improvisation, chance music, suppressing the composer's will


Dubbed a “Rosetta Stone” for his pairing of avante garde approaches with accessible melodies, composer Nate Trier is a teaching artist whose compositions straddle the divide between popular music and the avante garde.

As a composer, Trier explores the intersection of 20th century art music with improvisation. His unique graphic scores have been showcased on French new-music blog L’Autre Musique as an exemplar of “new forms of writing sound and music distant from the traditional Western scoring;” he also selected and performed 15 one-minute graphic scores as part of New York City-based Composer’s Voice “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” series.

His dedication to improvisation and ways of coaxing new sounds out of musicians is reflected in his life as a teaching artist as well: Trier has led workshops for improvisers on Stockhausen’s “Music from the Seven Days” and John Zorn’s game piece, “COBRA.” When not composing or performing, he is a one-man music department at a “teacher-led” high school in New Haven (a school whose noteworthy features include no principal and no letter or percentage grades). Nate has also presented on the history of jazz music for Quinnipiac University students and worked with the Yale Department of American Studies to write and publish curriculum on the music of migrants and immigrants in the United States.

Trier also displays a populist streak in his dedication to keeping classic jazz alive, leading a band that combined jazz standards and Jamaican ska music.  That project later morphed into a jazz sextet with a frontline of all euphoniums, called “Lowered Standards.” He also works as a sideman in several jazz ensembles, including Nick Di Maria’s “Kitchen Sink”(a tribute band that plays Miles Davis’ classic album “In A Silent Way” front to back, reinterpreting it every time), performing in the Southern Connecticut State University Latin Jazz Band with Dr. David Chevan, and playing classics from the American songbook in a duo with vocalist Beth Patella.

Nate is currently working toward an MFA in Music Composition at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, focusing on electronic music and improvisation.

You can reach Nate at nate.trier at gmail dot com.

Works Performed:

  • Fantasia XNY – 2014 – for fixed media
  • The Analyst, Movements I and II – 2014 – for clarinet, guitar, upright bass, and violin
  • To Philemon… – 2014 – for a mid-sized group of improvisers
  • Leviathan, All Alone – 2014 – for piano, violin, and cello
  • Seis Six – 2013 – for 4 or 8 improvisers
  • An Anarchists Bookclub – 2013 – for a small group of improvisers
  • Mysterium de – 2013 – for flute and piano
  • Like Monkeys Trapped in Cages with the Doors Wide Open – 2012 – for any combination of woodwind, brass, stringed instruments, guitars, and percussion
  • Cycles that Surround Us – 2012 – for any large group of improvisers
  • Tape Interpolations – 2011 – for improvisers and tape
  • Flowchart Jazz #2: Fly You to the Moon – 2011 – for two or more improvisers
  • Flowchart Jazz #3 – 2011 – for two or more improvisers
  • Patterns – 2011 – for three or more improvisers
  • Ample Make this Bed – 2011 – for tenor, alto, and accordion
  • Greenwood – 2011 – for flute and clarinet
  • Misterioso – 2011 – for flute and piano
  • Maija’s Moods – 2011 – for piano
  • Duet for Instrument and Radios – 2011 – any instrument and three radios
  • Lupes – 2011 – for two electric guitars, alto saxophone, marimba, bass, and drumset
  • 29 Blackbirds – 2010 – Level 1 piece for school concert band
  • Cycles #1 – 2010 – performed as part of ThingNY’s Spam 1.2
  • SUCCESS/FAIL – 2009 – for free jazz/rock band, Mayhem Circus Electric
  • Brig Primpin’ – 2009 – for free jazz/rock band, Mayhem Circus Electric
  • Executioner of the Estate – 2009 – for free jazz/rock band, Mayhem Circus Electric
  • Concerto for Conductor and Improvisers – 2009 – for 4-8 improvisers
  • Cycles that Surround Us 2 – 2008 – for 4-6 improvisers
  • Flowchart Jazz #1 – 2008 – for two or more improvisers
  • Zage 3 – 2008 – for two or more improvisers
  • Zage 1 – 2007 – for any group of improvisers
  • Austin Oughta Know by Now – 2007 – for three or more improvisers
  • Ives Been Watching You – 2006 – for three or more improvisers
  • Phoenix Rising (contributor) – 2006 – for free-jazz/rock band with two bass guitars
  • Flame – 1996 – solo piano

Workshops and Teaching:

  • Music teacher, High School in the Community, 2010 – present: band, jazz band, chorus, music theory, music production, history of pop music
  • Private lessons, 2008 – present: piano, clarinet, baritone horn, voice, improvisation, composition and theory
  • Guest lecturer on teaching improvisation and composition in the classroom, 2014, Bridgeport University
  • Masterclass instructor, 2012: Iglesia Pentecostal Unida Latinoamerica Summer Music Camp: advanced piano, theory, and arranging
  • Composition workshop, New Haven Improvisers Collective, 2013
  • Improvisation workshop, New Haven Improvisers Collective, 2012: Stockhausen’s “From the Seven Days”
  • Improvisation workshop, New Haven Improvisers Collective, 2010: John Zorn’s COBRA
  • Afterschool percussion instructor, 2010, Yale School of Music/New Haven Public Schools
  • Guest lecturer on jazz history and musicology, 2008, Quinnipiac University
  • Improvisation workshop, New Haven Improvisers Collective, 2006: John Zorn’s COBRA


  • IFAR Musique Concrète The Sound Objects compilation (contributor) – 2014
  • Nate Trier: Infrared Leviathan – 2014
  • Various Artists: ‽ (contributor) – 2013
  • Various Artists: Collected Aural Detriments (contributor) – 2013
  • Mouth 4 Rusty: What’s Getting Somewhere? – 2013
  • The Kitchen Sink: In A Silent Way: Live at The Outer Space – 2013
  • Mayhem Circus Electric: Groundwaves – 2012
  • Nate Trier (with Barry Seroff): Only Numbers Remain – 2012
  • Mouth 4 Rusty: Good Men Now – 2012
  • Mayhem Circus Electric: Lubricity – 2010
  • Various Artists: 20-sided Rhymes (contributor) – 2010
  • Nate Trier: Acidic Jazz, Malicious Mashups – 2010
  • John D. Venter: Dub In A Pleasant Mood – 2010
  • IWADON: Hiroyuki Iwatsuki Tribute Album (contributor) – 2010
  • Various Artists: Old Nerdy Bastard (contributor) – 2008
  • Absinthe Films: More (incidental music) – 2006

Awards and Miscellaneous:

  • Score for “Cycles that Surround Us” included in L’Autre Musique’s “New Writings of Sound and Music,”
  • Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, 2013
  • Neighborhood Music School Merit Award, 2013
  • Neighborhood Music School Merit Award, 2011
  • DJ, “In the Groove,” University of New Haven’s Jazz in the Morning radio show, WNHU 88.7 FM, 2008-2009
  • Curated the New Haven Jazzcast, a podcast to raise awareness of jazz musicians and performances in New Haven, 2006-2007
  • “Consultant on struggling musicians,” Happiness Sold Separately, 2005

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