Ringmasters: Nathan Davis

My first introduction to Nathan Davis' music was ICE's performance of his piece Bells at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.  Performers, dispersed around the museum's lobby and atrium, played material that was manipulated electronically while the audience processed around, cell phones in hand.  We were asked to call various numbers which would receive those same electronic manipulations being sent from a ring modulator that Nathan was operating in the museum, creating a sort of ambulatory speaker system.  The hazy textures from wandering phones superimposed onto the live instruments was fascinating.

Nathan's penchant for electronics is undeniable; I think I've yet to see a work of his that was strictly acoustic.  Yet he does such an amazing job of tricking the listener into believing there are no computers present; instruments are electronically processed only to highlight their idiosyncrasies, to accentuate themselves with themselves.  Nathan is able to find the little quirks that define an instrument and develop them organically through digital means.  The result is at times corporeal and human, at other times meditative and spiritual.  His work for bassoonist Rebekah Heller, On Speaking One Hundred Names, seems to demonstrate both: