Nathan Hall’s ‘Three Lakes,’ plus Debussy, Hovhaness and Lavista

(Photo: Courtesy Nathan Hall)
<p>Composer Nathan Hall</p>

Most contemporary composers rarely hear their music performed live and often have no control over how it's presented in concert. Composer & Curator asks an artist to design a dream program around a piece they've written and explain their selections.

Photo: Composer Nathan Hall
Composer Nathan Hall

Nathan Hall built a program around his composition "Three Lakes" and the pieces that inspired it.

"There are some themes that run through them: folk music, unusual color combinations, and musical gestures inspired by nature," he told CPR Classical.

Claude Debussy, "Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp"

Many of Debussy’s musical gestures resonate strongly with me, especially his pieces inspired by nature; he can capture the essence of waves or clouds with a delicate hand.

This piece has many short, cascading ideas that often never return or repeat themselves -- so different than the formal, Classical-era forms of his predecessors.

Alan Hovhaness, "The Flowering Peach" (for concert band)

Many of Hovhaness’s works are overlooked in contemporary music, perhaps because they have a folky or mystical quality, but it’s these qualities I find noteworthy. This suite, originally incidental music, has a colorful exoticism.

Both Hovhaness’s works and my own can be quite modal. His music never seems forced or hurried but always unfolds beautifully.

Mario Lavista, "Reflejos de la Noche (Reflections of the Night)"

Mario Lavista’s string quartet was one of those pieces of 'recommended listening' in grad school as a way to expand my repertoire and techniques, but it has never left my list of favorites. The entire piece is performed on string harmonics, without a single note being bowed normally.

It was one of those pieces that transformed my thinking about music -- the fact that something this atmospheric and haunting really exists in this world, and a composer created it, is quite magical.

Nathan Hall, "Three Lakes"

"Three Lakes" was commissioned by Nordic Studies faculty Ben Teitlebaum and doctoral guitarist Patrick Sutton, both at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It was a great experience writing for the beautiful combination of guitar and the Swedish folk fiddle, the nykelharpa.

I had written several pieces including guitar before, but I had never written for nykelharpa, let alone seen the instrument in person before this collaboration!

The piece is in three movements, and each movement has its own mood and tempo. Each movement is styled after Swedish lakes that Ben and Patrick visited.

Movement One has a moderate motion, and its lake is flowing and clear. Movement Two is a celebration, like a summer party on the lakeside filled with song and dance. Movement Three is the deepest lake, right after sunset, dark and still and very deep.

Nathan Hall's music has been performed internationally and throughout Colorado. Local ensembles who've presented his work include the Ars Nova Singers; University of Colorado-Boulder faculty and students; ATLAS Black Box Theatre in Boulder; and MCA Denver.

His compositions include a choral piece based on children's author Maurice Sendak's final interview on NPR's "Fresh Air." He's preparing for the New York City debut of his piece "Tame Your Man" in April and an exhibit featuring his original sound works at the Gildar Gallery in Denver beginning in June.