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Missing Words

by Eric Nathan

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    Album Design by Denise Burt (elevator-design.dk)

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Composer Eric Nathan's releases the ambitious cycle of works "Missing Words", featuring performances by some of new music's most prolific ensembles: International Contemporary Ensemble, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, American Brass Quintet, Hub New Music, and Neave Trio, as well as cellist Parry Karp and pianist Christopher Karp. "Missing Words" balances structural impulses befitting the epic scope of the set with Nathan's carefully considered approach to details of orchestration, harmony, and pitch.

Performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, American Brass Quintet, cellist Parry Karp and pianist Christopher Karp, International Contemporary Ensemble, Neave Trio, and Hub New Music, Missing Words is a six-part series inspired by German words invented by writer Ben Schott in his book Schottenfreude (2013) that describe ineffable experiences of contemporary life. The musical works speak to intimate yet shared experiences that range from the tragic and beautiful to the comic and commonplace. With Missing Words, Nathan finds meaning in the phenomena that add color to everyday life. Schott has contributed a foreword for the album and Robert Kirzinger wrote the liner notes.

Musically, Missing Words is a stark departure from Nathan’s other works. In order to convey the subtlety and complexity of Schott’s precisely constructed portmanteau words, Nathan has invented new sonorities and forms that are surprising and delightful. He expresses, with exactitude and humor, shared human experiences that bring us closer together. These Schumann-esque character pieces take the listener through sound worlds that are widely disparate.

In his liner notes, Robert Kirzinger writes, “Already possessing a strong compositional technique and a large toolkit of resources, Nathan frequently found himself developing new tools and sounds to translate into music the commonplace or surprisingly subtle ideas behind Schott’s linguistic constructions… At times we’re asked merely to notice something – the way some physical action feels, the way it affects our mood. Other pieces are one-liners, a nudge to the ribs, while others, perhaps unexpectedly given the tiny kernel of their origins, expand and reflect upon much bigger phenomena of human experience. Each of the pieces is complete in itself; at the same time, though, each is a porous little world of sound that grows beyond itself, blends with the memory of the others, and sings to us a song of humanity.”

The first Missing Words piece was born during Nathan’s time in Italy as recipient of the Rome Prize of the American Academy of Rome. Composed for the resident Scharoun Ensemble, made up of members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Missing Words I launched the quasi-Germanic musical concept. So far, the series consists of six pieces for various ensembles, each inspired by Schott’s proposed new words that are missing from the English language, in the vein of Schadenfreude, Doppelgänger, and Wanderlust.

Kirzinger adds, “Nathan’s music captures the range of human experience, and embodies an understanding that life’s richness results from the accumulation of all of its facets, from the mundane to the profound. The composition of Missing Words I set in motion a process, familiar to the composer, of seeking out the most direct musical language to express the emotional and narrative content of a succinct idea.”

Ben Schott writes in the foreword, “Eric’s selected translation – I can think of no better word – is not just unexpected in conception, but remarkable in execution. It does with notes what I attempted with letters – that is, it takes a superficially frivolous idea, and treats it with a seriousness that reveals. Missing Words is elegant and amusing, personal and public... Schottenfreude exists because when English is exhausted, we turn to German. Missing Words exists because when words are exhausted, we turn to music.”

– Dan Lippel


released January 21, 2022

CD 1:

Tracks 1-3 recorded February 13, 2016, in Fraser Performance Studio at WGBH in Boston Producer: Gil Rose

Recording and post-production: Joel Gordon

Tracks 4-6 recorded on October 26, 2021, in Norman S . Benzaquen Hall at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York

Producer and engineer: Andrew Bove

Assistant Engineer: Mario Correa

Editing: Andrew Bove, Mario Correa, and John Rojak

Tracks 7-10 recorded August 14-15, 2021, at the Hamel Music Center, Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall, University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music, in Madison

Producer: Eric Nathan

Recording and post-production: Brian Losch

CD 2:

Tracks 1-3 recorded September 8, 2021, at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon

Producer: Eric Nathan

Producer, recording and post-production: Ryan Streber

Editing: Ryan Streber and Charles Mueller

Tracks 4-6 recorded October 12, 2021, in Fraser Performance Studio at WGBH in Boston

Producer: Eric Nathan

Recording and post-production: Antonio Oliart Ros

Tracks 7-13 recorded October 8, 2021, at Futura Productions in Boston

Producer: Eric Nathan

Producer and post-production: Shauna Barravechio

Recording: John Weston

Post-production: Christopher Moretti

Mastering (full album): Antonio Oliart Ros

Foreword: Ben Schott

Liner Notes: Robert Kirzinger

Album Design: Denise Burt (elevator-design .dk)

Photo of Eric Nathan by Luyuan Nathan

The movement titles of Missing Words, and their translations and definitions, quote text from Schottenfreude by Ben Schott. Copyright © 2013 by Ben Schott. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

The Neave Trio are exclusive artists of Chandos Records and appear with their kind permission.

This recording was made possible, in part, by the Brown Arts Institute and Brown University.




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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