Denver composer Nathan Hall

(Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Pietrantoni)

Visitors to the Denver Art Museum will have an aural as well as visual experience as they peruse the museum’s collection next month.

On March 5, DAM launches a new "Creative-in-Residence" program with 32-year-old Denver composer Nathan Hall as the museum's inaugural artist.

Hall’s residency runs through March 27, culminating with a performance at DAM’s monthly after-hours “Untitled” event.

During his month-long residency, Hall aims to create site-specific musical works inspired by the institution's art collection or architecture. Visitors will be able to hear Hall's compositions as they walk through some of the museum’s galleries.

For example, Hall is planning a musical installation with harmonica players in the American West Art gallery, which displays works depicting the people, history and landscapes of this part of the country.

The composer is also crafting a piece for the corridor connecting DAM’s two buildings. This work will electronically process and transform the voices of museum visitors into a musical canvas.

Each piece Hall creates will have some element of engagement, so visitors can interact with the work even when Hall is not there.

“People can experiment and try things on their own, and see what it’s like to make connections between the visual artwork and the music,” Hall says.

The residency will also include open rehearsals and “office hours.”

For the latter, DAM will set up a grand piano in the European and American Art galleries to serve as Hall’s “office” each Thursday in March. Passersby can watch Hall at work and ask him questions.

Different than past artist residencies

DAM received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a philanthropic organization based in Washington D.C., to create the new program.

One of the museum’s main motives is to open up its doors to professional creatives outside of the visual arts. And museum's definition of the word "creative" is very broad: Beyond composers like Hall, DAM might create residencies for a dancer, baker or gardener.

“What we’re really trying to explore with this grant is how local creatives can be inspired by the museum and its collections,” DAM adult and college program manager Jaime Kopke says. “And, in turn, how that will inspire visitors in new ways.”

The Creative-in-Residence program will include four two- to four-week residencies and two three- to six-month residences, concluding in March 2016.

DAM first presented the idea at its annual open-house event, “Meet Here,” in November 2014, soliciting ideas and seeking potential creatives to highlight in the new series.

“For this program, it’s less about the product and more about the process,” Kopke says. “It’s meant to be experimental and we know residencies will probably evolve as they go on.”

Kopke added that she was excited to kick off the program with Hall because most people have some connection or reaction to music.


Hall’s “Untitled” performance on March 27 will include a piece created early on in his DAM residency as well as a new work. The composer calls it “a short, surprise pop-up piece.” 

“It will have a lot of different instruments and voices,” Hall says. “It should be pretty eclectic.”

Hall has done other residences, including one at the CatWalk Institute in New York’s Catskills mountain range and another in Dublin, Ireland.  But neither of these are quite like what he’s taken on at DAM.

Audio: A soundscape piece Nathan Hall created for his residency in the Catskills

“I’m looking to really challenge myself,” Hall says. “A lot of these ideas are new to me. So it’s a leap of faith. But I’m excited about it.”

CPR Classical also featured Hall in its "Composer & Curator" series last November.

Currently, DAM is in conversations with several candidates for the program. But the institution is not yet ready to announce its next resident creative. 

Click the audio at the top of the article to listen to Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner speak with Denver composer Nathan Hall. This interview originally aired on July 9, 2014.