Nat Evans, a composer from Seattle, WA that specializes in electro-acoustic works and music for mixed chamber ensembles, has another great music event that continues the concept that began with the premiere of last year’s September 18, 2010. While that was a work designated for sunrise, this year’s Assemblage is meant for the sunset (Specifically, for this week anyway, 7:45 PM on Sunday, August 21, 2011). Having been premiered in 6 cities (Starting in DC, then Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis, New York–this week’s concert–and finishing in Long Beach, CA), this outdoor event is like a concert meets a reverse flash-mob of sorts.
First of all, you need an iPod (Or any MP3 player if not that one) and you download the work from Nat’s website (or this page) onto the player. You arrive at the venue (For the NYC one this week, it’s Brooklyn Bridge Park) at a given time, then Mr. Evans is there to cue you to hit ‘play’ 10 minutes before the sunset is scheduled to happen, and you listen to this piece (Sounds of the day mixed with minimal instrumentation) unfold as the sky changes color.
“The Sunset event is the musical kin to the site/time specific work Sunrise, September 18th that I created last year,” explains Evans. “The basic concept behind these events arose out of a series of influences coming together: Zen meditation, Indian classical music, and a desire to push New Music into non-traditional performance venues and to people who would not normally listen to or experience New/experimental music. Specifically in regards to Zen, coming back to sit each week I casually observed the light having changed, and changing over the course of a meditation period. In Indian classical music many of the ragas are written for specific times of day or even seasons. So, these streams of thought coming together pushed me towards the concept for these pieces.”
And how was he able to know exactly what time the sun would set and the sky would change? “I did some observations of sunrise and then sunset and sort of determined that the 15 or so minutes before and after the moment of sunset (or sunrise) is when there is a very particular and dramatic light change and series of color changes that are consistent – yet consistently different every day of course, and this sense of openness is what the piece aims to embrace. And, though there are charts that tell us what time the sun sets on specific days in different places, it’s still only an estimate based on an algorithm…but, you know, it’s ‘close enough for jazz’!”
“As for the music itself, despite being tailored specifically to complement the changing of the light, it’s actually a fairly typical electro-acoustic piece for me–Utilizing equal parts electronics, live instrumentation, and a handful of field recordings.
My hope is that people will engage with their surroundings and with the moment more directly or at least differently than they would otherwise while listening – embracing the possibility for everyday sound and visual events to interact with the music and their experience – to listen more fully to all sounds happening around us all the time. And, though site-specific works are not the bulk of what I do as a composer, I do feel as though this is connected to the larger, rich lineage of experimental music out here on the west coast that has often included site specific pieces — things like Robert Moran’s 39 minutes for 39 autos or Stuart Dempster’s Cistern Chapel.”
If you happen to be in the NYC area (or near it) on Sunday, Aug 21st, head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park (The site is Granite Prospect at Pier 1); Be there by 7:30 PM. Nat will be there to give the cue for everyone to hit play on their players at 7:35, and you will experience the sunset midway through the piece. BTW, the piece itself is quite enthralling listening even if you’re not playing it at sunset.