Composer Nathan Hall Brings ‘Ghost’ Sounds To Boettcher

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Photo: Nathan Hall
Denver composer Nathan Hall

With the Colorado Symphony taking a few weeks off from concerts at Boettcher Concert Hall, a Denver composer plans to fill the venue with his ethereal, recorded sounds.

Nathan Hall’s “Ghost Light,” which opens Sunday, asks listeners to lie on the stage floor as electronically manipulated music floats out of speakers.

Hall’s past projects include a composition based on a "Fresh Air" interview with children’s author Maurice Sendak and a stint as creative-in-residence at the Denver Art Museum.

Photo: Nathan Hall graphic score 'Ghost Light'
A glimpse of the graphic score for Nathan Hall's "Ghost Light" sound installation at Boettcher Concert Hall Aug. 16-27. The document will serve as a road map for some of the musicians adding improvised music to the piece.

For the new project, he drew mainly from ghosts from his own creative past, reworking recordings of old compositions that he wanted to hear again. On some evenings, local musicians from groups like The Playground Ensemble and Land Lines will improvise their own sounds in the concert.

Hall spoke with Ryan Warner about creating the sound installation, which runs through Aug. 27. Click the audio above to listen.

Interview highlights:

On the inspiration behind the name “Ghost Light”

“That refers to a light bulb that most theaters have when they’re not in use or having a production. So there’s one spare unadorned light bulb that’s in the center of the stage illuminated at night or all times when the theatre’s dark. Legend has it that this light keeps ghosts away and protects the theater. But of course the practical use is, it helps anyone not fall into the orchestra pit and break the legs. …

“I thought it was really evocative, like, what would happen if the ghost light went dim, or out? And you might hear all of the music that had been soaking up in the theater over the decades that it's been there.”

On how listeners should experience the sound installation

“I would love people to feel something that’s a bit different than the normal concert experience. It’s almost as if … the performers on the stage and the audience are reversed, where the music comes at you from all directions but the audience is in one place at the center of it all.”

On what he learned from handing out harmonicas to enhance the mood in a Western art gallery

“People are more adventurous than I would’ve ever expected. If you give them enough prompt and say it’s OK to experience something new and exciting, I think people will take that risk. … I thought that they’d see harmonicas on a pedestal and say ‘Oh, that’s for kids or that’s an activity and I don’t feel like doing it.’ But hundreds of people participated. I was just bowled over.”