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Listening to a Sunset

See my preview of an unusual performance later this month at

Watch the Sunset to Classical Music (Washingtonian, June 30):

Watching a sunset is a favorite summer activity, letting the palette of pink and orange ooze and flow across the sky as you drift in and out of a snooze. Now imagine watching a sunset with a group of people you have never met, and you are all listening to a new musical work composed to accompany such a sunset. That is exactly what will happen during the performance of a new piece by young Seattle composer Nat Evans, called Assemblage, in Washington next month. Evans will make a download of the recorded score available on his Web site a couple weeks before the event. Anyone interested in participating is instructed to download the music onto a portable listening device before July 24. Listeners should arrive at the site of the “performance,” Constitution Gardens, by 8:10 p.m. on July 24. At ten minutes before sunset (8:17 p.m., with sunset estimated at 8:27 p.m.) there will be a cue to press play, and everyone gathered for the performance will listen to the recording simultaneously.

On the phone earlier this week, Evans explained how he created the recorded score, beginning with live musicians on strings, trombone, and various percussion instruments playing sections of music he wrote. In the final process, he put those tracks together, layering them upon each other and combining them with field recordings of other sounds he made (wind, water, birds, random noises). “I have spent a lot of time observing the pacing of light, and the music is built around that idea of pacing, trying to capture the way that the rhythm of the light changes at sunset. Everyone will hear the music differently, and the subjectivity is the exciting thing because you don’t have a lot of control over how the light will play out.” [Continue reading]

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