On Friday, November 9th I met a friend at St. John the Apostle Church behind Columbus Circle for a concert by Icelandic band, Mùm. (Pronounced “miooyyuujm,” clearly.) The band classifies themselves as Folk/Country/Electronic/Dance, which, despite the ambiguity of this description, is about as accurate as you could get. Their performance was part of the Wordless Music Series and the sanctuary of St. John the Apostle Church was a perfectly prepossessing venue. Mùm is dreamlike and smooth; the electronic keyboard and percussion is highlighted by a cello, piano, an unidentifiable wind instrument that involves a long white tube and wistful vocals, performed in Icelandic by both the male and female instrumentalists. Mùm would be the perfect soundtrack for moonwalking or swimming underwater, both in slow motion.
One of the most wonderful surprises of the evening (I had no idea to what concert my friend was taking me) was the opening musician, cellist Jihyun Kim. Cello is without a doubt one of my favorite instrument to sit and listen to, ever since I lived next to a Julliard cellist at Columbia and awoke on Sunday mornings to hear her practicing. Wheeldon’s piece Mesmerics, set to Philip Glass’s Mishima, included all eight cellists on stage behind the dancers and enthralled me far beyond my typical dance-watching rapture. My friend and I had both seen Morphoses’s Mesmerics and as Kim walked out on stage with her cello we turned to each other and said, “Well, it won’t exactly be Bach, but let’s see…” meaning that we didn’t expect anything like Bach to open for a dance/electronica concert. No sooner had the words escaped our mouths did Kim raise her bow to begin Bach’s Cello Suites. If you have never heard Bach Cello Suites (most famously performed by Yo-Yo Ma), it is one of the most breathtaking – and difficult, as it has no pauses in it whatsoever – pieces of music ever written. Kim played the plaintive and buttery piece perfectly. She followed it with a sharp but doleful Gyorgy Ligeti score – also a composer used by Wheeldon.
Listen to Mùm: http://www.myspace.com/mumtheband