26 Jul 2023


by Jeff Counts

The biography of American composer Nathan Lincoln de Cusatis identifies his eclectic suite of cultural influences as “past musical traditions, communal improvisation, cult films, iconic works of art and the ambient sounds of the urban landscape.” It is the last item on that partial list that forms the molecular heart of his 2021 work for small orchestra A Collection of Sand. “The common thread,” he writes about the work’s three movements, “is a preoccupation with the pervasive noises of the modern world where foreground and background merge into a single chaotic sonic experience.” In this “sandbox”, Lincoln de Cusatis riffs on the idea of collecting as he assembles “tiny grains” of music into “movements of contrasting sound, form and attitude that still seem to complement each other. A secondary collection opportunity then occurs for the listener, who the composer hopes will “sort…through the grains of sound in order to extract the ones they want to keep.” Continuing with Lincoln de Cusatis’ own note on the piece, Movement I, Ocean of Words, “begins and ends with a chattering montage of independent lines forming a whirling cloud of sound like the murmuring of an anxious crowd. The abrupt ending represents a kind of Information Age apocalypse where the hyperactive pace of human communication accelerates of a cliff.” Movement II, Herd Mentality, “is a raucous hive of sound that I begrudgingly dedicate to all the time I spend sitting in traffic. You can hear spewing exhaust, clanging engines and a general subservience to the migratory patterns of the herd.” The last movement, Melodic Abyss, “takes a quasi-operatic aria and places it into a contradictory auditory environment of sporadic popping and squeaking.” It is as if we are “hearing a piece within a piece…through static-prone speakers.”      

Nathan Lincoln De Cusatis