Prof. Eric Nathan: A Passion for Music

October 2, 2015
Eric Nathan, Assistant Professor of Music

“It’s always thrilling hearing my music performed live, especially for the first time after having thought about it in my head for so long,” says Eric Nathan, one of the new faculty members in the Brown Music Department. “What makes live performance exhilarating is that it is a dialogue between humans. I use precise notation in each of my pieces to convey information to the performers so that they can then interpret it to share with an audience. Part of the beauty for me comes from hearing how the performers interpret my work, sometimes slightly differently in each performance, and what they put of themselves into my music. Their interpretations can lead me to learn new things about my own piece.”

The open-mindedness and excitement Nathan has for composing he brings to the Music Department as an Assistant Professor of Music Composition-Theory. His passion for music began when he was around the age of three or four through his enjoyment of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and the episodes featuring the Empire Brass Quintet. He describes himself as being drawn to the trumpets in the quintet, insisting that his parents take him to their concerts.

This interest flourished as he grew up and attended numerous prestigious workshops for students. Fulfilling his childhood dream, he began playing the trumpet in fourth grade and, while in high school, he enrolled in a Juilliard Pre-College program to study the trumpet. It was there that he composed his first orchestra piece, which was selected to be performed at the end of the program. “At that moment,” Nathan recalls, “I knew I wanted to become a composer after hearing this orchestral work I had created come to life. It was thrilling to hear the large sound of the ensemble but also see so many people coming together, and working together, to realize this piece.”

Nathan was a music major at Yale, and originally intended to be a professional trumpet player; but over the course of his studies, he realized that composition was his calling. He says, “I realized that I could compose the whole day long, but could only get myself to enjoy practicing the trumpet for about forty-five minutes.” Looking back, he can see that composition was always important to him. “Even as a kid I was always creating things.” While in first-grade, he began to play the piano, and after a few years he had memorized many of his own creations. One of his English teachers in high school even allowed him to compose music rather than write responses to literature. After receiving his B.A. with honors in music at Yale, Nathan obtained a M.M. in composition from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and his D.M.A in composition from Cornell University.

This enthusiasm for creation is evident in his excitement about coming to Brown. When asked the same question all undergraduate Brown applicants must answer, “Why Brown?” his answer was that “the students have so much energy and excitement.” He appreciates the vibrancy of the Music Department faculty. He particularly likes the focus on interdisciplinary collaboration that is fostered by the university, as he draws much of his inspiration from exploring intersections with other disciplines.

The inspiration for many of his compositions has come from responding emotionally and analytically to other works of art. More recently, he gleans inspiration from his emotional and personal reactions to places and concepts, trying to convey what experiences mean to him. He describes his process as a “dialogue between the conscious and unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is my intuition that needs to be unlocked with an external prompt.” The emotional aspect of his work can be heard in his compositions, which he describes as abstractly narrative, often with experimental elements that mix seriousness and playfulness, which he says, “are reflective of my personality in many ways.” To hear his compositions in his recently released debut album, Multitude, Solitude: Eric Nathan, go to