'Everything Composer' Brian Raphael Nabors Brings 'Pulse' to Boston Symphony This Week

Wednesday January 19, 2022

At just 30 years of age, composer Brian Raphael Nabors has carved his niche in American classical music. The Nashville native has received commissions from such prestigious organizations as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Just this season there will be performances of his works by the Atlanta Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Munich Symphony, Oberlin Conservatory Orchestra,and the Nashville Symphony.

He also has received a number of honors, including being named the 2018-19 Composer-in-Residence with the Castle of Our Skins organization in Boston.

This week one of his works — "Pulse for Orchestra" — receives its Boston premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a series of concerts, January 20 -22 at Symphony Hall under the direction of Hong Kong-born conductor Elim Chan, chief conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra.

In the BSO program notes, Robert Kirzinger quotes Nabors describing himself as an "'everything composer' — equally at home in chamber music, song, solo piano music, choral music, and orchestral works — but, when nudged, admits, 'I love the orchestra!'

"The depth and breadth of possibilities for texture and timbre with the modern symphony orchestra Nabors compares to the variety of textures, colors, and figures a painter might deploy on a canvas. As with painting, with the rich sonic palette available to the composer, deciding what and when to leave something out, rather than using everything all the time, has come with experience and a good sense of where an individual piece is taking him."

The twelve-minute work was first performed Nashville Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero on

Sep. 9, 2019.

In describing the piece, Nabors said: "My conception of Pulse began as a long contemplation of daily life as we know it, combined with thoughts of life in nature. The universe seems to have this natural rhythm to it. It is as if every living and moving thing we are aware and unaware of is being held together by a mysterious, resolute force. Pulse is an episodic rhapsody that explores several phases and colorful variants of rhythm all held together by an unwavering pulse.

"Each episode is meant to symbolize a different scenario of life for the listener, be it a buzzing modern metropolis, a deep wilderness abundant with animalia, or the scenic endless abyss of the ocean. All of these worlds and their philosophical meanings are then brought together in a contemplative theme of "unification" in the strings that symbolizes our deep connection as living beings to everything within, over, under, and around us."

In an interview with Georgia Public Radio, Nabors said he finds his musical ideas "everywhere."

"Sometimes they come waking up in the morning. Sometimes I'm sitting at the breakfast table. You could be in the shower and something might come. But usually for me it starts with just raw emotion. And then I think about, well, if I'm feeling that I want to lift someone up who's going through some sort of tumultuous adversity in their life, and it starts from a dark, kind of angry feeling, what would that sound like? What instruments do I need to really pull that off?"

As a Black composer, he was asked "whether he is often one of the only people of color in a musical setting?"

A lot of times, yes. I never really think about it too much anymore. I just consider myself a composer. And more and more, I'm seeing people who look like me, people of color from all different backgrounds, trans composers, all different sorts of underrepresented groups coming out of the woodwork to tell their stories. I think it's a beautiful time that we're in. A lot of organizations are waking up and realizing that, you know, dead white men aren't the only people who who write music. We need more women composers, more people of color, everyone to just come out and share their part of the world, because we're literally all here together as human beings. And there are so many different stories to tell and so many different opportunities for people to get healing and for people to get some sort of feeling of belonging in this art form. Music is so communicative and powerful, and it'd be a shame not to tell each of these stories from every end."

To sample Nabor's works, visit his YouTube channel.

"Pulse" will be performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on January 20 - 22. For further details on the concert, follow this link.