Eric Nathan: Missing Words

, composer


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.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 84:09

Missing Words I

Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor
01I. Eisenbahnscheinbewegung (Railway-Illusion-Motion)
I. Eisenbahnscheinbewegung (Railway-Illusion-Motion)
Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor3:10
02II. Herbstlaubtrittvergnügen (Autumn-Foliage-Strike-Fun)
II. Herbstlaubtrittvergnügen (Autumn-Foliage-Strike-Fun)
Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor1:28
03III. Fingerspitzentanz (Fingertips-Dance)
III. Fingerspitzentanz (Fingertips-Dance)
Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor3:11

Missing Words II

American Brass Quintet
04I. Leertretung (Void-Stepping)
I. Leertretung (Void-Stepping)
American Brass Quintet2:37
05II. Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss (Automobile-Interior-Furnishing-Aroma-Pleasure)
II. Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss (Automobile-Interior-Furnishing-Aroma-Pleasure)
American Brass Quintet2:33
06III. Brillenbrillanz (Spectacles-Luminosity)
III. Brillenbrillanz (Spectacles-Luminosity)
Parry Karp, cello, Christopher Karp, piano5:38

Missing Words III

Parry Karp, cello, Christopher Karp, piano
07I. Rollschleppe (Escalator-Schlep)
I. Rollschleppe (Escalator-Schlep)
Parry Karp, cello, Christopher Karp, piano5:12
08II. Mundphantom (Mouth-Phantom)
II. Mundphantom (Mouth-Phantom)
Parry Karp, cello, Christopher Karp, piano3:58
09III. Straußmanöver (Ostrich-Maneuver)
III. Straußmanöver (Ostrich-Maneuver)
Parry Karp, cello, Christopher Karp, piano5:47
10IV. Schubladenbrief ((Desk-)Drawer-Letter)
IV. Schubladenbrief ((Desk-)Drawer-Letter)
Parry Karp, cello, Christopher Karp, piano3:04

Missing Words IV

International Contemporary Ensemble, Nicholas DeMaison, conductor
11I. Erkenntnisspaziergang (Cognition-Stroll)
I. Erkenntnisspaziergang (Cognition-Stroll)
International Contemporary Ensemble, Nicholas DeMaison, conductor5:45
12II. Dreiecksumgleichung (Triangle-Reorganization)
II. Dreiecksumgleichung (Triangle-Reorganization)
International Contemporary Ensemble, Nicholas DeMaison, conductor6:39
13III. Tageslichtspielschock (Daylight-Show-Shock)
III. Tageslichtspielschock (Daylight-Show-Shock)
International Contemporary Ensemble, Nicholas DeMaison, conductor6:30

Missing Words V

Neave Trio
14I. Ludwigssyndrom (Ludwig’s-Syndrome)
I. Ludwigssyndrom (Ludwig’s-Syndrome)
Neave Trio6:09
15II. Kissenkühlelabsal (Pillow-Chill-Refreshment)
II. Kissenkühlelabsal (Pillow-Chill-Refreshment)
Neave Trio3:54
16III. Watzmannwahn (Watzmann-Delusion)
III. Watzmannwahn (Watzmann-Delusion)
Neave Trio3:07

Missing Words VI

Hub New Music
17I. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) I
I. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) I
Hub New Music1:11
18II. Betttrug (Bed-Deception)
II. Betttrug (Bed-Deception)
Hub New Music2:40
19III. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) II
III. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) II
Hub New Music1:15
20IV. Dielennystagmus (Hallway-Nystagmus)
IV. Dielennystagmus (Hallway-Nystagmus)
Hub New Music2:22
21V. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) III
V. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) III
Hub New Music1:27
22VI. Erebusterror (Erebus-Terror)
VI. Erebusterror (Erebus-Terror)
Hub New Music3:18
23VII. Rolleirückblende (Rollei-Flashback)
VII. Rolleirückblende (Rollei-Flashback)
Hub New Music3:14

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.”


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.

