Nat Evans: In a Shifting Landscape

Seattle-based composer Nat Evans, who specializes in very ambient electro-acoustic pieces, has released a new 20-minute work titled In a Shifting Landscpe. Having listened to it, it is truly a calming piece of work that combines his use of nature soundbites with string drones and glissandos that are reminiscent of Teiji Ito. Evans emailed me and explained his thoughts on the piece and its working process.

NE: In a Shifting Landscape was originally written as a collaboration with artist Megan Berner – this is the resulting video with the score. The piece is divided into four movements and explores different landscapes (tundra, desert, prairie and ocean) that may at first seem at odds with one another, but each of their expansiveness and dynamic natures are connected through seasons and migration, exploration, and concepts of time in the natural world. This is one of a series of scores for videos in collaboration with artists like this one by Erin Elyse Burns.

Throughout the piece there are moments where one hears field recordings – sounds of the ocean, wind blowing across the plains, birds, – all these things were recorded around Seattle, and also on Lopez Island just north of here. These different sounds connect all four movements along with a host of small percussion instruments which are manipulated electronically. Overall, most of the piece is quite spare with electronics and field recordings interjecting only occasionally, but the third movement is an exception to this. For the third movement – Prairie – I took a few dozen cells that I had the string players record for me to create an exclusively electronic score – a long and sweeping wash tinged with gentle feedback and cloud-like layers drifting in and out. Of course, writing out a bunch of cells for the players to improvise around harkens back to IN C, but it is actually drawn from a memory that had come up when I was writing the piece of an early music theory class that was concerning Berg and his cells and subsequent spinning out of ideas from there. In live performances during this movement the players improvise around the same cells used to create all those electronic layers along with the electronic score one hears in this movement. Speaking of memory, for the structure of the 4th movement I drew from a technique mentioned on the back of an old record of Elliott Carter’s…however after I’d written the piece and I went back to look over Carter’s notes and the technique was completely different from what I’d remembered, and was an adapted Schoenberg idea! It was a strange discovery, but this incidental tribute to the fluidity of memory was a fitting expression of my abstract expression of these landscapes.

In a Shifting Landscape, along with another new piece titled Collective Resonance are both available for download/purchase on Amazon. Also on iTunes and Spotify.
In a Shifting Landscape
Collective Resonance

Nat Evans


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