The Five: Nat Evans

Composer Nathaniel Evans. Photo credit: Erin Elyse Burns

Local composer Nat Evans has embarked on a project that fuses nature, music, community, and subjectivity of experience. Sunrise September 18, 2010 is a completely new piece of music written by Evans. It is a site specific, time specific, event specific work experienced differently by everyone who participates in the premiere. Listeners will gather at before 6:30 am on the 18th at Kite Hill in Magnuson Park. This is also the location which inspired the work and will be the vantage point for the sunrise and the premiere.

At exactly 6:30 am (the time the sun will rise up over the Cascades) Evans will give the cue and everyone will press play on their iPod, Zune, Walkman, CD player, or any other device people choose. Participants will be hearing Sunrise, while watching the sun rise. Sunrise will be recorded before the 18th and distributed to people who let the composer know they want to participate. All participants have to do is download the music, load it onto their favorite media player, and show up on the 18th at Kite Hill.

The idea for this new work originated from the composer’s experience with Zen and how the tradition treats natural cycles like sunrise and sunset.  Just as important Evans says, is how individuals experience these cycles.  “Over the years I became interested in how we interact with these cycles,” Evans remarked.  He elaborated further, “there is also the tradition in Indian classical music that certain pieces are to be played at specific times of the day, even specific times of the year.”  Evans took these ideas, put pen to paper, and wrote Sunrise.

Evans is one of Seattle’s talented, up and coming composers. I had the good fortune of introducing a piece of his at the May Day, May Day festival. The concept behind Sunrise is so interesting to me, I asked Evans if he would want to participate in The Five. He obliged. His answers follow the jump.

Oh, and if you want to hear Sunrise, email Evans at and he’ll send you a link for the download. See you at Kite Hill on the 18th!

Evans’ responses to my five questions are after the jump.

Zach Carstensen: What piece of music changed you as a person — or as a composer?

Nat Evans: When I was in college at Butler University the head of the music composition department, Michael Schelle (who was also my teacher) directed the Composers Orchestra – the New Music ensemble on campus. He programmed Terry Riley’s In C at least once a year, if not more often, and in many different formats. Sometimes the audience would be surrounded by the ensemble, sometimes the audience sat in the round with the ensemble in the middle so that people could walk around us to hear the piece from different angles, and sometimes we were just on a stage. At any rate between rehearsals and performances I must’ve played that piece at least ten times during college, and doing so greatly impacted the way I listen to sounds and approach music in general.

ZC: When I talk to musicians and composers, they often tell me they have memories that they associate with different pieces, do you have a work like this for you?

NE: I have memories that pop up when I hear or think about nearly all of my pieces, yes. Many of them are really silly and mundane, like what I was cooking while writing a piece. However, I also have some more interesting memories that were the original inspiration for titles or the basis for an abstraction. A few years ago I was looking out my window which faced Calvary Cemetary and I saw an enormous flock of gulls circling around – creating a giant vertical cylinder that was just hovering there over the pastoral green knoll in the fading evening light. I must’ve sat there for nearly an hour observing the phenomenon before they dispersed, and that became the basis of a peice for solo percussion that I was about to begin writing.

ZC: Is there a piece of music you would like to hear live, but haven’t?

NE: Of course, there are many…Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians probably tops the list, but Peter Garland’s 2nd string quartet is close behind. But what I think about wanting to hear live more often than those pieces is Little Richard on one of his tours in either 1956 or ’57.

ZC: What about a piece of music that defines you as a composer?

NE: Brian Eno’s seminal ambient masterpiece Music for Airports is one of those works I think I’ll always come back to, and I often feel centers me as a composer. It’s funny, but when Bang On A Can did thier own version of Music for Airports it somehow made it more legit for me as a composer since Brian Eno primarily works in the pop music world – their performance really shows the depth of Eno’s vision.

ZC: Other than your music, which everyone should become acquainted with, is there a piece you think more people should hear?

NE: I think my answer to this question would change if you asked me every week, but for today I’ll say Jim Fox’s The City the Wind Swept Away. The best twenty-two minutes you’ll ever spend.


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