Eric Nathan

Eric Nathan’s (b .1983) music has been called “as diverse as it is arresting” with

a “constant vein of ingenuity and expressive depth” (San Francisco Chronicle), “thoughtful and inventive” (The New Yorker), and as “a marvel of musical logic” (Boston Classical Review).

Nathan, a 2013 Rome Prize Fellow and 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, has garnered acclaim internationally through performances by Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, International Contemporary Ensemble, Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Boston Musica Viva, JACK Quartet, American Brass Quintet, Ensemble Dal Niente, A Far Cry, Momenta Quartet and performers including vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Lucy Shelton, Tony Arnold, Jessica Rivera and William Sharp, violinists Jennifer Koh and Stefan Jackiw, trombonist Joseph Alessi, pianists Gloria Cheng and Gilbert Kalish, and violist Samuel Rhodes. His music has additionally been featured at the New York Philharmonic’s 2014 and 2016 Biennials, Carnegie Hall, Aldeburgh Music Festival, Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Aspen Music Festival, MATA Festival, Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Ravinia Festival Steans Institute, Yellow Barn, Music Academy of the West, 2012 and 2013 World Music Days, and Louvre Museum.

Recent projects include three commissions from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, including a chamber work, “Why Old Places Matter” (2014) for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and two orchestral works, “the space of a door” (2016), that Andris Nelsons and the BSO premiered in November 2016 and commercially released on the Naxos label in 2019, and “Concerto for Orchestra” which Nelsons premiered on the 2019-20 season-opening concerts.

Nathan has received additional commissions from the New York Philharmonic for its CONTACT! series, Milwaukee Symphony, New England Philharmonic, Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival for the American Brass Quintet, Boston Musica Viva, Collage New Music, New York Virtuoso Singers, The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, Barlow Endowment and Fromm Music Foundation. Nathan has been honored with awards including a Copland House residency, Civitella Ranieri Music Fellowship, ASCAP’s Rudolf Nissim Prize, four ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, BMI’s William Schuman Prize, Aspen Music Festival’s Jacob Druckman Prize, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Leonard Bernstein Fellowship from the Tanglewood Music Center.

In 2015, Albany Records released a debut CD of Nathan’s solo and chamber music, “Multitude, Solitude: Eric Nathan,” produced by Grammy-winning producer Judith Sherman. Poisson Rouge presented a CD release concert of Nathan’s music in October 2015. In 2020, Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project released a portrait album of Nathan’s orchestral and large ensemble music on the BMOP Sound label.

Nathan is currently Composer-in-Residence with the New England Philharmonic . He previously served as Composer-in-Residence at the 2013 Chelsea Music Festival (New York) and 2013 Chamber Music Campania (Italy). He received his doctorate from Cornell and holds degrees from Yale (B.A ) and Indiana University (M.M.). Nathan served as Visiting Assistant Professor at Williams College in 2014-15, and is currently Associate Professor of Music in Composition-Theory at the Brown University Department of Music.

Boston Modern Orchestra Project

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) is the premier orchestra in the United States dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Recently hailed as “one of the most artistically valuable [orchestras] in the country for its support of music either new or so woefully neglected that it might as well be” by The New York Times, BMOP was the recipient of Musical America’s 2016 Ensemble of the Year award, the first symphony orchestra in the organization’s history to receive this distinction.

Founded by Artistic Director Gil Rose in 1996, BMOP has championed composers whose careers span nine decades. BMOP’s distinguished and adventurous track record includes premieres and recordings of monumental and provocative new works such as John Harbison’s ballet Ulysses, Louis Andriessen’s Trilogy of the Last Day, and Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers. A perennial winner of the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the orchestra has been featured at festivals including Opera Unlimited, the Ditson Festival of Contemporary Music with the ICA/Boston, Tanglewood, the Boston Cyberarts Festival, the Festival of New American Music (Sacramento, CA), Music on the Edge (Pittsburgh, PA), and the MATA Festival in New York.

