Confessions is a collaboration between acclaimed American composer Nico Muhly and Faroese singer/songwriter Teitur. The lyrics, inspired by or culled from video and commentary the pair found on YouTube, are simple, matter-of-fact, fragmentary, funny, and strange, yet they attain a dignity paired with the gorgeous and expressive music, composed and arranged for Holland Baroque, which performs it on the album. Gramophone calls it "brilliantly witty, strangely compelling ... subtly affecting."
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 on 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. Confessions was recorded with Holland Baroque.
Hailing from the Faroe Islands, halfway between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic, Teitur Lassen (who uses only his first name professionally) has long been a successful pop artist in Europe, winning several Danish music awards, touring internationally, and collaborating with such artists as Seal, Corinne Bailey Rae, and French star Emilie Simon and Nolwenn Leroy. "We came up with this premise of boring videos, home videos," he 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 on Confessions. 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.
Recorded at Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Edited by Teitur at Studio Bloch, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Mixed by Hector Castillo
Mastered by Andy Jackson at Tube Mastering
Design by Ben Tousley
Photograph of Nico Muhly and Teitur by Tróndur Dalsgarð
Photograph of Holland Baroque by Wouter Jansen
Teitur appears courtesy of Arlo & Betty Recordings Ltd.
Nico Muhly appears courtesy of St. Rose Management, New York
All songs written by Teitur Lassen and Nico Muhly and published by Arlo & Betty Music (KODA/ASCAP)/St. Rose Music Publishing Co. Inc. & Chester Music Ltd. (ASCAP/PRS). Except track 1, text adapted from "I Was Trying to Describe You" by Richard Brautigan, published by Sterling Lord Literistic; music by Teitur Lassen and Nico Muhly and published by Arlo & Betty Music (KODA/ASCAP)/St. Rose Music Publishing Co. Inc. & Chester Music Ltd. (ASCAP/PRS). Track 7 written by Teitur Lassen, Nico Muhly, and Jeff Cohen, published by Arlo & Betty Music (KODA/ASCAP)/St. Rose Music Publishing Co. Inc. & Chester Music Ltd. (ASCAP/PRS)/As You Wish Music (BMI).
Lidewij van der Voort, David Wish, Franc Polman, Aira Maria Lehtipuu, first violins
George Crawford, Maite Larburu, Gabriele Wunsch, Agnieszka Świątkowska, second violins
Esther van der Eijk, Jan Willem Vis, Bernadette Verhagen, violas
Lucy Scotchmer, Tomasz Pokrzywiński, celli
James Munro, violone
Saskia Coolen, recorder
Andreas Arend, lute
Tineke Steenbrink, harpsichord
Conducted by Nico Muhly