On June 15th, composers Neil Welch and John Teske will present a free site-specific concert deep in the woods of Ravenna Park in Seattle. As darkness approaches, the concert will end with excerpts from Hungry Ghosts
- a piece by composer Nat Evans - being performed by candlelight.
Inspired by the Chinese and Japanese Ghost Festival traditions featuring offerings to ancestors and floating lanterns as beacons for long lost spirits, Hungry Ghosts
was commissioned by and performed last year at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and featured musicians performing in boats on the 100 Acres Lake at the museum. At that event, the audience was invited to listen and view from the shore, and release lanterns into the water as darkness approached. In the woods of Ravenna Park, the audience will listen as the sounds of the park change over time - a counterpoint to the slowly changing music - and audience members will be given candles to hold to help engender a sense of place and community for themselves and the musicians, as well as reflect on their ancestors while listening and exiting the park together after the event.
The concert will take place on June 15th at 8pm in a clearing just north of the main trail in the eastern half of Ravenna Park - the red X in the map below denotes the location. Excerpts from Hungry Ghosts
can be heard here
Seattle composer Nat Evans will be presenting an original, site-specific music event that fuses nature, music, community, and subjectivity of experience, which will take place just before sunset on Wednesday, June 19th. To take part in Sunset + Music
, participants will download the music onto their iPods or other portable listening device ahead of time and arrive at the corner of Chesnut St and Memorial Drive (Luther Ely Smith Square
) by 8:15pm. Exactly 10 minutes before sunset (8:19pm) the cue will be given to press play and participants will sit back and observe while listening. The music, a piece entitled Assemblage, is a mix of new and pre-existing compositions that have been arranged to best complement the changing of light at the pivotal moment of sunset, and is available to download from the composer’s website (see below).
1. Participants download the music onto their ipods (see below).
2. Show up to the corner of Chesnut St and Memorial Drive (Luther Ely Smith Square
) by 8:15pm.
3. Press play when instructed to at 8:19!
Sunset + Music
and other time-specific group listening events have been presented by Nat Evans across the United States for the last three years. This Sunset + Music
event is being presented by the League of American Orchestras. For more information about the event you can go to their event website
or to the composer’s website
Last fall, saxophonist Evan Smith
commissioned a new work for solo alto saxophone. He debuted it in March at the North American Saxophone Association convention in Eugene, Oregon, and on Friday, April 12th he'll be playing it here in Seattle at The Chapel
. After the offer from Evan came last fall, I thought for a while about what I wanted to write, but didn't come to any solid conclusions for the structure. Then, one evening I awoke from a dream at 3am with these insane screeching and endlessly running sax lines reminiscent of Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman. As in, it was so loud and present in my dream that the sound woke me up, and continued running in my head after I'd awoken. I have no idea where these sounds came from, but I tried to get it out of my head and get back to sleep. As sat in bed listening to the rain on the laurels outside my window I could hear a train whistling and rocking in the distance; I eventually fell back to sleep. Exactly one week later I woke up at exactly the same time with the same Ayler/Coleman sax lines running in my head, same type of rain - everything. As I settled back into my slumber, the trains whistled in the distance once again. The piece began to take shape from there...it seemed to be about travel, about these strange ghosts that had woken me up with their screeching sound, and about the eternal sound of our everyday lives.
Besides Evan Smith playing this piece on Friday, April 12th, saxophonist and composer Brenna Noonan will be playing it in Santa Fe in May, and Smith will play Two Old Ghosts
again in Seattle in June. The details for these performances are below - I hope you can make it to one of them!April 12th
- Seattle, WA - 8pm at The Chapel
: saxophonist Evan Smith
plays Two Old Ghosts
as part of his The Box is Empty
Solo Series recitalMay 9th
- Santa Fe, NM - 7pm at High Mayhem Emerging Arts
: Saxophonist Brenna Noonan
plays Two Old Ghosts
and other contemporary worksJune 5th - Seattle, WA - 7:30pm at The Chapel
: saxophonist Evan Smith
plays Two Old Ghosts
as part of a degree recital for his PhD
After a successful
exhibition of Space Weather Listening Booth
at ONN/OF festival in January, John Teske and I decided to take our northern-lights-inspired sound installation back to the realm of concert music. We'll be presenting the complete Space Weather Listening Booth
cycle live in surround-sound with multiple performers improvising with the electronic track in Seattle and Portland in March. Audience members are encouraged to bring pillows, sleeping bags, blankets etc for maximum enjoyment of the immersive surround-sound experience. Full dates and details are below...March 17th - Seattle, WA
: Space Weather Listening Booth
performed live in its entirety at Hollow Earth Radio
as part of the Magma Festival
. The show starts at 8pm, and will also be broadcast live on hollowearthradio.org
. March 21st - Portland, OR
: Space Weather Listening Booth
performed live in its entirety. The show starts at 8pm, and is at a private residence. Email
for location.Space Weather Listening Booth
is an immersive acoustic and electronic performance piece based on the aurora borealis, by Seattle composers Nat Evans
and John Teske
. Listeners hear the collision of the different space weather events that cause the aurora borealis, realized through an electronic track in surround sound and live performers encircling the audience. Premiered as a sound installation with miniature private performances at Seattle's ONN/OF Festival, Space Weather Listening Booth
has since been adapted for live performance.
