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Meet composer
Nicholas Denton Protsack

Meet composer Nicholas Denton Protsack

In this series, we present our new composers. We are proud to introduce Nicholas Denton Protsack.

Please tell us about yourself and what you do.

I work primarily as both a composer and a cellist (though I am known to dabble in arts administration and recently started up an experimental record label called Whatnot Records). I am originally from Western Canada but am now based in Wellinton, where I am completing a PhD in music composition at the New Zealand School of Music. One of the primary goals of my artistic practise is to create music that is inspired by or evokes the natural world—particularly landscapes and environmental/scientific phenomena. The medium I most commonly work in is notated concert music; however, I have been doing an increasing amount of work in the realm of experimental improvised music as a cellist. The Wellington-based Moth Quartet, of which I'm a founding member, is particularly focused on creating improvised experimental music, and back in Western Canada (where I'm originally from) I also play improvised music with my trio Branchroot Ensemble. As a cellist, I also perform as a (primarily) chamber musician, and do some studio recording for film, tv, and other media.

Some recent accomplishments include being named co-winner in the 2023 Lilburn Trust NZSM Composer's Competition, writing a new commission for the Toronto Summer Music Festival (2022), winning two Young Composer's Awards from the SOCAN Foundation (2021), and being one of six international recipients of the 69th Annual BMI Foundation SCA Awards.

Please choose 2-3 of your works/albums and tell us about them.

One of my most recent works, A Sparrow is a Brook is a Glacier (2022/2023) was written for the American-based Corvus Ensemble and premiered last March in Federal Hall, New York City. The work was inspired by the calls of Golden Crowned Sparrows, which I transcribed while hiking in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska.

A work I wrote for cello and electronics and features my own cello playing, field recordings, and audio production is Into This Fracturing Land (2020).

Some great examples of what I do in the experimental improv realm can be heard in Far From the Tree, an album I released with my group, "Branchroot Ensemble". The album draws inspiration from a mixture of free jazz, contemporary classical, experimental rock, and (some) folk, and is anywhere from 90-100 percent spontaneously improvised.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently completing a multi-movement work for piano trio, entitled "Keybell". The first two movements of Keybell were recently performed by the NZTrio, as it was a selected winner in the trio's 2023 Composition Competition. The rest of the work is still in progress and knowing myself, I will probably revise the first two movements before it feels complete—which will probably be in a couple months!

Where can people connect with you?

You can learn more about me or contact me via my website.

Also, please check out some of the music I and other artists I collaborate with have released via