You probably didn’t know Nathan Brock. The composer not the conductor. He died on Monday and I just found out about an hour ago.
I met Nathan when I was doing my masters at University of Louisville. Nathan was an undergrad – the only triple major I’d ever met (Composition, English, and Math, I think). Nathan was one of those guys that you distinctly remember meeting. In my case, he was in a composition forum, sitting in the back, knitting. He had long, stringy hair that went down to his butt. We were in just about every music class together and he was also active in the early music scene there (like many of the right thinking composers were).
Nathan and I ran in the same circles of friends and usually had a blast together. We’d talk/debate about damned near anything. He was opinionated (frustratingly so, at times), articulate, and whip smart. Even though he was an undergrad and I was working on my second masters, we were operating at the same intellectual level (and that is boosting my ego a bit). I was honored to be best man at his wedding.
When I moved from Louisville, Nathan moved to San Diego to do his masters and then doctorate there. He could write such Romantic stuff but then also turn around with the most thorny, dissonant, atonal stuff with a rigor that rivaled Robert Morris. He was a heady guy but also capable of tremendous goofiness. Back in 2004, we ended up at the composer conference at Wellesly College, a total fluke. It was there that I found out Kris was pregnant. Nathan was the first person I told.
My greatest memory of Nathan come from sitting in a Schoenberg seminar at U of L. We had high hopes for the class but due to the demographics of the students in the course, the seminar turned into a rather cursory event. Basically we did a simple set-theory analysis of Pierrot and talked in generalities about Schoenberg. Nathan and I had our own conversations going (not always on topic) and kept each other engaged. Nathan was convinced he could pull off the voice part to Pierrot. I thought he was crazy. He was probably right, though. If he ever would have done it, he would have done it well.
I was hoping to see him and his wife when I went to San Diego for the CMS conference this fall.
I told my U of L friends who probably hadn’t heard. We are all in shock. We are also still surprised that now, Thursday, the doctors don’t seem to know what happened. And all I can think to do is play Schoenberg. So Christine Schaefer is doing Pierrot right now and doing it pretty darned well. I’m sipping a bourbon that is probably below Nathan’s standards, but I didn’t put any ice in it. He’d be okay with that.