Teske and Evans used geomagnetic data, information about solar wind and other phenomenon, and interpreted this data through a series of sounds that interact and slowly change over time. Additionally, to represent the auroral band that rotates around the poles of the earth, the composers plotted a course for the sound to migrate and turn slowly around the listeners. Combined with live performers, Space Weather Listening Booth
is a unique sound experience that allows one to hear and feel the movement of these great forces, and experience time and physical space through a new lens.
"One room mesmerized me: Space Weather Listening Booth." - Jen Graves, The Stranger
"...should be performed again somewhere else as soon as possible." - CityArts
There are three musical events in January that I'm involved with that are all different from one another in some ways, and totally interconnected in others. The first event - a commission from the Seattle Rock Orchestra is a bit of an outlier from what I usually do (they're an orchestra that does arrangements pop music from the last 60 years), but I'm really excited about the working with a new ensemble and getting to explore some new terrain. The piece, I Am a Rock
explores the ubiquity, timelessness and intersection of Simon and Garfunkel, their song I Am a Rock
, and geology. We’ve all had experiences like standing in an elevator with granite floors and hearing gentle muzak versions of this song tinkling through the speakers above, hot stone massage while hearing a Chinese lute playing Sounds of Silence
on a CD, or been at a house with fake rock speakers, Mrs. Robinson
drifting over your conversations in the background...and now I'm combing all that together in a concert work. The orchestra will be playing found rocks, a few string soloists will play abstracted song fragments, and an electronic track of people being interviewed about this music blends these disparate elements together. Details here
! It's Saturday, January 12th. Come see 40 people playing rocks.
The Narrow Aisle to the Deep North in Los Angeles and San Diego
In mid-November I traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska to hear the University of Alaska Fairbanks percussion ensemble - Ensemble 64.8 (yes, that's the latitude there) - play my percussion quintet Unrelated
(have a listen to their excellent performance here
). While there I worked with visiting professor Bonnie Whiting Smith on a new piece for solo percussionist with electronics. She'll be debuting this new work, The Narrow Aisle to the Deep North
, at The Wulf
on January 16th, and playing it again at UCSD on January 19th. The Narrow Aisle to the Deep North
is designed so that it can be played at different stations that the player moves to between movements, and this is noted throughout the score, though it is not a limiting factor if this is not an option. The title is derived in part from a travelogue by 17th century Zen hermit poet Basho, entitled The Narrow Road to the Deep North
. Basho’s work is written in a style that combines haiku with standard prose, and explores the landscape, natural events, and people he meets along the way interacting with both. This solo percussion piece takes a similar path, but in the context of sound. Whereas haiku capture a moment and potentially juxtaposed ideas occurring in our everyday lives in Basho’s work, here there are a series of field recordings that capture the sounds of a trip I took from Seattle Washington to Fairbanks Alaska to hear some of my percussion music played and also work on this piece with percussionist Bonnie Whiting Smith. And, in place of prose, we have a series of stations of instruments creating a narrative sonic landscape that the performer interacts with and illuminates for the audience. The source of the music as alluded to before is drawn from a few days in Alaska discussing and exploring sounds and instruments, observing the changing of light at a northern latitude, stargazing, and watching the aurora borealis; as well as from everyday life for me here in Seattle. Being a sort of record of a period of time, a similar travelogue title seemed appropriate, and since paved roads, and cramped airline aisles are par for the course for anyone working in music, changing road
seemed like a simple and final way to customize this travelogue format for our modern sonic context, as well as describe, if only casually, where this landscape of sound was drawn from.
