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Instant Community: How Composer Nat Evans Sends You Off Into the Sunset with Strangers and His Music

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A beautiful SoCal sunset (Photo by jakerome via the LAist Featured Photos pool)
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Sure, a sunset happens every day, but that doesn't mean experiencing one can't be special. In fact, it can create an instant community. Just ask Nat Evans, a Seattle-based musician who has put together a unique national "event" that pairs his "site-specific" music with mother nature's evening gift, the sunset.

All you'll need is you and your iPod: On October 1st in Long Beach and October 2nd in Culver City at a designated location, you can take your downloaded file of Evans' compilation piece, "Assemblage," and experience "Sunset + Music."

We talked with Evans about "Sunset + Music," how it came to be, how the locations were selected, and how he hopes to create "spontaneous communities."

What is the genesis of the "Sunset + Music" endeavor?
Last year I came up with the idea to do a piece based around the timing of the light at sunrise, and the sunset piece shares the same principles and origin, which is a combination of a few different things. I had been listening to a lot of Indian Classical music which is often written for specific times of day, or even seasons, and I had been noticing the changing of the light on the wall while meditating through my Zen practice. Those two ideas combining with a longstanding desire to have my music presented in non-traditional places - outside the concert hall - pushed me to the concept for the Sunset + Music event.

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These spontaneous communities that pop up to participate in these events is really interesting - the social mores and behaviors of the concert hall are not present, and it allows us to listen to the music differently and interact with each other more freely.

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Evans (Photo courtesy Nat Evans)
How have the prior dates and locations worked out? Did you go there to see the response, or get info about who participated and what their reactions were?
The locations in other cities worked out amazingly well - I went to all but the DC event. I had never been to half the locations, but with the help of friends and an excessive amount of Google Earth usage I figured out what would be easy places for folks to go to that also had a good or interesting view that would allow the audience to observe the changing of the light at the time around sunset.

Having been to all but one of the events, I have to say that people have been really receptive to the idea and became very engaged with the work. Also, the loose or perhaps informal nature of the 'venues' seems to have made people more open to talking about their experiences, which is really interesting since it's all so subjective.

Did you visit the locations before putting together the edit of the final piece? What was your process for making the mix of "Assemblage"?
I had been to a couple, and certainly the location in Seattle, which I visited, yes - but the key thing was figuring out which sort of timing of the light I wanted to highlight through the music.

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The process for, well, assembling "Assemblage" involved sorting through various different compositions that I had recordings of and selecting parts of them and trying out different orders. I only used smaller sections though, as I altered each one to fit or better compliment the light changes - essentially remixing my own work. Once I had those sections lined up I wrote additional material which sort of strings it all together.

How were the various locations selected?
Each west-facing location needs to have a significant amount of openness so that the audience can observe the light changing, though being able to see the actual sun drop below the horizon isn't necessary. Also, I tried to choose places that were generally central to the potential audience. Culver City seemed central to the various folks I already know there, and the top of Culver City Park has a spectacular view.

Here's how to experience "Sunset + Music": Download "Assemblage," (you can find links to the download here) and then show up to the designated spot, and press play at the designated time. Then, sit back and enjoy!

Long Beach, CA - October 1
Presented as part of the FLOOD SoundWalk festival - @ Marina Green Park (the eastern most edge, near the beach) - we will press play at 6:22 (sunset is at 6:32)
Los Angeles, CA - October 2
Arrive at the top of Culver City Park by 6:20pm - we will press play at 6:27 (sunset is at 6:37)