BMOP/sound, BMOP’s independent record label, was created in 2008 and has garnered praise from the national and international press; it is the recipient of six Grammy Award nominations and its releases have appeared on the year-end “Best of” lists of The New York Times, The Boston Globe, National Public Radio, Time Out New York, American Record Guide, Downbeat Magazine, WBUR, NewMusicBox, and others.

Gil Rose

Gil Rose is a conductor helping to shape the future of classical music. His dynamic performances and many recordings have garnered international critical praise. In 1996, Mr. Rose founded the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), whose unique programming and distinguished performances have earned the orchestra fourteen ASCAP awards for adventurous programming as well as the John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music. Also one of the country’s most inventive and versatile opera conductors, Mr. Rose founded Odyssey Opera, a new company dedicated to exploring eclectic and overlooked operatic repertoire, in 2013. He led Opera Boston as its Music Director starting in 2003, and in 2010 was appointed the company's first Artistic Director. Mr. Rose serves as the executive producer of the BMOP/sound label, and has led the longstanding Monadnock Music Festival in historic Peterborough, NH, since 2012.

American Brass Quintet

Founded in 1960, the American Brass Quintet immediately became a leading proponent of serious brass chamber music. Beginning with the commissioning of Charles Whittenberg and his Tryptich, ABQ has commissioned and premiered over 150 pieces. ABQ has recorded nearly 60 albums of brass music, ranging from the Renaissance and Early Baroque to music from the 21st Century. Touring extensively since the early 1960’s, ABQ has concertized and taught in all 50 states and 5 continents. Committed to the promotion of brass chamber music through education, the American Brass Quintet has been ensemble-in-residence at The Juilliard School since 1987 and the Aspen Music Festival and School since 1970.

Parry Karp

Cellist Parry Karp is Artist-in Residence and the Graebner Professor of Chamber Music and Cello, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is director of the string chamber music program. He has been cellist of the Pro Arte Quartet for the past 45 years, the longest tenure of any member in the quartet’s over 100 year history . Parry Karp is an active solo artist, performing numerous recitals annually in the United States, and has recorded six solo CDs. Unearthing and performing unjustly neglected repertoire for cello is a passion of Mr. Karp’s. In recent years he has transcribed for cello many masterpieces written for other instruments.

Christopher Karp

Pianist and violinist Christopher Karp’s extra-familial music training included violin and chamber music studies with Lorand Fenyves and Robert Koff. Recordings include three CDs of the chamber music of Joel Hoffman (Albany Records). A physician-scientist, he is currently the Director of Global Health Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

International Contemporary Ensemble

Called “America’s foremost new music group” by The New Yorker, The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present. A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE's First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People's Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE.

Nicholas DeMaison

Nicholas Demaison is an American conductor and composer based in New York City. Passionately devoted to the music being made in our own time, he has led premiere performances of new works for orchestra, opera, choir and various mixed ensembles with new technologies by well over a hundred living composers, and appears on albums released by New Focus, Mode, and Con d’or Records. He is currently the Co-Director of Wavefield Ensemble and Director of Orchestral Studies at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University.

Neave Trio

Since forming in 2010, Neave Trio – violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov, and pianist Eri Nakamura – has earned enormous praise for its engaging, cutting-edge performances. WQXR explains, “’Neave’ is actually a Gaelic name meaning ‘bright’ and ‘radiant’, both of which certainly apply to this trio’s music making.” Neave has performed at many esteemed concert series and at festivals worldwide, including Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 92nd Street Y, and more. Their critically acclaimed recordings include Her Voice, French Moments, and American Moments (all on Chandos Records); and Celebrating Piazzolla (Azica Records).

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

Hub New Music

Called “contemporary chamber trailblazers” by the Boston Globe, Hub New Music – composed of flute, clarinet, violin, and cello – is forging new pathways in 21st-century repertoire. The ensemble’s ambitious commissioning projects and “appealing programs” (New Yorker) celebrate the rich diversity of today’s classical music landscape, and its performances have been described as on the “the cutting edge of new classical music” (Taos News). Founded in 2013, the group has commissioned dozens of works for its non-standard combination, and maintains an active performance schedule alongside its many educational endeavors.




