by Nat Evans
Brooklyn Bridge Park, NY
April 26th, 2012
Written by Kyle Lynch
Seven people met near an ice cream shop at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge one foggy evening at sunset before walking into Brooklyn Bridge Park. The short procession’s destination was a few steps to the side of the East River promenade viewing the Manhattan skyline. This wide set of stairs is functional—going up a steep hill—yet also designed to give park-goers a place to rest and relax. Our little group, augmented by a few latecomers, transformed this location into a theatre of sorts by listening to Blue Hour by Nat Evans. Mr. Evans, a composer from Seattle, was in town presenting time-specific works in different Brooklyn locations including Sunrise, September 18th the previous morning, and Assemblage, for Sunset two days before. A unique aspect of these works is that each listener comes prepared with the music track downloaded from Mr. Evans’s website onto their iPod or mp3 player. This solves logistical problems such as transporting bulky speakers into a public park or finding a power source to plug into, and also puts the subtle composition right at your ear.
Blue Hour’s focus is the naturally occurring phenomenon immediately after sunset when the sky displays a dark blue hue before becoming totally darkness. The overcast conditions of this particular evening weren’t optimal with thick blankets of fog hanging over Manhattan and New York Harbor, and yet this actually added to the ethereal nature of the work. Mr. Evans’s music was meditative, sauntering from slow-moving chords and phrases to natural sounds like rain, the shifting of smooth stones, and the cries of seagulls.
Blue Hour is a forty-one minute work and utilizes consorts of instruments such as a trombone choir, a group of strings, and various percussion. Mr. Evans creates an interplay by treating each group separately, focusing on a group for many minutes before shifting to natural sounds followed by a different consort. One particularly memorable moment occurs halfway through with the trombone choir gradually creating an expansive mass of sound. After relenting back to subdued chords, a shimmering layer of sound from a brake drum appears. The night’s darkness was setting in, and the lights from Manhattan’s skyscrapers began to peek through the fog and gloam.
New York City played its own part in aiding the soundscape. There was the constant dim of traffic over the Brooklyn Bridge, crunching gravel from passing joggers on the promenade, sightseeing cruises going up and down the river, and even one or two foghorn soundings. The pulsating hums of barges moving downstream created an interesting counterpart to the drones in Blue Hour. A hallmark of Mr. Evans’ organic sound mixing led one to wonder whether distant bird chirpings came from the headphones or from a tree a few yards away. The answer did not seem to matter.