Nathan Davis

Composer, US

Nathan Davis "writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority" (NYTimes). His opera/ballet Hagoromo premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival. Lincoln Center presented Bells for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live diffusion broadcast through a conference system to audience members’ mobile phones. He has received commissions from Donaueschinger Musiktage, International Contemporary Ensemble, American Opera Projects, Tanglewood, Calder Quartet, Yarn/Wire, Steven Schick, Claire Chase, Miller Theatre, and the Ojai Festival. Other performances were presented at the Mostly Mozart Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Park Avenue Armory, The Kitchen, Roulette, Darmstadt, Helsinki Musica Nova, and Acht Brücken Köln. Davis was a Fellow at the Camargo Foundation and is the 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, and he has received awards from Meet The Composer, Fromm Foundation at Harvard, Copland Fund, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, MATA, and ASCAP. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo's play The Other Mozart, for which Davis also received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Sound Design. CDs include On the Nature of Thingness (winner of Independent Music Awards for Best Contemporary Classical Album) and The Bright and Hollow Sky. An active percussionist, he is a member of ICE and has appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic.

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Inside Voice

Inside Voice depicts an organ in a state of becoming. It was inspired by Nathan's recent work exploring a new organ by Fisk that is being installed in Philadelphia. At that point, many of the ranks were in place, but some were not. Therefore the keys would always produce air through the system of hoses, but when certain stops were engaged (those with no pipes installed) they produced only filtered white noise. It is a wonderful sound. Other stops were installed but not voiced, therefore sounding much less polite than one expects from an organ. A glimpse inside the workings of a living instrument, this was a moment that will not happen again — neither in performance nor until some 150 years hence when this organ is in an advanced state of decay.

Translating these sonorities for ensemble, both metaphorically and musically, the musicians form a human bellows and tracker system. Each instrument has a microphone, which can be selectively unmuted by using a midi keyboard as a network of virtual valves. The air sounds are further filtered and spatialized, together with the plucked transients, within the speaker array in a system developed with the assistance of GMEM and Charles Bascou.

Inside Voice was commissioned by GMEM and the Christ Church Preservation Trust and was written for a flexible instrumentation that reflects the commonalities and differences of Ensemble CBarré and the International Contemporary Ensemble. It is a movement of In Plain Air, which premiered at Christ Church, Philadelphia, 22-23 September 2018. Support for In Plain Air has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia.

Nathan was in residence at the Camargo Foundation from March 26 to April 13, 2018 in partnership with the GMEM.