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Life in The Lower East Side, 1937-1950: A Live Soundtrack

Historic photographs of the Lower East Side set to a live soundtrack of new quartet by Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis.

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Scenes fro the Lower East Side

Posted on January 23, 2020 by Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis

Here is the full photographic slide show and recording from the premiere on August 10, 2019.  The slideshow was screened live and the performance was done as a live soundtrack. Many thanks to New Music USA for supporting this project.

Susanna Loewy – flute

Evan Solomon – clarinet

Sarah D’Angelo – violin

Arlen Hlusko – cello

Richard Scerbo – conductor



As part of a residency and commission by the 2019 Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival in Jamaica, VT, composer Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis will create a new chamber piece for clarinet, flute, violin and violoncello that will be performed as a live soundtrack to a series of photographs by legendary photographer Rebecca Lepkoff documenting the Lower East Side of New York City between 1937 and 1950. Using the visual images of Rebecca’s photography as a backdrop, the new piece will bring back to life the now vanished world of this culturally rich urban microcosm, using quotations from the many folk music traditions of the immigrant communities that once filled its streets and tenements.


Since its inception in 2012, Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival (PFCM) has commissioned at least two new pieces each season. Last year’s 2018 season featured a new initiative of commissioning a new piece by Nathan Lincoln de Cusatis that connects to the local community. To do this he contacted the family of famed local photographer Rebecca Lepkoff (1916-2014) who documented life in rural Southern Vermont through her photographs in the 1950’s. Her family provided the composer with the original photographs to be turned into a film using Ken Burns effects and transitions to create a visual narrative to which Nathan composed a piece for sinfonietta inspired by the imagery. This piece was then played during the festival as a live soundtrack with conductor to accompany the film, and for the 2019 season of PFCM, Nathan will create a similar soundtrack to a series of Rebecca Lepkoff’s photographs of the Lower East Side between 1937-1950.


Life on the Lower East Side will be a quartet for flute, clarinet, violin and violoncello performed by members of the Inscape Chamber Orchestra who are the resident musicians of PFCM. By creating a film from Rebecca’s photos using the same transitional effects he used in his 2018 project, Nathan will synchronize the score rhythmically to the transitions and movements of the images by using a conductor who uses an in-ear click track. The film is projected in the hall while simultaneously transmitting the click track to the conductor who in turn cues the musicians so that the piece becomes a live, synchronized accompaniment. Also, like the 2018 project, the video will be combined with a recording of the live performance, published online, and donated to the Jamaica Historical Society.


June, 2019 – film and commissioned piece delivered to festival musicians

As part of the second week of the Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival, this piece will receive four performances:

August 7 – Jamaica State Park Pavilion (version without film), Jamaica, VT

August 8 – Grafton Community Church (version without film), Grafton, VT

August 9 – Preview concert at Brattleboro Performing Arts Center, Brattleboro, VT

August 10 – PFCM closing concert and official premiere: Jamaica Town Hall, Jamaica, VT

As part of the Inscape Chamber Orchestra 2019-2020 season, the piece will receive additional performances in Washington, DC and New York, NY.


Project Media

Almost Utopia: Pikes Falls, VT 1950
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This is Nathan’s Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival commission from 2018 using photographs by local Vermont photographer Rebecca Lepkoff. This is the live soundtrack performance from the closing concert on August 11, 2018 at Jamaica Town Hall in Jamaica, VT, which has been combined with the film that was projected in the hall during the performance.

Oblivion for chamber orchestra
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Oblivion is a three movement chamber symphony by Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis, commissioned in 2014 by the Inscape Chamber Orchestra who serve as the resident ensemble for the Pikes Falls Chamber Orchestra and includes festival founder and organizer Susanna Loewy on flute. This recording is from their 2014 Sono Luminis record release “American Aggregate”.

The North Country
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The North Country for octet by Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis was commissioned by Susanna Loewy and the PCFM in 2017 and performed on the week 1 closing concert in July 29, 2017 in Jamaica Town Hall in Jamaica, VT. This is a landscape focused piece evoking the ambient sounds of the north woods of New England, connecting to the festival’s setting.

Start and End Dates



Jamaica, Vermont

1 update
Last update on January 23, 2020

Project Created By

New York, New York
Nathan Lincoln de Cusatis is a jazz and classical composer based in New York City. His music encompasses a wide variety of media and styles including his jazz piano trio MOB RULE, the 10-piece improvising ensemble Micro-Orchestra, and classical pieces for orchestra, sinfonietta and chamber ensembles. His music has been described in the Washington Post as “a kind of kaleidoscope…each…

In Collaboration With

performer, festival organizer
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bethesda, Maryland


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