Composer Eric Nathan to Release Missing Words, Feat. BMOP, ICE & More

The musical works speak to intimate yet shared experiences that range from the tragic and beautiful to the comic and commonplace.

By: Nov. 30, 2021
Composer Eric Nathan to Release Missing Words, Feat. BMOP, ICE & More

Composer Eric Nathan will release the world premiere recording of Missing Words (2014-2021) on January 21, 2022 on New Focus Recordings. 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, this 84-minute magnum opus 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."

About 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).

A 2013 Rome Prize Fellow and 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, Nathan has been commissioned by leading ensembles and institutions including the New York Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival, Boston Musica Viva, Collage New Music, The New York Virtuoso Singers, Fromm Music Foundation, Barlow Endowment and University of Chicago's Grossman Ensemble. The Boston Symphony Orchestra has commissioned three works, 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, and was scheduled to repeat at Tanglewood in summer 2020.

Nathan's works have also been presented nationally and internationally at the New York Philharmonic's 2014 and 2016 Biennials, Louvre Museum, Library of Congress, the 2012 and 2013 World Music Days, Emily Dickinson Museum, Nasher Sculpture Center and at the festivals of Aldeburgh, Aspen, Cabrillo, Domaine Forget, MATA, Ravinia Steans Institute, and Tanglewood. In 2019, Yellow Barn featured Nathan's 50-minute dramatic song cycle, "Some Favored Nook," created in collaboration with librettist Mark Campbell, on opening night of its 50th anniversary season. Composer portrait concerts of Nathan's music have been presented by the Berlin Philharmonic's Scharoun Ensemble Berlin at the American Academy in Rome, by the Hudson Valley Music Club, and at the Tenri Cultural Institute (New York). In April 2020, the Longy School of Music was scheduled to present a portrait concert featuring the premiere of Nathan's evening-length work, "Missing Words" (postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic).

Nathan's orchestral music has additionally been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and orchestras of Charleston, Charlotte, Daejeon, Louisville, Milwaukee, Omaha, Portland as well as A Far Cry, Aspen Music Festival and New York Classical Players. Chamber ensembles have performed Nathan's work, such as International Contemporary Ensemble, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Ensemble Dal Niente, JACK Quartet, and American Brass Quintet. In addition, Nathan's music has been performed by sopranos Tony Arnold, Jessica Rivera, Lucy Shelton and Dawn Upshaw; violinists Jennifer Koh and Stefan Jackiw; baritone William Sharp; and pianists Gloria Cheng, Gilbert Kalish and Molly Morkoski.

Nathan began a four-year appointment as Composer-in-Residence with the New England Philharmonic in the 2019-20 season. He has previously served as Composer-in-Residence at the Chelsea Music Festival (New York) and Chamber Music Campania (Italy). Nathan has completed artist residencies at Yellow Barn, Copland House and the American Academy in Rome, and will be a fellow at Civitella Ranieri Foundation in 2022. Nathan has been honored with awards including 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 album of Nathan's solo and chamber music, "Multitude, Solitude: Eric Nathan," produced by Grammy-winning producer Judith Sherman, featuring the Momenta Quartet, trombonist Joseph Alessi, violist Samuel Rhodes, oboist Peggy Pearson, pianist Mei Rui, and trumpeter Hugo Moreno. (Le) Poisson Rouge presented a CD release concert of Nathan's music in October 2015. In 2019, Chelsea Music Festival Records released "Eric Nathan: Dancing with J.S. Bach," featuring conductor Ken-David Masur in Nathan's two suites of orchestrations of Bach keyboard works. In May 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's music has additionally been released on Bridge Records.

Nathan is also a passionate educator and advocate for contemporary composers. He serves as Associate Professor of Music in composition and theory at Brown University's Department of Music. At Brown, he teaches a variety of subjects from composition to popular music history that engage students with and without backgrounds in music. In 2018, he was awarded Brown University's most prestigious award for junior faculty, the Henry Merritt Wriston Fellowship, that recognizes excellence in teaching. He has additionally served as David S. Josephson Assistant Professor at Brown, Visiting Assistant Professor at Williams College and has taught composition at the New York Philharmonic's Composer's Bridge program and at Yellow Barn's Young Artists Program.

Nathan completed his doctorate studying at Cornell with Steven Stucky, Roberto Sierra and Kevin Ernste, his masters from Indiana University studying with Claude Baker and Sven-David Sandström, his B.A. from Yale College where he studied with Kathryn Alexander, John Halle, Matthew Suttor and trumpeter Allan Dean, and a diploma from the Pre-College Division of The Juilliard School where he studied composition with Ira Taxin. Nathan additionally was a composition fellow at Tanglewood, Aspen, Aldeburgh and the Composers Conference. For more information, visit

Missing Words Tracklist

CD 1 [36:38]
Eric Nathan - Missing Words I for clarinet, bassoon, horn, string quartet, double bass [7:50]
1. I. Eisenbahnscheinbewegung (Railway-Illusion-Motion) [3:12]
2. II. Herbstlaubtrittvergnügen (Autumn-Foliage-Strike-Fun) [1:28]
3. III. Fingerspitzentanz (Fingertips-Dance) [3:10]
Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Gil Rose, conductor
Eric Nathan - Missing Words II for brass quintet [10:45]
4. I. Leertretung (Void-Stepping) [2:36]
5. II. Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss (Automobile-Interior-Furnishing-Aroma-Pleasure) [2:32]
6. III. Brillenbrillanz (Spectacles-Luminosity) [5:37]
American Brass Quintet
Eric Nathan - Missing Words III for violoncello and piano [18:00]
7. I. Rollschleppe (Escalator-Schlep) [5:12]
8. II. Mundphantom (Mouth-Phantom) [3:57]
9. III. Straußmanöver (Ostrich-Maneuver) [5:47]
10. IV. Schubladenbrief ((Desk-)Drawer-Letter) [3:04]
Parry Karp, cello
Christopher Karp, piano

CD 2 [47:32]
Eric Nathan - Missing Words IV for flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, violoncello [18:55]
1. I. Erkenntnisspaziergang (Cognition-Stroll) [5:46]
2. II. Dreiecksumgleichung (Triangle-Reorganization) [6:38]
3. III. Tageslichtspielschock (Daylight-Show-Shock) [6:30]
International Contemporary Ensemble
Nicholas DeMaison, conductor
Eric Nathan - Missing Words V for violin, violoncello, piano [13:11]
4. I. Ludwigssyndrom (Ludwig's-Syndrome) [6:09]
5. II. Kissenkühlelabsal (Pillow-Chill-Refreshment) [3:54]
6. III. Watzmannwahn (Watzmann-Delusion) [3:07]
Neave Trio
Eric Nathan - Missing Words VI for flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, violoncello [15:24]
7. I. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) I [1:10]
8. II. Betttrug (Bed-Deception) [2:39]
9. III. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) II [1:15]
10. IV. Dielennystagmus (Hallway-Nystagmus) [2:21]
11. V. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) III [1:26]
12. VI. Erebusterror (Erebus-Terror) [3:20]
13. VII. Rolleirückblende (Rollei-Flashback) [3:13]
Hub New Music

Total Time: 84:10
Mastering (Full Album): Antonio Oliart Ros
Foreword: Ben Schott
Liner Notes: Robert Kirzinger
Album Design: Denise Burt (
Photo of Eric Nathan by Luyuan Nathan

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