Nathan Currier (born 1960, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) is an American composer.
His principal teachers were David Diamond, Joseph Schwantner, Bernard Rands, Stephen Albert and Frederic Rzewski. He studied at the Juilliard School, where he received the Doctorate in 1989, and also served on their Evening Division faculty over a ten year period. Starting in 2007 he served for two years as a visiting faculty member at the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia.
- 2008 International Sackler Prize for Music Composition
- 2008-09 Fellowship at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
- 1999 Academy Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 1995-96 Rome Prize for Composition from the American Academy in Rome
- 1993 Guggenheim Fellowship
- 1993 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
- 1992 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship
- 1991 Fromm Foundation Grant
- 1991 Charles Ives Fellowship from The American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 1987-88 Fulbright Fellowship
- 1987 Barlow Prize in Composition
Gaian Variations interrupted premiere
Nathan Currier's largest work is an oratorio called Gaian Variations. The premiere took place at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, on April 21, 2004, but was interrupted mid-concert, shortly after the beginning of the third act. The work is about the Gaia hypothesis, a scientific theory of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, now generally considered either closely aligned or synonymous with Earth System Science, one of the fastest growing fields in the sciences today due to its significance for understanding global climate. The composer described his work as both a description of the theory and a contextualization of it within the history of science, and he spent years writing the large work for chorus, orchestra and soloists. During the premiere the Brooklyn Philharmonic suddenly stopped, claiming that it was headed into overtime, ultimately triggering a lawsuit.
Leading American composer John Corigliano, also a board member of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, called Gaian Variations, “Just beautiful. Very, very skilled work, and very inspired too.” The New York Times, however, published a highly critical review by Allan Kozinn that began by claiming the work's texts (featuring writings by Lovelock himself, describing his Gaia theory) were “mostly pseudoscientific.”
Currier, who has since given talks on climate change for Al Gore’s The Climate Project, felt that the urgency of climate change gave the subject matter such importance that he had used his personal savings to prevent cancellation of the concert when neither the Brooklyn Philharmonic nor another environmental organization, Earth Day Network, raised the needed funds. Currier was given a pro bono lawyer through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts shortly after the performance, but the Executive Vice President and Director of the Hess Oil Company, J. Barclay Collins II, also a client of the same firm (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld) and Chairman of the Board of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, intervened, and Currier lost legal representation. On the New York Times's ArtsBeat blog, oil executive Collins (who retired from the petroleum company in January 2010) was quoted as saying that Currier’s lawsuit was “totally without merit.” It was not until 2008 that Currier again found legal support, being represented by Alex T. Roshuk, and the case was finally filed in Supreme Court of the State of New York Kings County in 2009. Currier was quoted shortly thereafter in the New York Post as saying that he only wanted the orchestra to play the work again.
Currier later became actively involved with Gaia science itself. With NASA scientist Paul D. Lowman he coauthored a chapter of the book Chimeras and Consciousness, published by MIT Press in 2011. Their paper, Life’s Tectonics, concerns Gaia and the role of life and water on plate tectonics, and when NASA recently celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its exobiology program (Seeking Signs of Life, October 2010), a passage from their paper was condensed and read as part of the opening keynote speech given by Lynn Margulis.
- "Academic Faculty — McIntire Department of Music, U.Va". Artsandsciences.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- "Brooklyn Philharmonic Cancels Concerts", DANIEL J. WAKIN, New York Times Arts Beat Blog, April 17, 2009
- "Losing his composure!", The Brooklyn Paper, Mike McLaughlin, April 14, 2009
- "Composer’s Lawsuit Looms Over Cash-Strapped Brooklyn Philharmonic", The Brooklyn Eagle, Samuel Newhouse, 04-27-2009
- "Nathan Currier", University of Virginia