Strange Dreams (2006) is a series of four short movements for orchestra. Although the movement titles may seem to suggest a programmatic approach to form, the piece was not conceived this way, with the only exception being that I wanted the second and fourth movements to reflect each other to some extent.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of “surrealism” in art – the state of dreaming being something that I enjoy and largely look forward to on a nightly basis! From a musical perspective, I am deeply inspired by some of the mid to late twentieth century aleatoric composers – chiefly among them Witold Lutoslawski – whose sound world in pieces like Livre pour Orchestre, the Three Postludes, and Les Espaces du Sommeil – made an enormous impact upon me as a student composer. Something in their abstract, yet beautiful harmonic conception and their sensuous orchestral textures seemed to suggest the highly imaginative, often chaotic, and emotionally charged world of dreams.
Much in the same way that dreams often intertwine the ordinary and mundane with the absurdly fantastic, the four movements of Strange Dreams each strive to meld and frame abstract musical elements within more traditional musical contexts. For example, the “blurred and texturized” melodic lines in Synchromesh are contained within an overall, driving rhythmic accompaniment. In Chiaroscuro, fast, bright chromatic gestures in the winds and percussion are pitted against a dark, slowly shifting harmonic backdrop of strings. Underneath and among its dissonant, contrapuntal string and woodwind episodes, Rude Awakening reveals a slowly unfolding tune in the low strings, tuba and contrabassoon, before eventually coalescing into a loud, slightly obnoxious and rhythmically vigorous dance. The final movement, Hypnogogia, looks back to Chiaroscuro with its soft, colorful murmurings, only this time, within a somewhat more direct harmonic context.
Regarding each movement, here are some additional notes:
n. In all senses also called claire-obscure.
1. The technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation.
2. The arrangement of light and dark elements in a pictorial work of art.
3. A woodcut technique in which several blocks are used to print different shades of a color.
4. A woodcut print made by this technique.
1. Sometimes when having a strange dream, one is awakened by lawnmowers, workmen pounding on things, automotive horns, people screaming, and other unpleasant things. At this point, you can choose to face reality or go back to sleep.
1. The state of intermediate consciousness preceding sleep – when one is most likely to encounter hypnogogic hallucinations.