’ve finished the third movement, a nice passacaglia. You argue with your copyists about syllables. Snippy words are exchanged. You go to Cambodia, you volunteer at the circus school, and somehow, your phone has reception and it’s people asking for more programme notes! It’s an enormous amount of work, a new piece, and there is something very relaxing about presenting a concert of older works. I’m not complaining; this is a good problem to have. But it’s complicated.

Nico Muhly, “Provisioning”