Back in 2013, author Ben Schott published Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition, a dictionary of German words he'd concocted to describe situations and states of mind for which English has no word. We English speakers had already borrowed many such composite German words for that purpose: zeitgeist, blitzkrieg, bildungsroman, wunderkind, and of course schadenfreude are a few; Schott took the idea and ran with it, over the top.

Over the past several years, composer Eric Nathan has taken Schott's creative fun into a new realm with Missing Words, six sets of instrumental music based on some of Schott's neologisms. This month, New Focus Recordings releases the world premiere recording of the full series, including performances by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Neave Trio, Boston Modern Orchestra Project and others. It's a two-CD trip through the inventive mind of a composer who's part translator of the human condition, part trickster.

How to translate an individual portmanteau word (to use a French import for a moment) into music? Nathan often solves this problem by telling a story, of sorts, in sound. One of my favorite of Schott's creations is "Dreiecksumgleichung" (literally "triangle-reorganization"), denoting "when two friends you've introduced form a new friendship that excludes you." Performed by ICE, Nathan's musical interpretation has a third instrument "intrude" into a happy collaboration between two others, finally driving one of the original pair into the wilderness. He then extends the concept with a second trio of instruments, a second exclusion, and a union of the two outcasts.

Many of the linkages are suggestively programmatic in this way, as when the tongue-twisting "Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss" ("Automobile-Interior-Furnishing-Aroma-Pleasure"), denoting "new car smell," begins and ends with the American Brass Quintet simulating the sound of a car starting, revving and accelerating, with honking horns in between. It's one example of how Nathan marshals the timbre and attack qualities of particular ensembles to convey descriptive messages. Ever resourceful, he also evokes the aggravating noise of the city with violin, cello and piano in one of the movements performed by the Neave Trio. And an onomatopoeic piece performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project illustrates "kicking through piles of autumn leaves" by means of horn-bassoon "kicks" setting off brief flights of skittering strings, representing leaf-scatter.

Other word-music connections are more abstract. To illustrate "Schubladenbrief" ("(Desk-)Drawer-Letter") - "the letter you write, but never send" - the score directs cellist Parry Karp and pianist Christopher Karp through a web of frenzied activity and awkward gesturing, suggesting a letter-writer's feverish state of mind. "Straugmanover" ("Ostrich-Maneuver") - "the short-term defense strategy of simply denying reality" - slinks by with angst (another borrowing from German) and solemnity and ends with a glacially paced, clearly ironic reference to a patriotic song.

The same duo creates a haunting sound picture in "Rollschleppe" ("Escalator-Schlep") to suggest "the exhausting trudge up a stationary escalator." The Karps' four-movement sequence boasts extraordinarily compelling playing over a wide range of musical developments, atmospheres, and techniques.

It adds a dimension - and it's just plain fun - to refer to the explanatory liner notes explaining each piece as you listen. They inform us, for example, that in "Dielennystagmus" (Hallway-Nystagmus), denoting "repeatedly catching and avoiding people's gazes when, say, approaching them down a long corridor," Nathan calls for the musicians to cue one another through interrupted eye contact. The results are predictably halting and rather eerie.

But what gives the project its real heft is deep immersion in one composer's sensibility through different configurations of instruments. This makes Missing Words a supremely engaging multi-course meal full of dense flights of musical invention. The versatile and adventurous Neave Trio opens the fifth set with "Ludwigssyndrom" (Ludwig's-Syndrome), "discovering an indecipherable note in your own handwriting." In this and the other movements of "Missing Words V," and in the seven short pieces comprising "Missing Words VI" performed by the chamber ensemble Hub New Music, Nathan takes inspiration from Beethoven - his themes and his process - confirming Nathan's engagement with the classical tradition through an avant-garde lens while translating (Schott's word) the writer's arch humor and observational precision.

Missing Words is a feast for adventurous listeners and, I think, the friendliest sort of challenge for the avant-averse. It will be released on January 21, 2022.

— Jon Sobel, 1.16.2022