The Box Is Empty Comes Up Full

The Box Is Empty
The Century Ballroom
Seattle, WA
Friday, June 29th, 2012

Written by Heather Bentley

Last Friday, the 29th of June, I had the pleasure of attending The Box is Empty at Seattle’s Century Ballroom. The Box is Empty is not only the name of the musical ensemble but also a philosophical concept.

From their website: Our name is based on a simple concept. Start with a project (i.e. a box), fill it with all of your spirit, energy, and creativity until the project comes to fruition. Then empty the box and start again. The Box Is Empty is a view of the process. All possibilities are open, creativity is unending. Surprise the box’s recipient with the gift of new experience. The Box Is Empty.

It’s clear from the spirited performances given that the organizers and performers are enjoying filling their empty box and sharing its contents. Consistent with current efforts to update the classical music experience, the event had the vibe of a happening, and indeed, swankiness was on display and liquor flowed, if not freely, at least within reach. Continue reading

Nat Evans’ Blue Hour Experienced

Photo courtesy of Kyle Lynch

Blue Hour
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.

Nat Evans (natevansmusic.com)

Nat Evans: Blue Hour (At Brooklyn Bridge Park)

Seattle composer Nat Evans will be in New York on April 26th presenting his new time-specific music event Blue Hour at Brooklyn Bridge Park. To participate, first go to his website and download the music for Blue Hour (or download from the stream below). Then, on the 26th Arrive at the corner of Old Fulton and Water St (across the street from Pete’s downtown restaurant) by 7:40 pm. Participants will then walk into the park together, and just after sunset the cue will be given to press play and participants will sit back and observe while listening. The music for Blue Hour is written to best complement the changing of light at this pivotal moment in the day – sunset to twilight.

This is the third such time-specific listening event that Evans has created, and he’ll be presenting these earlier works for sunrise and sunset in the days leading up to the Blue Hour event. On the 24th, the sunset event will kick off a concert of new music from both coasts at Vaudeville Park, and on the 25th his sunrise event will start at 5:45 am at Fort Greene Park. The music to download in order to participate is also available on his website.

Nat Evans.com
Official website

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. Continue reading

Nat Evans: The Sun Also Sets

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.

Assemblage
Download this piece to your MP3 player
NatEvansMusic.com
Nat’s official website