Nathan Bell

Nathan Bell: Post-Punk Banjoist Pursues Color Through Sound

Nathan Bell: ColorsNathan Bell: Colors (Lancashire and Somerset, 4/1/11)

Nathan Bell: “Pilgrim…”

Banjo impresario and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bell’s interest in color isn’t a typical one. He’s not a painter or a designer searching for the perfect palette to represent something physical or tangible. Instead, his attraction to color is based on its relationship to sound.

Bell has undertaken a unique and daunting project, one with no external inspiration and no guide for how to draw conclusions, wherein he and friends Peter Townsend (drums), Kate Porter (cello), and Liz Merideth (viola and violin) wrote songs based on a series of colors. The resultant album is the aptly named Colors, released in 2011 by the British label Lancashire and Somerset.

Bell says that the concept of color as sound isn’t as abstract and unnatural as it seems. Music naturally evokes images in the mind of the listener, so colors aren’t much of a stretch. Different sounds naturally fit with certain colors, while others are combinations that may shake the listener’s perspective and emotions.

“Color is sound as sound is color,” Bell says from his new home-away-from-home in Brazil, where he has been playing and recording with one of his bands, Brassa Bell. “And as one color is made from many colors, each song reserves its place on the palette. The imagery of color in combination of sound provokes a three-dimensional perspective on the album.

Nathan Bell: Post-Punk Banjo

It’s a pretty safe bet that whoever coined the phrase “post-punk” didn’t envision Nathan Bell‘s music. Likewise, it’s unlikely that the average banjo picker ever envisioned the instrument being manipulated to produce the array of sounds that Bell wrings from his instrument.