In a Dream

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Okay. I’m not sure what the boundaries of blogging are, nor do I know who my audience will be. I do know that this is about my personal take on, and personal experience with, new music. So, to that end let me write about a dream I had last night. I dreamt that Petr Kotik and the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble was premiering a new orchestra piece of mine. Petr & I go back a long way, even before the time I wrote about in my last post. In ’75/’76, he would drive up to York University (in Toronto) from Buffalo once a week to direct the York New Music Co-op. Rzewski’s Les Moutons de Panurge is permanently embedded in my brain from that year, as well as many Cage & Wolff pieces (Burdocks, anyone?). (I’m sure I’ll write more about that year since it was an amazingly important one for me.) So, yes, Petr: about 5 years ago, when I first moved back to NY, I ran into him at a Jon Gibson concert. I started doing music copying for him and working part time as his general assistant at SEM headquarters in Brooklyn Heights. I did this for about 2 years, so I wasn’t totally surprised to see him and SEM in my dream.

What I was surprised by, though, was the orchestra piece I had “written.” In the real world I have never written a piece for orchestra but have always wanted to, and do still intend to. This imaginary piece was lovely, and unlike anything I had ever “heard” before. Not that it would be unplayable in the real world; all the instruments and playing techniques were quite normal. What was surprising was the compositional structure. There were some very sparse sections where Petr was conduction furiously, then some very dense and complex sections where he was not conducting at all. I knew that this dense section had some structured improvisation going on; I could see the musicians cuing one another and listening very intensely. Then in amongst all this was a beautiful melody that glided effortlessly from the very high violins through to the very low basses. There was also some very nice wind writing, if I do say so myself.

As far as I can remember, I have never heard my own imagined music in a dream before. In my teens I did once dream I was listening to a concert with a new piece by Frank Zappa. I can vaguely remember a couple of measures. But that’s kind of it for hearing new music in dreams.

I’m thinking that perhaps this dream last night was sparked by my recent switch from Finale to Sibelius (music notation programs). Finale always seemed like a job to me, which it was since I usually only used it when I was hired to do so. But Sibelius feels more like a composing tool. Perhaps, after years of composing in midi notes and/or triggered audio files, I am now starting to think in straight music notation again. When I purchased my first MAC SE back in ’88, I found it difficult to not think in terms of straight notation, but neither Performer nor Vision (sequencing programs) offered it at that point. So I went from hand written dots on music paper to moving dots around on a computer grid. When there was straight notation involved, it would usually enter the picture after the composing was done. But now this new notation program might get me back to where I was before computers were around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not going to give up my Apple Logic or Ableton Live, but I’m happy to have Sibelius join my gang of composing tools. Especially if it’s going to start triggering dream compositions.

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