He brought John Zorn's Cobra as it should be but rarely is— not as a demonstration of a game system (which is admittedly completely entertaining and engaging in itself) or a representation of its legendary creator, but fully present and recognizing the immediate unique chemistry and latent interactive potential of 13 diverse individuals assembled on the stage in front of him, and using Cobra as a language through which their creative energies flow, collide, synergize and grow exponentially.
And there is a certain social alchemy at work here too in the way he brings these people together, in that these are all first-class musical personalities well-known from different respective scenes in Holland (including guests from Paris and New York) who otherwise might never be found in the same room together. It is from the beginning a highly combustible presentation of personal comfort zones shared, stretched, resculpted, or sometimes simply violated until their respective borders are transcended into a collective creative ecstasy. This presentation was framed and drawn into harmony by Fuhr's way, upon entering the space, of establishing terms in non-verbal communication with audience and his ensemble alike, palms together just below present eyes, with the grace and selfless air reminiscent of an Indian classical musician— a balancing yin to the red-hot yang energy of the performance itself.
— Francisco Gonzalez
Vlucht Magazine interview, Amsterdam
" A surfer with five telephone numbers and a conductor with as many personalities, Nathan Fuhr aptly mocks the polite conventions followed by a lot of today’s contemporary music. His engagement with both audience and performers is raw, lucid, and consistently high-energy, begging the boundary between music and ritual. Enter any of his performances, and you’ll likely find yourself swept away in a surge of genuine collective passion. I have no doubt he is in altruistic command of some diabolic, martial, joyously benign energies. “
— Fabian Faltin
By developing a gestural conducting language favoring invitation & choice, rather than command & control– sculpting synergy, rather than throwing energy– yin, rather than yang– 6 creative drumset players from any stylistic or cultural background have the opportunity to experience the alchemy of we– the transcendence of their differences in a true & visceral "exchange."
Likewise for the public, the resonance of transcendence. A multitude of me's becoming a single we. Human civilizations the world over have a healthy limbic instinct to move to the proverbial drum. By working with the geometric wisdom of the circle, and commencing with a very gradual revealing of the full sonic spectrum, a safe energetic space is created for the listeners, like a nest or warm bath filling up, to let such instincts flow, and be cherished without judgement.
Each time Demonshaker is rendered, within each unique cultural context, its aims are no less than to leave the world a better place than how it found it.
Music as Cultural Diplomacy
as requested by the United States Embassy Cultural Affairs – Dakar, Senegal – 2012
photos: Omar Victor Diop, Marc Seestaedt, Guillaume Bassinet
Nathan is the artistic director and conductor of the ensemble, but to my eyes he is much more a performer himself. His way of gathering the band members’ energy and redistributing it back with specific signals and movements has more to do with dance, martial arts, or even shamanism… This is not free or even interpretive improvisation— the visceral clarity and physicality of his directing almost seem to declare war on the well-run territory of improv sans language, which is not to say that he does not balance such command with moments of making himself fluid or invisible, trusting players’ own commands, letting the music just breathe, or even sharing laughter.
Hello, my name is Nathan Fuhr, American conductor and transdisciplinary musician based in Dakar, Senegal and Berlin, Germany. Over the past several years of my career, I’ve grown to see that employing creativity in the service of humanism is the highest calling for an artist– the only calling, it seems to me now. This, fundamentally, is why I created Demonshaker (aka Deggi Daaj in Senegal)– a project which celebrates life, and joins the great human family, as a vehicle for social change.
This project is the fruit of almost a decade's work demystifying & distilling 3 continents worth of diverse traditional & secular musics of healing, trance, & joie de vivre... whether in the village, the nightclub, the street, or the symphony hall. It draws its influence from a scientific focus on what these musics have in common– for example in terms of physicality of sound and circularity of rhythm.
" Nathan is an wonderful workshop director— in communicating his ideas clearly & inspiringly, and especially in bringing together people from diverse disciplines in a truly organic and dynamic collaboration using his unique group improvisation languages.
His workshop Organising Desire has been a personal highlight for me in several years at ImPulstanz. In it we learned John Zorn's legendary music improvisation game-system Cobra, and promptly went through & beyond it, integrating Nathan's own methods, and "translating" Cobra into dance. It was genius, how the "roles" of musician and dancer suddenly dissolved, as if there was no functional difference at all between their respective artistic mediums.
I've seen him bring inspiration and fresh perspectives to the work of many dancers and choreographers, and hope he continues to teach more people his refreshing methods to gather, improvise, and create with. "
— Lukas Fittl
workshop participant, ImPulsTanz, Vienna International Dance Festival