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It's a wrap for the GALA Choruses performance of Nathan Hall's "Mountains and Plains."
It's a wrap for the GALA Choruses performance of Nathan Hall's "Mountains and Plains."
Courtesy of GALA Choruses

Colorado Creatives Redux: Nathan Hall

We first introduced Nathan Hall as a Colorado Creative nearly five years ago, when the composer was about to inaugurate the Denver Art Museum’s artist-in-residence program, now a thriving outreach initiative. A try-anything aural dreamer with the skills and programming genius to mount ideas both intriguing and outrageous, the former Fulbright scholar went on to bring a massive choir to the Galleria of the Denver Performing Arts Complex for an al fresco performance, completed a long-term residency at the Boulder Public Library, spearheaded interdisciplinary collaborations, returned to the DAM as a featured artist in the Untitled Final Friday series, took over the Understudy creative incubator for a month, and launched ongoing site-specific installations and performances both here and around the world.

How does Hall manage to make the difficult territory of new music so accessible? It’s a gift, he says. Learn more as he returns to answer the Colorado Creatives Redux questionnaire.

Nathan Hall goes where no man has gone before as a composer.EXPAND
Nathan Hall goes where no man has gone before as a composer.
Lewis Neef

Westword: How has your creative life grown or suffered since you last answered the CC questionnaire?

Nathan Hall: My creative life has certainly grown; I've been working on larger-scale projects, like a piece for 437 singers, and multimedia installations. It's amazing to be able to have travel opportunities related to my work, like a recent residency at Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. But those big moments also seem to come every now and then, so I fill in with other gigs in between.

As a creative, what’s your vision for a more perfect Denver (or Colorado)?

I'd love a Denver that could support more non-commercial artists full-time. That and more trees; shade and clean air are priceless.

Nathan Hall, "Dvergasteinn (Telling Secrets to the Elves)," video still of a site-specific performance.EXPAND
Nathan Hall, "Dvergasteinn (Telling Secrets to the Elves)," video still of a site-specific performance.
Nathan Hall

It’s a challenging time for artists and creatives in the metro area, who are being priced out of the city by gentrification and rising rents. What can they do about it, short of leaving?

I feel this pinch all the time. There's the "write to your lawmaker" strategy, with which I've seen progress being made in baby steps. Personally, I'm more of the type to try and affect culture. When I lived in Iceland, I'd tell Icelanders I was an artist and composer, and no one balked at the thought or wondered what my day job was. My work was (and is) valid, valuable and worthy of being a profession. I tell this to people to show the value of the arts as cultural currency. You are more willing to advocate for fair housing and diversity when you know and value real people.

More than 400 voices surround the DPAC Galleria for "Mountains and Plains."
More than 400 voices surround the DPAC Galleria for "Mountains and Plains."
Courtesy of GALA Choruses

Explain your INSITE project and how you will be rolling it out.

My project started out with a curious question from a pianist, Tristan McKay: Could I write him some music for the toy piano? It's such a tiny, silly instrument, but it's got serious composers writing for it. So together we came up with the idea to take the toy piano out into different places in Colorado and make music based on those landscapes — the mountains, the prairie and the city. We will record these pieces and present them as videos and live performances, and combine them with participatory workshops. Together they will focus on finding inspiration from the ecosystems around us.

What advice would you give a young hopeful in your field?

It's totally okay to start small. Documentation is everything. Please be your weird self! And at the same time, try to be as approachable as you can.

Nathan Hall, "Visby," at Understudy.EXPAND
Nathan Hall, "Visby," at Understudy.
Third Dune Production

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

I was so moved by Juntae TeeJay Hwang's work at the Denver Art Museum as Creative-in-Residence. His participatory performances made me feel uncomfortable, empowered, serious and goofy, all in the span of ten seconds.

What's on your agenda right now and in the coming year?

Right now I'm teaching music composition at CU Boulder, and working on my first piece for surround-sound inside a planetarium dome. In the coming year, I have the toy piano piece, plus a few applications in the works: I hope to go to Japan or Antarctica for a month to explore music in a very different community than I'm used to.

A harpsichord in bondage for Nathan Hall's installation "You're Not the Boss of Me" at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, 2019.EXPAND
A harpsichord in bondage for Nathan Hall's installation "You're Not the Boss of Me" at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, 2019.
Nathan Hall

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

I want Playground Ensemble to stand out as the leader in new music in the area. Their events and education programs are so forward-thinking. I also think Adam Gordon, who operates the Temple artist studios, deserves more attention for the opportunities he has made possible. His fundraising and creative workarounds are an art themselves.

Keep up with Nathan Hall at his website, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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