Space Weather Listening Booth at ONN/OF festival
I was invited to present something at the ONN/OF festival
this year - it's a great festival that features a couple dozen artists who create installations and works based around light in a rented warehouse and runs for just two days. For the festival I am collaborating with Seattle composer John Teske
to create a sound installation based on the aurora (aka the northern lights) entitled Space Weather Listening Booth
. We're taking geomagnetic data from the earth, information about solar wind and other phenomenon (yes, space weather) and interpreting these things into music and sound. Our allotted installation space is small, so only one or two people at a time will be able to enter and listen. Just as the auroral band moves around the earth slowly, so will our sound shift and move over time, enveloping the listener. In addition to the immersive sound installation, for parts of the festival we'll have private one-minute performances in the booth for one listener at a time - one musician, one audience member. The festival is taking place on January 26th and 27th this year in the old Seattle BMW dealership between Boylston and Harvard on E Pine St.
a cloud of fruit flies
humming around in a trap
so many house guests
over the course of
an hour traffic increases
and incense burns out
to write haiku about the
aurora and snow
Next week I'll be boarding an airplane to Fairbanks, Alaska to hear a performance of a percussion ensemble work I wrote a few years ago, Unrelated, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. While hearing a work be revived again is always nice, I am particularly interested to hear this work again in a new context, as I specify in the score that one of the intentions of this work is to reflect, magnify and draw attention to the specific sounds inherent in different geographic locations. From the score:
The only time Unrelated
has been performed live thus far is at Seattle Pacific University in 2009. At that performance the players collected rocks from around campus, and also constructed huge bundles of branches laurel cuttings to shake - laurels a ubiquitous towering hedge we see everywhere in Seattle. Fairbanks is already blanketed in snow, and the professor who has kindly organized this performance, percussionist Bonnie Whiting Smith
, made sure that her players had gathered branches and carefully tucked them away by mid-September, and collected stones from the Chena river before it became too cold. So, I am curious to hear how it'll sound in this new context. The third movement of Unrelated
has also had a bit of a life on its own outside of this concert work. I took this movement and re-worked it, then added some electronics. This re-worked new piece, Collective Resonance
, was featured in the 2011 Music Issue of The Believer
, and is available at all the usual digital retailers
Besides working with the percussionists and hearing the performance of Unrelated, I'll also be working with Bonnie to review a bunch of material I've been writing for her that will ultimately end us as a rather long piece for solo percussionist. So far it's looking like this new piece will be incorporating a lot of things we're both interested in: the percussionist speaking, field recordings, natural objects...and snare drum. This is going to be a really fun trip, and hopefully I won't lose a toe due to frostbite: it's supposed to be -10° when I get in on Wednesday.
musicians playing in canoes on the 100 Acres lake...
After a year of planning with the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Butler University Composer's Orchestra, artist Erin Elyse Burns and others, my big site-specific music event Hungry Ghosts
took place on September 20th. For the event, I had 20 musicians playing on shore around the lake at the IMA's sculpture park lake, and 10 musicians plus myself in canoes playing on the water. As the music and twilight came to a close, over 100 lanterns were released onto the water. To see some great pictures that the museum posted of the lantern-making workshop, the musical performance, and the release of the lanterns, have a look at the museum's Flickr page
for the event. Click here
if you'd like to have a look at the score, and you can also see some videos of the event below.
Overall I feel like the response couldn't have been better. There were news stories like this one
in the Indy Star leading up to the event, and an interview on the local NPR station. Coupled with the perfect (and dry) weather, the turnout was absolutely immense - far larger than anyone expected. I had a radio with me in the canoe to communicate with museum staff, and halfway through the music I had to turn it off because there was so much chatter amongst the staff about people trying to park in strange places and traffic from people trying to get into the event spilling out onto the streets and snarling traffic. People of all walks of life came out for the event, which was reassuring, and I feel proves that if given the opportunity and are actually told about an event (in this case through extensive media coverage), they will choose things of substance and meaning.
The musicians played extraordinarily well - I couldn't have been more pleased. The directors of the ensemble - Michael Schelle and Frank Felice did a fantastic job rehearsing them for an entire month before the event (what a luxury!), so they were all really well prepared. One hilarious thing was that after the event lots of people talked about the 'disruption' of other sounds - the jets flying overhead, crickets, fish jumping - and complained that the music needed to be louder. But to me, people noticing these sounds and events happening was perhaps the most notable sign of success: people were listening and living actively in the moment. How could I organize an outdoor concert on a lake surrounded by woods and not expect to have other sounds intermingling? In its sonic totality, the evening sounded exactly how I wanted it to.
Somehow the month of September has turned out to be a month full of musical opportunities for me that all take place outdoors, and involves a few really interesting collaborations as well. Here's a run-down of September's happenings...
Rockwood at The Long Walk. Photo by Zack Bent
September 6th: ROCKWOOD
Seattle artist Zack Bent
has created a mobile sculptural-architectural space using a pop-up camper as the base, and he's taking sculpture - called Rockwood - around to different locales this summer. In each place, there will be different music being both performed and broadcast in and around Rockwood. For September's first Thursday art walk I've created an electronic score that will emanate from the sculpture. This score features electronic sounds, field recordings acquired from the site of the installation, and guitar playing by John P. Hastings
. Also, there will be a performance element to my turn with Rockwood
: Brad Pierson's Whatever and Ever Amen
choir will sing some of my work twice during the course of the evening. Full details can be found here
September 8th: Pagoda music for NEPO 5K Don't Run
Los Angeles based composer and sound artist Chris Kallmyer
and I collaborated to make a music installation that will exist inside the Daejeon Park pagoda for the second annual NEPO House event: 5K Don't Run
. This event features dozens of art happenings, installations and performances along a 5K route in south Seattle that people will traverse. For our installation Chris and I traded field recordings (his is of Santa Cruz Island - off the coast of LA, mine is of a summer evening in the woods of central Wisconsin, and may or may not contain the sound of a toad). We then created a musical response to the recording, and lastly layered and looped things to spread the possible permutations around a bit. You can read all about the 5K Don't Run event here
September 15th: Blue Hour in Indianapolis
The third installment of my time-specific iPod related musical events will be presented in Indianapolis by a local art organization called Big Car
. You can read all about details for this event and how to participate here
. Also, I'd love to present Blue Hour in more cities, so if you're interested in doing so drop me a line
September 20th: Hungry Ghosts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art 100 Acres Sculpture Park
Nearly a year in the making, on September 20th the Indianapolis Museum of Art will present my new site-specific work Hungry Ghosts. This piece will feature members of the Butler University's Composers Orchestra in a dozen boats on a lake, floating lanterns by artist Erin Elyse Burns
, as well as blasts on a conch shell by Yours Truly. You can read all about the event here
, see the IMA's page for the event here
, and read a great blurb about Hungry Ghosts in the Indy Star here
is presenting an original, site and time-specific music event by Seattle composer (and Indiana native) Nat Evans that fuses nature, music, community, and subjectivity of experience. The event – entitled Blue Hour
- will take place at sunset on September 15th on the outdoor plaza at City Market
. Participants will download the music onto their iPods or other portable listening device ahead of time and arrive at the plaza at City Market by 7:45pm. At sunset the cue will be given to press play and participants will sit back and observe while listening.
The music for Blue Hour is a mix of new and pre-existing compositions that have been arranged to best compliment the changing of light during the hour after sunset, and is available to download from the composer’s website (natevansmusic.com
). This is the third in a series of time-specific pieces Evans has written – his Sunset + Music
event was presented across the country in 2011, as well as at a number of festivals.
1. Participants download
the music onto their ipods. (Click here
to download, or see below)
2. Show up the outdoor plaza at City Market
3. Press play when instructed to at sunset!
About the composer
Seattle Composer Nat Evans writes concert music for various mixed chamber ensembles, distinctive electro-acoustic music, and site-specific music events that fuse nature, community and subjectivity of experience. His music is regularly presented across the United States and has also been performed in Europe, South America, Australia and China. Evans has received numerous commissions including the Seattle Percussion Collective, the Harrison Center for the Arts, ODEONQUARTET, Seattle Pacific University Men's Choir and Percussion Ensemble, Beta Test Ensemble, The Northwest School Chamber Orchestra, among others. His music has been featured on a number of radio stations in the United States, as well as BBC3, and in the 2011 Music Issue of The Believer. He studied music at Butler University with Michael Schelle and Frank Felice.